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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

Wireless goodies for Sony shooters

Shooting tethered is without a doubt one of the most valuable pieces of advise I can give, direct feedback, your customer can see and select images, you can do a pre-edit/selection, check focus and when working with manual focus lenses you can even do some bracketing if needed with the aid of Capture One’s awesome focus overlay (it shows everything that’s in focus as green).

Now most of the times I shoot tethered via USB-C and use my Tethertools cables and Tetherblock for this, plus some Tethertools extension locks and those together give me a pretty rock solid connection up to just under 15mtrs which in most cases is more than enough. However when shooting on location things do change a bit.

I love my Dell XPS series laptop but in all honesty outside the screen isn’t that bright and the battery… don’t get me started on that, yeah it’s ok but nothing more. A while ago we started experimenting with my Huawei M5 tablet and the build in Sony wireless app. That worked like a charm at home and in the field, the Sony sends over small JPGs and keeps the RAWs on the card and the app works great on Android (NFC) and “ok” in iOS (have to keep making a connection via password or QR), the M5 has more lightoutput than my laptop and being on location not having to carry a laptop, cables and extra battery pack + table for the laptop is a big plus, we now just use a tablet with a shade (hoodman).

However the Sony app is great at home but it fails miserably in more demanding situations.
I’m working on a series on mobile workflows with the iPad pro and smart devices instead of laptops so during our trip to SA Joburg I decided to shoot wireless for the first time in a tradeshow environment, and can tell you “DON’T EVER DO THIS YOURSELF” it was a disaster, some images came in in seconds others took 25-30 seconds, shooting from the same location not 3 mtrs away from my tablet. Literally unusable. But what than?

As you know I LOVE Tethertools but their great CaseAir doesn’t support Sony (yet) so I looked online.
CamRanger is coming soon for Sony, but I’ve been hearing that for at least 5 years now.
CamFi I already tested a year or 2 ago and although it did work it lost connection a lot and the app was…. well not that impressive. But I found out they have a new one, enter the:

CamFi pro
And trust me after the iPhone pro the name pro in my opinion has lost all it’s value (yeah I’m still an Apple fan boy but calling the 11 a pro…. nah) So what does this CamFi pro promise. Well actually quite a lot, and some things even blew my mind.

First off it promises much faster transfer speeds, well let me burst that bubble, yes it’s fast, in fact it’s VERY fast, but don’t expect to shoot RAW, not going to happen, not now not soon (maybe for still life or nature, but not far fast shooting like fashion or movement), but JPGs… well that goes REALLY snappy and I really mean REALLY. I’ve set my camera up for small JPGs and full size RAWs, in the new Sony menus you can find an option where you actually tell the camera to shoot RAW+JPG and only send the JPGs to the PC (yes this now also works for Capture One).

Ok what can it do with the app:
Autoview (handy for what I do, shoot image comes in, shoot, repeat)
Live View (can be cool to show the attendees how I make my composition, and awesome for other shooters, like remote cameras etc)
Time Lapse (always handy)
Focus stacking (cool for Macro)
HDR (Yep…. not a real fan of Highly Destructive Retouching, but… yeah ok it’s cool)
Video recording (ok that’s also handy)
Multiple camera control (yep you read that correctly, awesome for sports shooters with several cameras)
Auto print (yeah… well ok it’s there)

Transfer speeds are given as 10MB/s which I believe, again it feels really snappy.
And remember you’re shooting small JPGs so it’s almost as fast as RAWs via USB.

Capture one and Lightroom
And now it gets freaky
What if I told you that with this device you can just connect your camera to Capture One/Lightroom and those apps THINK you are shooting wired? In other words you see the camera, you can select everything and images come in like normally with USB, pretty cool right?

Yep and it works as advertised, setup is a breeze, just a small software app you run before you start shooting and you’re done.

