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Tourbox NEO review

How often did you think.
“man I would love something that replaces my keyboard for shortcuts”
If that’s you, this might be of interest for you.

As you guys know I’m always 100% honest in my reviews. So let’s start by stating that this product was send to us for review, but that will not for even 1% influence my opinion. So let’s start.

What is it?
Tourbox is a small but very well build (and heavy) external device with buttons and dials that can be “freely” programmed to replace shortcuts. Now there are several solutions out there and some fall in the catagory “total junk” and “genius”. Let me start with stating that the tourbox is very close to the segment “Very usable to genius”. Let me explain.

These kind of devices are a mixed bag for me and a lot of people.
When we have a keyboard in front of us we can learn the shortcuts and for example order a small keyboard that you lay on your lap or next to you while working, or one can just chose to operate everything with a mouse/trackpad, and in all honesty for a lot of software this is still my prefered way of working, for example take lightroom, I’ve never found a product that actually speeds up the trackpad/mouse workflow, for the simple reason that Lightroom has a very clear structure and you can work from top to bottom setting everything up and seeing you also skip certain settings working with the mouse/trackpad is just very very easy also because when you use local adjustments you already need a mouse/trackpad/tablet.

So although it does work flawlessly in Lightroom I would probably never use it myself for this, no matter what others say 🙂
Now let’s look at Photoshop.

The more you work in Photoshop the more you are almost using shortcuts blindely, for the simple reason you use them all the time, and also Photoshop is a totally different program than Lightroom. For me Lightroom is really based on a mouse/trackpad workflow where Photoshop is really aimed at a tablet/pen control surface PLUS shortcuts on a keyboard, you actually hardly to never touch the mouse/trackpad, and in that case…. man this is genius.

We all have our favorite shortcuts.
For me it’s always the following I program.
Brush size, Rotate canvas, switch for/background (X), Curves, Levels, Saturation, zoom in and out, 100%, fill and of course the usual Space, CRTL, SHIFT etc.
And those can all be programmed in the Tourbox, and this makes it very usable for Photoshop and other software that is really based on shortcuts and non mouse/trackpad operation.

So let’s take a look at the software itself so you get an idea about what’s possible (and it’s a lot)

First of all, don’t worry that you have to do a lot of work before using the tourbox, there are several presets available in the software right after the installation. So when you use Photoshop and Lightroom you’re already covered. But what about if you want it differently (what I would do without a doubt). Well that’s very easy.

It’s very easy to create a new preset, and after that the fun really starts.
Of course you can emulate the normal keystrokes, but also combinations with SHIFT, CRTL etc.
But… and that’s actually very cool, you can also combine keys on the tourbox, for example the normal dial changes brushsize, but if you hold the side button you can use th same dial for screenzoom for example. And that makes the tourbox A LOT more usable, you are literally not limited to the keys you see (well actually you are, but you can also combine the keys making it a lot more usable).

Now this sounds awesome, but it also brings in a problem I experience almost everyday, “where the heck did I …..”, and with so many options it can indeed very quickly become very confusing. It also doesn’t really help the device is black including the keys (later more on that).

Now loads of people will program the Tourbox the way that they use it, and the nice thing is that you can download those from the TourBox website. Just search for the program you want to use and download the presets.

 

Luckily you can always call up the hub and see what’s programmed.
And if you don’t know all the shortcuts, don’t panic, the TourBox software helps you out by the build in functions menu. This makes programming literally a breeze.

 

Conclusion
Ok, so how does it work in reality.
Let me start with the positives.

First off all the device is build very nicely, it’s heavy enough to not drift around the table or your lap, but not too heavy you can’t travel with it. Also size wise it’s a very smart size, it’s not too small and certainly not to big, plus a BIG plus…. it uses USB-C, I still don’t understand why manufactores still release gear with other connections than USB-C.

Also there is so much flexibility that it’s almost impossible that there is a situation where you can’t use it.
So overall I’m very positive about the TourBox. But let’s also take a look at the negatives.

First of all one could argue that it should be wireless, and I start with this one because I agree and disagree. You do have to realize the price point of the TourBox, compared to some competitors the TourBox is A LOT cheaper and when you add wireless you will need a battery and of course BT or WiFi board which will drive the price up and also the stability, I’m actually mostly a fan of devices that also have the option to be used with a wired connection because I hate batteries that run out, or connections that are instable (and yes that happens a lot).

