Lightroom Mobile – Paying Customers Excluded

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The title of this post is a little misleading, but I chose it on purpose to vent a little steam. But first things first.

What happened ? Adobe released a mobile version of Lightroom, which brings it to the iPad. That is just great and just what I was waiting for. LR mobile syncs with the desktop version of Lightroom, but only the library and the preview images are copied to the iPad (Raw files would bust the limited storage capacity on the mobile device quickly). Thanks to so-called smart previews now you can sit on your couch, sort, rate and retouch images. When you are finished you sync again and all changes made on the iPad are applied to the files on your desktop computer.

What’s the problem ? After the release of the Creative Suite 6 Adobe changed their business model. Now there is Creative Cloud, which is a subscription-based sales model. You don’t buy the software, you rent it. There are different packages depending on what your use case is, each one with a different price. Lightroom mobile comes together with Photoshop CC and Lightroom 5 when you subscribe to Creative Cloud at the cost of 9,99 USD a month (or 12,29 € in Europe; around 17 USD because Europeans love to get kicked in the nuts). If you have bought Lightroom or Photoshop as a regular software package – bad luck. LR mobile is only available to Creative Cloud users.

Of course Adobe is free to do so, but it is absolutely not customer friendly and shows an attitude which is just geared towards making money and even more money. Surprise surprise one might say now, welcome to capitalism.  I don’t criticize Adobe for wanting to make much money. I criticize them for forcing customers into buying a new product even though they already have the same product at home. I _own_ Lightroom 5, I _own_ CS6. And now I am excluded from buying another product because I don’t have a subscription ? I surely won’t pay again for what I already have. And from the making-even-more-money- standpoint this makes even less sense. Here is a customer who wants to spend money ! And he is not allowed to.

Closing remarks. I know this post won’t change anything, but it helped to vent some steam. I am also totally aware of the fact that what I complained about in this post is a premium first world problem but I wanted to share my five cents about it. Not having of LR mobile shall not ruin my day and neither shall it ruin yours.

So keep on shooting and enjoying photography ! And in the next post I will show some images again.

Happy Easter

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Happy Easter and thank you for reading this blog !

Nighttime photography – alone in the crater

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Recently I was on vacation on the island of Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands. Tenerife is home to Spain’s highest mountain: El Teide, a volcano with 3.817 m height. El Teide is located within an even larger and older crater, which gave me the opportunity to do something I was not able to do until then – photographing a night sky which is fully ablaze with stars.

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Tenerife (source: Google Earth)

So one night I packed my photo gear and headed out into El Teide national park. After about 45 minutes of driving and reaching 2.200 m above sealevel I reached the large crater.

Since I did not bring a tripod to Tenerife I had to improvise. Initially I planned to buy a 2 kg fabric bag of rice and use that as a beanbag. Unfortunately I could not find such rise bags in local supermarkets, so I grabbed two plastic bags and filled them with… ahem… dirty laundry, mainly socks. I placed that bag on the car roof and worked from there. The dirty-socks-beanbag-solution worked, but it was not optimal. A bean bag holds the form you push it into. Compressed socks tend to relax a little and push the camera back once you take your hands off the camera.

I used my D800 with the 14-24mm f2.8. Manual mode, f2.8, manual focus set to infinity and beyond! Initially I chose exposure times of 5-10 sec in order not to blur the stars. But soon I learned that a 30 sec exposure would show you even more stars and that the blur of the stars is negligible if you don’t pixel peep. I enabled long exposure noise reduction to optimize the images. In that mode after each shot the camera records the signals on the sensor with closed curtains and lowered mirror. No light reaches the sensor and the signals recorded by the sensor are therefore noise. The camera uses this reference photo to reduce noise in the recorded image.

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The number of stars one can see at 2.200 m and in absence of light pollution is astonishing. As most of us live in urban areas there is always the glow of the city which swallows thousands and thousands of stars. Up in the mountains and behind the rocky crater walls I could see a night sky which I have not seen for a long time. But even at this height, also being away around 20 km from the coast, a recognizable glow from the cities was shimmering over the top of the crater. I did not expect the light of the cities to be so strong.

Another interesting experience was the darkness and silence. There was not any wind and no noises besides the ones I made. I have to confess that this was pretty spooky. Despite the amazing view I felt very uncomfortable because of the darkness. I am not generally afraid of the dark, but up there, in the crater, no noises, totally alone, in the darkness…  that was a very primal fear which knocked and announced that it’s time to be scared.

But taking that aside it was just great and I am very very happy that I made that nocturnal trip up to El Teide. If I ever get another possibility to shoot such a night sky I will to it again immediately.