My conclusion
You might expect a hallelujah conclusion after reading this, right?
Well it is, but…. and someone told me once that everything before but is useless, so let’s dive in.

First up.
Startup time is pretty long, but that’s pretty standard, but I would have loved for that to be a bit faster, connecting the camera works in 60-70% of the cases, don’t worry, if it doesn’t work just unplug ONLY the camera and connect it again, it never happened to me that it failed a second time, not once (and I used it a lot)

Second up.
And this is the big one.
This thing is HUGE, and I mean…. I don’t have a clue where to put it. It can’t be on the hot shoe because I need my trigger there, I don’t want a cage around my camera (I think) because I normally don’t want it on and it feels weird in my hands (I shoot with a grip) When I look at the case air you can just let it dangle next to the camera via a small cord and it’s fine. The CamFi pro…. never, it’s really big. But that also means build quality is like a tank, it’s very durable and it screams PRO device in every single way.

Third up.
Battery life is ok, they claim 6 hours, but my experience is about 4, which is more than enough (plus I got a loan unit so I don’t know how they treated the battery, I know I’m super aware of how to treat them so with me the batteries often stay in peak performance) but again 4 hours is more than enough

Fourth up.
Distance.
CamFi claims 50mtrs and I can only confirm that I did a test which was absolutely stunning.
During Photoshop World I walked all the way to the back of the room (those rooms are huge) and remember there are many wifi signals there, and the CamFi didn’t miss a beat, maybe it was a milisecond slower but all the images came in just fine and fast enough, WOW, that’s awesome.

End conclusion
If you need a wireless solution and you are like me shooting Sony, I can highly recommend the CamFi pro.
If you’re shooting Canon or Nikon and you want that integration with Capture one or Lightroom go for it.
If you want something smaller that also works just fine get the Tethertools CaseAir, but that’s only for the size, in all honesty I’m blown away by the CamFi pro…. if I could find a way to mount it without too much hassle like screwing in a case and working like that I would even recommend it even more, you could use a coldshoe splitter of course but if you’re using an ETTL or HSS/HS system that won’t work.

I have to send the unit back soon, and I have to be honest I do feel a bit sad about that.
Who knows…maybe I’ll buy it when there is no good solution before the end of the year…but you never know. 😀

HIGHLY recommended.

 

 

 

images are not mine

Hensel views and thoughts on a new system

If you’ve been following my social media stream and youtube channel you probably already know that after many years being active as an ambassador for Elinchrom I’ve made the switch to Hensel. Let me first explain why this is.

In short, not a bad word about Elinchrom, they’ve been amazing and helped my career without any doubt and I still consider all of the dealers and head-office as close personal friends, and this will not change. Over the past year I’ve been in talks with Hensel USA and I feel that at the moment they are more in sync with what I want and need for both giving you guys a platform to learn and also the gear I use to create my work. But as you guys know I’m incredibly brand loyal and leaving a brand I’ve been in so close contact with from the start is very hard so it took us over a year to make the final decision but both Annewiek and I decided that Hensel is the company that first and foremost has the gear that I strongly believe will open up loads of creativity for photographers in almost every genre of photography, plus I’ve seen what’s coming and that made the switch A LOT easier to say it gently. Add to this the drive at Hensel to push education, help out with events and you immediately see why I’m so enthusiastic.

Photography is creating art, but also inspiration and education.
Hensel is a company that is willing to help me reach more people to help out with their photography, inspire and work with, in the end that’s the most important part for me as an educator, and I also believe it’s one of the most key elements in a brand, education and inspiration is key.

But that’s from my standpoint as an educator…. now why should YOU buy/switch or even look at Hensel. That’s of course the million dollar question. So I decided to make this blog post as a start in series of articles/reviews in both print and video. And don’t worry… it’s not an advertisement thingy, you guys know I never talk about gear that way because in essence there’s only one thing that counts…. how does the gear makes it easier for you to create your art and push new boundaries.