Ok so what can they improve
Now do realize that some of these options will add some costs or are not possible in this product.

First off all I think the TourBox is genius for Photoshop but also when recording and editing video and music, and especially for music it’s awesome to be able to start recording/punch ins with just a quick tap on a button instead of reaching out to the keyboard or using the mouse/keyboard, and while editing zooming is just plain awesome…. “Hey Frank this is positive, not negative buddy…” yeah I know, now when I record music or edit photos/videos I’m a bit of “batman” I’m editing in a dark area and in most cases there is just not enough light to see the pure black TourBox, this is also the reason I’m using keyboards with backlit keys. I would love for them to add a light behind the keys, just to see where the keys are and not having to trust my fingers in the dark. Now not everyone will be editing in a “batcave” but if you do this is really a negative thing about the TourBox, I love black gear, but man it’s hard to see in the dark.

Now adding backlights would be pretty easy I guess, just place a ledstrip in the housing and it will show through the side of the keys, it doesn’t have to be disco ball but just outlining the keys would help a lot. The next step would be a small display that shows what you programmed under the keys, I don’t see a lot of products that use this but in all honestly it would make it worth double the price for me personally, because especially when you use the TourBox in 4-5 apps it can be VERY confusing where what is. In all fairness on my XP-Pen tablets after hours and hours of use I know most of the buttons, but still…. I’m using console tape next to the keys with the functions because the most used keys I know where they are but keys you don’t use a lot can still be confusing, and these kind of devices are build for speed and easy workflow, the fact that most keys are shaped differently does help a lot, I’ve tested several solutions that use the same buttons (just a lot of them) and I never really used them for the simple reason I just lost track and eventually interest. By using different shapes it makes it 10x easier to remember.

The thing that I would LOVE to see, and I really think it should be added is support for iOS.
Now bare with me for this one.
I know most of you still edit on desktops or laptops, but you can’t deny that the iPads are making huge waves at the moment and for me the iPad pro 12.9″ M1 actually fully replaced my laptop and for 90% my desktop, and indeed that means I use the iPad for everything from photography to video editing and media consumption.

Now on a desktop and laptop you already have a keyboard an a mouse/trackpad connected but not on an iPad, the only reason I have a keyboard connected when editing is for certain shortcuts which I find easier than using the touch interface, and for that I would not connect a keyboard but would literally LOVE a solution like the TourBox, in fact I would use it almost daily seeing more and more app makers are adding loads of shortcuts, and editing with a keyboard next to me is possible but I would love the TourBox (or another solution) connected to the iPad.

When talking to manufactorers I often hear they don’t look at the iPad pro as a serious device and I strongly feel they were right 2-3 years ago, however when we now look at what Adobe is doing with Lightroom and Photoshop, but also apps like LumaFusion, Cubasis, Beatmaker3, affinity photo etc. I really feel they are very wrong to not take the iPad pro serious, and luckily soon Capture One will be released on the iPad pro M1 which I think will break open the way for more software makers. And let’s be honest with the new M1 it should be pretty simple for TourBox to port their software to the iPad.

So should you run out and buy a TourBox?
Well if you compare it to the price of a normal keyboard… no absolutely not.
BUT…. that’s not fair, it’s a totally different product and well worth it’s price especially when compared to other solutions.

So when you find yourself looking for shortcuts in software and would wish there was a way to have this all easy accessable the TourBox might be the perfect solution for you. I’ll keep using it behind the desktop we record music on and do the editing when I’m home, and this has nothing to do with the quality but the simple fact in the studio we use XP-Pen tablets that already have more than enough shortcut keys. But if you are using a tablet that doesn’t have enough hardkeys (most don’t have enough) combining your tablet with the TourBox I can HIGHLY recommend and I mean HIGHLY, it will make your life a lot easier. But do make sure you have a little but of light in your workarea. Or wait for TourBox to release a special Doorhof white version with backlighting (just kidding).

If you also want a TourBox, get them (or anything else :D) via this link and also support our work.
https://amzn.to/3wTPihQ

Digital classroom with Kimberley

Digital classroom is without a doubt one of the most intense things I do online.
The idea actually started out as just having a camera on during a photoshoot, we did this a few years ago and people loved it, being able to see what we do during a photoshoot. At that time there was not much going on to be honest, it was mostly seeing the model being in makeup, some movement in the studio and of course the Photoshoot, but still people loved it.