Watertight, shock resistant, dustproof – Nikon Coolpix S32

20140329-COOLPIX-S32-001-2Shortly before my last vacation I bought an underwater camera on impulse. I wanted a rather simple and cheap camera, since I would mainly use it for fun and not “serious” photography. I did not spend much time on research but searched for waterproof cameras on an online shopping portal, sorted by price and chose a brand I know and trust. Which happened to be Nikon.

So I bought a Nikon Coolpix S32 (109 Euros, March 2014). It is a point-and-shoot camera for the family. Watertight up to 10 m (and 60 min at this depth), dustproof, shock resistant (claims to survive drops from 1.5 m height – did not test that). It has 13 MP, only very few buttons and the lens is placed in the middle of the camera. Imagine the clumsy hands of children – they can grasp the camera firmly and not put their fingers over the lens with that design. The camera can also record Full HD movies. It comes in several lively colors such as yellow, blue, silver and, ugh, pink. And here it is:

The camera is the very opposite of what I use regularly. Raw mode ? No. Focus field selection ? Nope. Custom white balance ? Nopedinope ! Aperture or shutter priority ? Laughing out loud. Remember – point-and-shoot ! But that’s ok since it is a family camera. I won’t go into more detail writing about the camera specs and features, a lot of other reviews have done that. Let’s rather talk about my experiences.

First of all, it cost me quite an effort putting the camera into the water for the first time. One is so trained to never ever letting water and electronics come into contact. It is kind of a protective reflex one has to suppress. But of course nothing happened and I could take pictures underwater. What a surprise.

Camera setup. There is not much to customize, but a few points can be done. There is that beep when the camera is in focus. Usually it is the first thing I switch off. But I found it difficult to clearly assess if the camera is in focus, especially when I made images with one hand to have the other hand free for swimming. There was also a warning screen every time you switch the camera on not to open the battery/memory card compartment in wet or sandy environments. I switched that off, too.

Handling. What can I say ? It is a point-and-shoot ! Autofocus it not the fastest, it is best to half-press the shutter button, wait for the moment, then take the picture. What I found a little ennerving is the playback mode. Every time you go into playback mode, the last image is displayed. Let’s say you go through your 200 images on the camera and you stop for whatever reason at image 100. Going back into playback mode means, that you have to click to image 100 again to continue watching. But that’s a minor point.

Battery life. Poor. 220 images according to the CIPA test standard. Spend an afternoon at the beach and keep shooting – the battery will be dead by the end of the day.

The underwater experience. Taking images underwater is fantastic, and I did not even dive but snorkel. Suddenly you can take pictures from a point of view which has forbidden due to the water-electronics issue. A whole new world of possibilities. Composing the image and staying in one place (one always floats in one direction minimum) while holding your breath is challenging. Everything is in motion.

Image quality. In excellent lighting conditions (e.g. pool, bright sunlight) very beautiful results are possible, see below. Once the lighting conditions are not optimal artifacts will show in the images. Observe the images taken in open water for example. At a first glance the quality is ok, but pixel peeping reveals that the texture is somewhat fuzzy, as if the image has been composed of little mosaic dots.

But again, keep one thing in mind: It is a family camera, so its intended use is for the pool or shallow water. If you are a diver and you go deeper than a few meters then this is not the right camera for you. Take a look at the Nikon 1 AW1 for example.

Filter effects. The camera offers several pre-set filter modes, e.g. black and white comic style, neon light contours (looks more like an LSD trip to me), miniature effect and several others. I compiled some of those effects in the gallery here:

Trivia. The camera does not float, it slowly sinks.

The Ghost of Faulty Technology. Usually the battery is charged in-camera. But when I plugged the USB cable into the camera nothing happened. That was the reason for buying the universal battery charger.

Bottom line. A fun camera, easy to use and affordable. Good for fun in the pool, children or family members who might not be heavily inclined towards technology but who want to take pictures. The camera is quite simple compared to other compact cameras but it does its job and delivers, if there is enough light, very good results.

Treat my order with respect, Amazon and UPS !

 

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I am a huge fan of online shopping. I buy a lot of stuff online – when I think about it for a moment it is only clothing and groceries which I don’t buy on the internet. My two main sources for all the stuff one might of might not need are eBay and Amazon. I think I am a very good customer with both companies.

Recently I completed the “holy trinity” of Nikkor lenses and purchased the 14-24 f2.8 lens. I bought it via Amazon.de from a merchant on  Amazon marketplace (order packaged and shipped by Amazon). The lens was sent from the UK with UPS as I learnt when I tracked the shipment. When it arrived I could not believe my eyes. The parcel was battered, bashed in and looked like it had been thrown down the stairs a couple of times. Here is what it looked like:

The lens itself was poorly protected. Instead of placing it in the center of the Amazon package they put it in one corner and crammed the filling material in an L-shape around the Nikkor box. This left two sides of the product box unprotected and the impact(s) went directly into the product box. As one can see it also looks quite beaten. The lens itself was ok since it comes within a padded case. But I was quite disappointed. You order a not-so-cheap piece of equipment and it arrives in a packing that looks second or third hand.