So here we go.
In this blog post I will give you some pointers on the system.
Do remember I’ve been shooting with Hensel for quite some time, one of my friends owns a studio that is 100% Hensel and I’ve taught some workshops there also the weeks before the switch I’ve worked with their gear, so it’s not something I write down after 2 workshops (heck I wouldn’t switch if I didn’t know the system well enough).

First off the mount
The mount is the best ever.
How often do you struggle with getting your heavy softbox on your strobe, or how often do you find out that it was not securely fastened with all the dangers connected (or not connected, pun intended). In the past I’ve worked a lot with Profoto gear and always loved the simplicity of their mount, but the Hensel mount ranks right up there. It’s a very simple and fast mount, you just pull a lever, put the modifier in and release the lever and well that’s it. And added VERY big advantage is that you can rotate every single modifier with ease. Especially great with striplights.

Here you can see the mount on an Integra, you can see the clamps and the lever on top, it’s really an incredibly easy and fast system. Especially when you change modifiers a lot (like me) this is a major strong point.

The reflectors
Reflectors are often regarded as the most basic modifiers but in essence they are very sophisticated. Did you know for example that choosing the right reflector outside can literally mean that you can twice as long on a battery pack?

Reflectors bundle the light and throw it on your subject.
If you look at my work you already know I love the high contrast look. You can achieve this with for example Fresnels, small softboxes with grids, but the best modifier for this look is for me personally the reflector (with or without grid). The cool thing about Hensel is that their reflectors are very prone to focussing the light right on the subject and are rather deep, meaning you get an amazing quality of light from them. Add to this the 14″ reflector which will give you a very focused beam of light outside plus a lot of extra power from your strobe and you see the reason why I actually ordered a selection of reflectors to play with.

The disadvantage of reflectors is that they are often, as people expect, a bit too harsh, too wide etc. The ones I got are actually the opposite and I think I’ll be using more reflectors than in the past for the simple reason they have an amazing focus and throw. It really fits my style perfectly. Add to this a nice selection of grids that is available for all of them and you can do whatever you want. (added bonus…. reflectors are actually often the cheapest modifiers, and therefore often overlooked by both the user and the manufacturer).

 

Grids
I love to have total light control and of the key elements for this is being able to steer the light. The best aid for this is called a grid or as some people like to call it a Honey Comb grid. Now in all honesty for most softboxes and reflectors you can get grids, but in a lot of cases these grids are not made for these modifiers and can cost you an arm and a leg plus extra work. For all the modifiers that I use Hensel actually already had grids so I could order them all from one location and they all fit the modifiers like a glove. Especially for softboxes and striplights this is a huge deal, but also for the 14″ reflector this was a delight.

Easy battery replacements
This might sound like a “Yeah… well what do you mean” kind of thing.
But try to replace a battery in the freezing cold or blistering heat, some battery systems are far from perfect. Now I won’t say that something is perfect but the Hensel comes pretty darn close. Take a look at the picture of the Porty for example. You just click and pull and it’s out and you can charge it in little over 2 hours. That sounds not that impressive but…. this a 1200W strobe which actually packs 300-350 pops on full power.

 

 

Remote
The remote is simple but works.
You can select 3 groups and with a small but easy to use switch you can select 1-2-3 or all.
Via the remote you can change the output of each strobe and turn the modelling light on or off plus trigger the strobe for a test. As far as I can see now the performance is very good but let’s be honest now a days a remote should indeed just work, the time of line of sight or shoot 10 and miss 2 should be way behind us.

This is probably the only thing I’m really gonna miss from the Elinchrom system, the new Skyport system is incredibly handy in the way that you can see all the strobes (if compatible) and you can easily change outputs. But changes are coming I’ve heard.

The thing that I do really like is the alternative remote control called the “wifi remote”.
This is very cool and would be great for people that do a lot of fixed setups where they have multiple strobes and want to be able to just switch between sets, let’s say only the back, only the front, a mix with sides etc. etc. you can store presets and call them back incredibly easily.