 

Years later we wanted to pick this up again but with todays market you have to do something unique so we thought hard and decided we would let YOU the viewers interact with the shoot, but as soon as the cameras rolled and we were live things changed…. I love teaching and that was exactly what I started doing, explaining what we were going to do, showing the light setups, giving tips and even showing the complete retouch process….. this was a huge succes and now we can do these broadcasts every month thanks to companies like BenQ and Rogue/Expo imaging because without them this would never be possible.

 

Today I can show the digital classroom we did with Kimberley and watch this space on Monday for the results.
Enjoy… oh and if you REALLY want to do us a favor…. subscribe to our channel via this link…..

 

Now this is of course free, imaging what you get with one of our instructional videos you can order from our site, make sure to check them out and learn even more in depth techniques and tips.

 

Topics include :
Small flash, the light blaster, Rogue flash benders, how to meter light with a light meter, the new Sekonic 478, how to prevent reflections in walls, windows, glasses etc, how to coach the model, angles, gear, retouching in Photoshop and Capture one, tinting with Aliens Skin X and Capture One, some cool retouch tips and MUCH more…..

MTM goes New York

On February 13th I’ll be teaching a full day (small group) workshop in New York… the city that never sleeps.
And trust me… after this workshop you won’t sleep for a week…. it’s jam-packed with information on shooting models, understanding light, mixing light sources, shooting with advanced light setups and the bare basics (just natural light) and much more. The unique approach of the workshops is always that we start with a Q&A in which the participants can ask whatever they want and part of the questions will be answered right away and the other part will be incorporated into the workshop it self, this way the attendees always learn exactly what they want.

 

For this workshop we have some amazing dresses from our friend Lindsay Adler (they are stunning) plus the workshop itself is taught in a great studio with both day light and studio options so it’s possible to cover literally every aspect you can encounter, meaning you will get a very complete overview of techniques for both natural light and strobes (and mixing them of course).

 

During the workshop you will also get the chance to shoot with the brand new 100MP Phase One digital camera/back so you will be going home not only with stunning images… but also some very high resolution ones 😀

 

As an added bonus you will also see the whole retouch process from selection to finish with many tips in Photoshop and Capture One.
By the way… ALL participants will receive a free copy of Capture One 9 (valued at 299.00)

 

Topics will be :
Understanding/Manipulating/metering light
Using the light meter in incident and reflective mode
Mixing light sources
Coaching the model and working to a great shoot
Adding motion for that WOW effect
Advanced techniques for location shoots
Maximizing the location
The right gear
The complete workflow for model photography
Color managed workflows
Using Capture one during and after the shoot
Retouching and selecting images
And MUCH MUCH more…….

Retouching topics will be :
Skin retouching without spending hours behind the computer
Adding an unique look within seconds without plugins
Tinting your images 
Body shaping within Photoshop
Using BW convertors for stunning color enhancements
Adding skin detail back if necessary (this can save your shot)
Manipulating light
Adding atmospherical lighting to a shot
Enhancing the look of the scene
And MUCH MUCH more…..

 

 

Sounds good?
I think so, so head on over to http://www.frankdoorhof.com/web/tours/new-york-workshop-february-13th-2016/ and read more about this workshop and register.
CU in the big Apple 😀

 

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Products of the year

As usual at the end of the year I show you a small list of the products that really caught my attention.

 

Let’s start with the most obvious one:

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Sony A7RII
Some cameras are updated on a yearly basis, some on 3-4-5 years and Sony… well does it all very quickly, now one would expect that the upgrade would be minor but nothing was less true. The A7RII rocketed the A7R towards perfection. New sensor technology, great image quality, 4K video on the card, better viewfinder (wow), faster performance, more frames per second, 42MP, better noise control, a build in tether solution against port damage and a lot more. This makes the A7RII for me without a doubt the surprise of 2015 and my personal favorite camera (it might even be the best camera in the world).

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And to see the images you of course need a good monitor, in the past this meant spending a lot of money on an Adobe RGB monitor and calibrator but this year BenQ released a new line of monitors that really blew my mind, and in fact I’m using their 27″ (SW2700PT) version right now in our studio for all my retouching. Seeing the fact this monitor is sold for EU699.00 including a hood makes it a great option for everyone that is serious about their photography. So make sure to check it out you will LOVE them. Bundle it with an X-rite analyzer that is supported by the software and you will also benefit from hardware calibration for better accuracy and smoothness.