In a first step I gave a devastating feedback on the packaging (you can do that on Amazon, until now I overlooked that possibility). You can rate the packaging, the shipping time, how well the items were protected and also upload images.

After that I pondered the issue a while and decided to claim my rights as a customer. I sent the lens back. That is one thing I love about online shopping (in Europe at least): You can send back an item without naming a reason and can get a full refund. I used that option only a couple of times and there was always a good reason for it.

After getting the refund I thought “Ok, maybe that was bad luck and I got an employee  at Amazon (and also at UPS) who had a bad day.” And so I ordered the same lens again, this time via another merchant on Amazon marketplace.

One might think that lightning does not strike twice but in my case it did. That is how the package which arrived today looked like:

The package was also kind of crushed, one side folded like an accordion. The box was smaller than the one they used for the first shipment and the carton filling which is supposed to protect the item was only placed on one side of the product. The Nikkor box itself also took some slight bruises, although it was not as severe as the first time. Again the lens itself is ok.

Went directly to the Amazon homepage and gave another, even more devastating feedback on the packaging, again with images.

But now I will keep the lens since I would feel kind of dumb and picky sending it back for the second time. But I am still disappointed by Amazon since that it not in line with former shopping experiences.

Bottom line(s)

  1. Give feedback if your online shopping portal offers such a possibility. If the merchant is smart he values feedback highly and improved his service based upon your experiences
  2. Internet shopping is nice and comfortable, but it is always worth taking a look at your local camerastore. They might have similar prices and you can buy the product without the risk of the shipment being handled like a sack of rice.

A free file recovery tool

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RescuePro ScreenshotYesterday I accidentally erased a file while the card was still in the camera. Whoops. My first thought was “so what, it’s gone” but then my eyes fell on the voucher for a 1-year subscription to a rescue software. These vouchers come with every Sandisk Extreme and Extreme Pro memory card you purchase. The software “Rescue Pro Deluxe” can restore files from memory cards which have been deleted. The software is quite powerful as it can, in some cases, also restore older files which should have already been overwritten. Don’t ask me how that works, magic I suppose. You should not need that software most of the time (the voucher actually lay on my desk for about half a year now), but when the situation comes the rescue software can save your a$$.

There are many products which come with “vouchers” for “free” stuff. With every package from Amazon I have at least four such things which promise 50 € off my next wine order or 10% off my next purchase of whatsoever. Such “gifts” are not free, since you still have to purchase something (above the, let’s say 50 € voucher) and in the end you have spend money. Usually I throw those papers away without further investigation. Here it is different. The software is completely free (ok you have to buy the memory card but I assume you did that because you needed one), after the year it expires. No fees charged.  After that you can just leave it like that, purchase a (non-expiring) license or just buy another memory card (hey, you never have enough memory cards !).

So my tip for today is: Save that voucher, if you like also download the software. But don’t activate the software yet but wait for that unlucky day when data has to be restored. Then activate the software and you have a digital safety net for one year.

Battling an annoying cliché

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This week I had one of those classic experiences which almost every photographer had in his career. At my workplace they were looking for somebody to take pictures of an event. I was asked to do it, and the conversation went like this:

Co-worker: “Say, could you take pictures of that event next Tuesday ?”
Me: “No, I will be out of office.”
Co-worker: “Darn, we need pictures.”
Me: “John could take some pictures, ask him.”
Co-worker: “But does he also have a good camera ?”

Ouargh…. not again. What is it with people that they associate a “good” camera with photo quality ? That conclusion is done in no other field, or have you said or heard one of the following sentences ?

“Great pen, it must write excellent poems”
“Wonderful car, you must be a good driver”
“Nice scissors, I bet those make great haircuts”
“A computer like yours must code nice apps.”
or, even closer to photography,
“That’s really a professional film camera. Does it make blockbusters ?”

So I have made a kind of late new-years-resolution today.  To start battling that annoying cliché I will ask people exactly those silly questions above when being confronted with the “good camera”-statement. Alternatively, when somebody gives the statement to me while I am holding the camera, I will quickly mess with the camera settings (e.g. set it to manual mode and choose exposure values which are anything but suitable for the current lighting situation), smile at the person and say: “Sure it does, it is totally easy. Here, take it and give it a shot.”

If I’ll have any success with that strategy I will let you know

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