We actually mounted a small android tablet on a Tethertools holder and have the software running you can see all the strobes and changing settings is fast and easy. The cool thing is that due to two way communication if you change something on the remote you can see it also on the wifi remote. For my kind of work it’s cool but it’s not a necessity, I’ll have to see if I still use it after a few months, but again for other setups that use more fixed setups this is absolutely awesome.

Speed, speed, and did I already say speed…..
At the moment we have 3 expert 500D strobes in the studio and those are crazy fast, and I mean crazy fast. Yesterday we shot with some cameras that handle 14 frames per second and they didn’t even blink or missed shots and trust me that was not on a lower power setting. I’ve done similar tests on other systems and although for example the ELCs are real speed demons too they don’t have the short flash duration of the expert 500D.

Now of course you have the flash duration that the manufacturer tells you, but in all honesty you can just forget about those. The faster the flash duration the more stopping/freezing power and the crispier your shot so it’s important to really “hype” that speed.

In all honesty if your strobes are above 1/2500 of a second you’re fine. You can use it for freezing motion with hairs and jumps, but just don’t expect to have perfect frozen “everything” but you’re fine. I always held 1/2500 as the bare minimum for what I wanted. It gets really interesting when you break that 1/5000 barrier. Images get a certain crisp or micro contrast whatever you want to call it but it just looks different. And when you let a model move the motion is frozen perfectly.

Now comes the “not so fun” part.
Often manufacturers will claim insanely high flash durations but they don’t tell you that it only works at the lowest power setting… which well is absolutely useless because you can’t make a model jump and shoot her on f2.8 ISO400 there simply isn’t enough depth of field to have focus correctly. For a portrait it will work but a jump or movement will never be spot on when you don’t have some field of focus where the model can move in. So you need that stopping power on at least half and preferably even on full power. The last two workshops I’ve used my Sekonic 858 in the “metering speed mode” and I’ve actually never seen the Experts drop below 1/4000 of a second, but I’ve metered a top speed on 1/12000 (that’s insane) and that was not on the lowest setting but I believe somewhere at slightly above midpoint. Next week I’ll do a small test with the Sekonic and make a video on this.

Now you might say that this is only important when you freeze motion, but please read the first part again. It’s very hard to explain but you really see a difference between a really fast strobe and a slower one. The images just come out a bit more crisp. For me this is perhaps one of the points where I’m most enthusiastic about.

Build quality
For most people not that important, for some very important so I’m just gonna say it.
They’re build like fricking tanks. Same goes for the Porty and it’s heads, you just know it will be with you for years and if you drop it…. well don’t but if it happens… you can probably just continue shooting like nothing happens (no I’m not gonna try it). And to be fair in all these years I only dropped an Elinchrom a few times and they always continued working I only broke off a handle once. But I’ve seen some other brands that literally scattered in a million pieces after a very low drop.

But it’s not only the strobes. The softboxes, reflectors, grids etc. they all look like they will last years and years.
Giving the pricepoint of the modifiers I think this is a great selling point. It’s not cheap, but compared to the build quality of only slightly lowered priced alternatives there is a huge difference that would be well worth the investment.

Soft-boxes
I’ve mostly ordered the soft-boxes in the grand series because I just LOVE deep octas. And I think that with the 85 for location, 90 and 120 you can do almost anything when you combine them with grids. If you need bigger there’s also a 190 Grande, but I think I would hardly use that one myself, but if you’re into more softer and broad light that one would be absolutely awesome. Oh and there is one thing I do have to add concerning the soft-boxes. You probably know that most deep octas have a diffusion panel on the inside and outside right? Well these also have that of course but the inner diffusion panel is actually a translucent reflector which can actually help you out on location when you want to shoot with ambient light… just take out the diffuser and use it like you would normally use a reflector…. awesome idea.