 

But next to cameras and monitors there was a lot more going on, and one device really changed my life, and I know it sounds dramatic but it really did, and I’m talking about the iPad Pro. You’ve heard me rave about it before so I won’t go into all the details again but let me put it this way, I was not waiting for a bigger iPad, but the Apple Pencil was exactly what I didn’t miss until I got it. It triggered me to start drawing again and that alone makes the iPad pro for me one of the products of the year because if a product makes you do things creatively that you normally didn’t do… well that’s cool.

 

Because of the iPad pro I also was looking for a new workflow for on the road and let’s look at some apps that really made me go… “oh that’s cool”.

 

Pixelmator:
If you’re looking for a cool retouch tool this might very well be it.
It’s far from perfect (like all apps at the moment) but if you are satisfied with storing PSDs in the cloud and JPG on your device it’s one of the most complete retouching apps out there, I love it.

 

Enlight:
Same goes for Enlight, in fact I’m using both Pixelmator and Enlight in my workflow, switching between them. In Enlight I like the looks a bit more than in Pixelmator and the skin retouching is much easier because it supports layer masks, but overall both are just amazing, and seeing the pricing.. well get them both.

 

ProCreate:
Never saw myself drawing again, I drew a lot when I was a kid on paper but the iPad pro really triggered this again and you can’t go wrong with ProCreate, GREAT software, GREAT performance and an awesome playback function.

 

MediBang paint:
If you want it free… check out medibang paint, it’s like Procreate a drawing app but it’s so much more, it looks a bit cluttered but for people drawing cartoons/manga etc. it’s an awesome awesome tool and hopefully a look forward on what Photoshop will look like on the iPad.

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And the final app is Astropad:
Every longed for that Wacom Cintiq?
Well with Astropad you can add a lot of the performance and usability to your iPhone/iPad or iPad Pro, it works wirelessly and with lighting and it just got a MAJOR update for the Apple Pencil, without a doubt my ALL time favorite app of 2015.

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For using the iPad pro I would like to mention the Logitec Create keyboard and the great cover buddy by SwitchEasy (a wonderful case for your iPad pro with a pencil holder)

 

For flash I have a really cool new product from Rogue Expo Imaging :
The Flashbender XL silver (Frank Doorhof signature series)
Yep you read that correctly it’s a new flash bender that was designed with my ideas for the material incorporated. I love the flash bender products but found out that I mostly used the silver coating and not the white, just to give a bit more edge to the light and also to get a bit more output, so I asked them to create one just for me and instead of making just one…. well they will be released very soon so make sure to pick one up, I’m 100% sure you’re gonna love it.

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Another really cool flash product is the new Elinchrom Skyport which makes it possible to break the 1/125 barrier found in many cameras and actually boost this all the way up to 1/8000. At the moment they are only available for Canon and Nikon but a Sony version will follow next year. I played with the Canon version and absolutely love the effect, the cool thing is that is also works on your older Elinchrom strobes.

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Staying with Elinchrom I also have to mention the new Fresnel spot they released. I fell in love with it many years ago but couldn’t afford one and by the time I could they were not making them anymore…. well they are now and they called it the FS30 so make sure to check it out if you love that old look that a Fresnel can give you, you’ll love it.

 

If you’re working on location also make sure to check out the Elinchrom ELB quadra, a revamped Quadra and in combination with the new HS head and skyport a combination that will be incredibly versatile and will probably allow us to leave our Rangers at home.

 

Now the next product of the year is no surprise because it could be mentioned every year.
Adobe Creative Cloud:
And no I don’t say this because I’m an Adobe influencer, the CC subscription was a stroke of genius from Adobe, which was (and still is) very misunderstood by a lot of people. In Essence you can get everything you will ever need for your photography for on average 10.00 a month (that’s 1x less starbucks a month). Now you didn’t see me mentioned any Adobe Apps in the previous part because I wanted to mention them here.
Lightroom mobile and the whole collection of apps are not “toys” anymore they can really fit in a professional workflow and will make your life as a photographer/videographer a lot easier. Also they are releasing new apps and updates almost constantly making the usability grow and expand with every update and thanks to the cloud you have the updates automatically added and without ever having to worry about paying more or upgrading.