I also ordered two 30-120 strips with grids by the way, just in case you wanted to know.

Beauty dish
One of the modifiers I use most is the beauty dish, it’s a sort of “it will always work” modifier.
I’ve always used the Elinchrom beautydish for a lot of my work and really liked it, but it was not one of the most “refined” modifiers. In essence it’s just a dish with a deflector and a one sized grid. I tried the larger beautydish a few times but never liked it and always returned to the smaller silver one.

The beauty dish from Hensel is something you really should check out. I was deeply impressed the first time I saw it.
It’s not just a dish with a deflector but it actually has some really well thought out light modifiers inside and the deflector part also has a holder for a gel which will come in incredibly handy because I love to use gels. Where some modifiers don’t differ that much the Beauty dish really is a HUGE step up for me.

I love modifiers that are versatile and this is a really well though out modifier.
But I can talk about it… let’s just see some images.
I actually ordered the silver one. There is also a grid that covers the complete dish by the way.
Want a lot of looks from one modifier?
Well here you go.

 

Compositing
Not really my thing “yet” for the simple reason I simply don’t take the time to spend hours extracting hairs. But if that would be easier…. well I would really like to play with it some times like for example with our cos-players, or what if you’re shooting children or working as a school or event photographer. Wouldn’t it be cool to just take a shot and not think about it and get a “perfect” cut out in Photoshop ready to placed on a backdrop (or even better, in the case of events, just do it automatically)?

Well enter… freemask
You do need strobes that are compatible, and you do need a special remote (and optional software, although you can also do it in Photoshop yourself). But when you invest in the remote and you already have compatible strobes (most Hensel gear is freemask compatible) it’s incredibly simple.

In short you use two groups.
One you just light your subject the way that you want.
The second one lights the backdrop.
Now when you shoot you shoot 2 frames (set camera on continues)
First the front will fire, and secondly the backdrop.
Now you have your model and a silhouette.
Do some magic and voila you have a perfect cut out.
Yep it’s that easy.

Again this is not a selling point for me, but I can imagine that if you’re indeed into shooting events, cos-players, schools, families etc. this is a HUGE money maker, but also for commercial photographers of course, no more money spend on extraction just shoot it and you’re done, well ok that sounds too easy of course, you still have to make sure the backdrop and subject fit together like shadows, lighting, composition, angle etc. but the extraction part went from “complicated and timely” to literally one shot.

Final thoughts
pffffff, I was planning on writing down just some thoughts and I ended up with a huge story, so sorry for this guys but I just wanted to be complete and while writing more and more ideas popped up, and I think that’s the incredibly cool thing about this, a brand that moves you, that literally pushes your buttons and gives you more ideas to get more creative that’s what in the end we all want. Take for example that freemask option, I started writing that it was not really for me, but while writing all these ideas popped up and now I also ordered a freemask remote… so let’s see what happens with that.

Now if this was the first time you heard about Hensel…. ok well…. I forgive you.
It’s a brand that has been on the market since 1963 and was the choice for many professional photographers for decades and watch my words you’ll hear a lot about them in the coming months, they have a very exciting strobe that is about to be released in the form of the Foris 400/800 which would be the perfect strobe for shooters that work both on location and in the studio and want to make absolutely no compromise on quality and easy of use or speed or…. well just check out the Foris here and that’s just the start, so keep your eyes out for updates.

Want to know more?
Of course you want.

I started a facebook group on https://www.facebook.com/groups/273169130099901/ for English
Or a Dutch page that is actually run by the Dutch distributor https://www.facebook.com/groups/442891952854692/

Find Hensel at : https://hensel.eu/en/
And the official Dutch distributor at : https://www.hensel-studiotechniek.nl/

If you have any questions… feel free to ask.
If you want me to test certain things just let me know.

Here are two BTS videos we shot from the first two workshops with Hensel
https://youtu.be/hgKUeWc4klM
https://youtu.be/R9nfyNBoKU4

And a small selection of the first series of photos shot with Hensel.

Dell XPS 9570 first impressions

If I have to be honest, most of my work is done on my laptop.
Of course we have a blazingly fast machine in the studio, but most of the time I’m editing video or photos on my laptop, for the simple reason I have a station at home and although I love my studio I enjoy working from home just a bit more, plus when travelling I’m of course 100% depending on my laptop. So probably the most important machine for me as a workhorse is my laptop. So when a new CPU is launched I’m not immediately upgrading my desktop but as soon as a new laptop is released I’m on the look out if it’s a step up from my previous machine.

When I switched from Mac to PC, in all honesty there was only one machine that really caught my eye, the Dell XPS 9560.
I simply looked and felt the best compared to my MacBookPro. I sometimes even call it “what the macbook should have become”, a gorgeous 4K 100% Adobe RGB touch screen (shame it doesn’t include a digitizer), great keyboard, all the ports available and a heavy battery pack, plus a “cheap” external power solution and a great touchpad. But what makes it incredibly handy for me as a travelling photographer…. the 15.6 screen with very tiny bezels which makes this a 15.6″ laptop that will fit most bags without any problem where normally a 15.6″ would not, it’s really something that I love about the XPS series.

Add to this the on-site service, meaning you don’t have to bring it in, or send it somewhere and be without a laptop for 2-3 weeks. My MacBookPro suffered from “staingate” and although Apple replaced my screen for free, I did was without laptop for a week. Now if you’re just surfing the web or playing a game that doesn’t sound like long, but as mentioned before I almost life with my laptop so every day is one too many. I did need Dell twice and both times they arrived within 24 hours and within an hour I was up and running again.

Ok enough of the introduction.
The new XPS 9570 has arrived.

For your perspective
I ordered the i9 version with 32GB and 1TB SSD, 4K
I owned the top of the line i7 with 32GB and 1TB SSD, 4K

My XPS9560 was awesome, it’s very fast and editing 4K straight out of the Sony cameras worked like a charm on both Premiere as Davinci Resolve (although with Davinci resolve I did feel like I missed some performance). Premiere played back everything without any stutters on full res, and on 1/2 it showed all edits without any problem on full frame rate. Nothing to complain about. Also Capture One, Photoshop and Lightroom run like crazy, 60MP files are no problem.

So why upgrade to the i9 version?
Well I understand your question.
When travelling my workdays are pretty extreme, we wake up at around 8:00 and it’s hardly ever before 1:00-2:00AM that I’m in bed. Mostly because I try to edit all images and edit the vlog of that day before I go to bed. And this is a lot of work, plus it takes a hefty toll on the CPU and GPU so every single lit bit of speed increase I can get I welcome.

Some people complain about the new XPS 9570 not looking different from the old version… well thank you Dell. Now I can probably fit my old case and don’t have to buy a new one. The XPS series look awesome, I don’t see any need to change this, although I would love it if Dell would install a digitizer in the screen next time. In case you’re wondering what that is….. it makes it possible to use a wacom pen (or other) on the screen and pressure sensitivity.

So without wasting more of your time…here are the changes.

  1. The screen
    The new XPS 9570 has a slightly brighter screen. The XPS9560 had a nice output of 300 nits, the XPS9570 now clocks in at 400 nits. When shooting outside this can be just the difference, although I would love even more of course, we also have to be realistic with battery life vs brightness.
  2. USB-C/TB3
    The XPS 9570 now supports 4 lanes via TB3, which makes it ideal for using an external GPU, if needed
  3. GPU
    This is a big deal for most of the things I do, the XPS 9560 used a GTX1050, the XPS 9570 is outfitted with a “slightly underclocked” GTX 1050 Ti which is a much faster card.
  4. CPU
    Going from 4 cores to 6 cores can be a big deal IF the software supports it.