 

For education I can only think about one website that I always consider product of the year and that’s KelbyOne.
Yeah I know I’m part of it and that’s why I mention it, but that’s not true.
With the subscription to KelbyOne you don’t just get access to some amazing eduction and a cool app for on the road (now also supports offline viewing) but you also get a lot more benefits like discounts, a very nice magazine, Photoshop World discounts and a lot lot more. It’s literally your one stop place to refuel your creativity.

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Now if you are a PC user and don’t care about all that Mac talk… well this might come as a surprise but another product that REALLY got my attention this year was the Microsoft Surfacebook or Surface pro 4. I’m still waiting to get my hands on one to test it out, but it looks like the perfect solution for all you photographers and videographers out there that are using Windows. It makes my mouth water when I look at the SurfaceBook to be honest and I can’t wait for Apple to bring something like that to the market. Imagine an iPad pro that is a tablet, but as you plug it on the keyboard becomes a display for the laptop…. yep would love that (better even if Apple updates it’s MacOs for full touch.

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Another cool product I found out about recently is the  Contour Shuttle Pro2:
I use this next to my keyboard to zoom in and out more easily and change my brush sizes quick, but it also makes it possible to program ANY key combination you would ever need into the software and it will switch with the software you are using. Highly recommend it.

 

Next up is the new Magic Touchpad from Apple:
I always used the mouse, but I did buy a Magic touchpad when it was released, however it ended up in the closet after a few weeks (which is pretty unique for an Apple product), a few months ago I picked it up again after installing the new OS and really loved it, so I switched to the new one with force touch and the bigger size, love the fact it doesn’t need batteries anymore and the larger size is really nice. So if you want to loose that mouse and give your hands some more “rest” check it out.

 

On the phone side it must be the new iPhone 6s Plus:
I was not planning on switching to the new one but I did for the 4K video, now it might sound ridiculous but to be honest the video quality is actually very good and because Annewiek films everything in 4K it’s just easier to incorporate this material into the videos. And of course the new camera is also a nice addition for a photographer 😀

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On the “gadget” side it’s without a doubt the Yuneec Q5004K quadcopter:
I have been looking at drones/quadcopters for quite some time and was actually looking for DJI until someone pointed me towards the Yuneec and I was sold. The main thing for me was the sound level and stability of the gimbal. I’ve heard some DJI’s from close by and far away and …. well they are noisy, the Yuneec is hardly heard when it’s let’s say 20mtr away and that for me is a big plus, add to this the really nice and stable video and photos in RAW and you understand why we went for the Yuneec.

 

On the Home Theater front it has to be the new Sony VW520 projector, a full 4K projector with a lot of light output and it’s all ready for the new HDR content, which in my opinion will be the main big jump for home theater lovers out there.

 

However without a player… how do you play 4K material?
Well also there this year we found a cool small player called the PopCornHour Vten which works like a charm in our setup and plays most 4K streams straight over the network and only needs a harddrive for the really high quality streams.

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Also on the Home Theater front of course the software iRule which makes it possible to control your whole house and Home Theater from your favorite smart device.

 

Now on the more boring, but very important part I have to mention the Synology NAS we use in our studio and Home Theater. Synology has been active with NAS systems for many years and never really let us down, it’s blazingly fast and very reliable, some NAS units we had problems with speed on our Mac’s but the Synology is very fast and works like a charm. Now backups is a boring topic but trust me…. when you don’t take care of it it will not be a boring topic but a real frustration and sad topic one day. So make sure that you have this in order and we trust our data best on the Synology 😀

 

Now let’s do a side step to health.
As you probably know I love to sport and watch what I eat, but sometimes I also love some “junk food” but we actually never did make it because we didn’t own a deep frier (wasn’t used for years so we threw it out), thanks to a tip from a friend of us we bought an AirFryer from Philips (do get the XL one) and this changed the way we cook. Because it uses hot air there are no bad things like grease or oil, you literally fry the product as natural as possible, sometimes just add a teaspoon of oil and that’s it. A GREAT thing for the kitchen and therefore in the list for this years discoveries and products.

 

Another gadget I fell in love with is the new Suunto smart sensor, a smaller heartbelt that meters your heartbeat during sports and does it with the same precision as the older Suunto ones (I always used Suunto), the main thing is that it doesn’t need a watch anymore but just connects to your iPhone or Android device.

 

Of course the list can go on and on because as a gadget freak a lot of cool stuff was released this year and probably more are coming next year, but we have to make a selection and for me these products really took the crown, feel free to add your own in the comments below.