These are the changes that are most important for me, as a creator.
The nice thing is that Dell with the XPS really seems to think about people like me, the card reader is still there and is not a slow version but actually a very fast version of what you normally find in laptops. This means that if you have the cards that support the higher speeds, the Dell won’t disappoint you.

Of course the webcam is often up for debate, and yes…. it’s still in the bottom, creating a weird effect when talking to someone (up the nose) but in all honesty it doesn’t really bother me that much, I hardly use skype for business and my family… well they will have to get used to it, if you use skype a lot for interviews etc. I would advise to connect an external webcam.

Ok so is it faster, come on Frank….
Ok, ok.
here we go.

Yes. It’s a LOT faster.
Let’s take a look at some results.

First up Cinebench which I always use for testing.
XPS 9560—–CPU 603 / OpenGL 76.90
XPS 9570—–CPU 1177 / OpenGL 121.66

Next up is Haven, a benchmark that is really heavy on performance of GPU (and CPU) and is a good overview of how a system performance under heavy stress for video and rendering. I used the EXTREME setting.

XPS 9560—–Fps 30.5 / 769
6.9/71.8 (min/max)

XPS 9570—–fps 43.4 / 1094
7.9 / 99.5 (min/max)

As you can see the difference is pretty much clear, and I’m pretty surprised to be honest. Normally you will see some progress between laptops, but this is pretty extreme. Especially because there was some talk about Dell using a slightly underclocked GTX1050ti.

In Dell’s defence (and it shows here) I think they pretty much solved the “how to make a laptop run fast” puzzle. I remember seeing a comparision video between several laptops with higher specs than the XPS9560 but they were all beaten by the XPS9560 when rendering more complex video streams or scenes. The conclusion was (and it’s pretty obvious if you know a little bit about how a CPU and GPU works) that Dell has a much better control over the throttling of the CPU and GPU. This happens when a machine gets too hot and in essence it just clocks the speed down to let the machine cool down. This means that in theory you can put a GTX 1080 in a laptop but it will probably not outperform a lower card that has better cooling and runs cooler from it’s own. There are certain limitations you have to work with when you put components in a small housing like a laptop case. And it seems Dell really knows how to do this.

There are some discussions about giving the XPS9570 a slightly less voltage to run even faster and cooler but I haven’t (and am not going to) try this. It’s something that can make a machine unstable and I don’t want to shave off 1 minute working time with the risk of crashing premiere or photoshop 🙂

 

Conclusion
Dell has done it again.
I already loved the XPS 9560 (and still do, it’s a major laptop), but the XPS 9570 is much faster and now supports 4 lanes over TB3 and has a slightly brighter screen. If you’re a creator and demand the highest from your laptop… you really can’t go wrong, especially because Dell offers onsite service in case of emergency.

 

Problems
I did experience some weird behavior on the XPS 9570.
I normally always uninstall everything that doesn’t belong on a laptop and use the software Driver Easy to update all the drivers, often the drivers from a manufacturer are older, I did the same on the XPS 9570 and it resulted in a very slow working machine, I called it even a 286 at some point, I almost send it back because I thought it was defective. Even after a clean install it kept stuttering, showing the circle on the desktop etc. not unworkable but again it mimicked a 286 (ok maybe 486), only after downloading the chipset drivers from the Dell website and installing these instead of the newer from Intels site….. the machine sprang back to life in full speed mode…. I’ll be doing some testing on this later by manually installing driver by driver to see which one is the problematic one. But just beware when you are like me that in this case it’s better to keep the original drivers for now.

 

I paid full retail for my XPS 9570.
Dell doesn’t support me, and probably doesn’t even know me 🙂
I’m just a very enthusiastic Dell user (for laptops)

 

 

This is the link to the gaming XPS9570 https://amzn.to/2HV9FSE . I use the one with the I9 CPU