Posts

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

 

Huawei P20 pro on the street in Amsterdam almost final conclusion

I never ever spend so much time on reviewing a smartphone, but I think the P20Pro is often not reviewed the way that photographers use it in other reviews, or features are not mentioned that I think are very important. Now don’t worry this will NEVER become a smartphone blog, it is and will always stay a photography blog.

Than why spend so much time on a fricking phone?
Well first of all because you guys keep asking me about it, and secondly and probably the most important reason is that this phone is just a real step forward in usability for pro shooters, one could say that it’s the first major break through in years in this segment, and in all honesty I don’t really regard this as a smartphone review, I REALLY and honestly see this as a PURE photography review, yes it’s that good.

So after the last review you guys asked me how it would perform on the street, just a few shots were not enough to give an impression and “as always” I agree, so today we went out on the streets of Amsterdam for about 30 minutes to shoot some images. Now before I start lets make a few things clear…..

  1. Oversharpening
    PLEASE Huawei, PLEASE lower the sharpening in the JPGs, I don’t want to go as far as that they are unusable, but when you shoot something with fine detail it’s literally unusable, it might look fine on instagram but I would never shoot something like that for even the slightest important shot, it’s really hit and miss. Some shots look nice and detailed but most with fine detail are just a mess. And this is a shame for the very simple reason…. it can easily be fixed in a firmware update.
  2. Nightmode
    Absolutely magic, I don’t know what’s going on but even when there is motion in the shot it’s a perfect shot without any motion, you really have to see it to believe it, but also there PLEASE back down the sharpness a LOT, again it’s hit and miss, some shots are amazing, some are just horrendous

Ok, so JPG pretty much is hit and miss… but who cares about JPG ?
Well if you want to use the amazing night mode you have to work with JPG, so I really hope they will address this in firmware, again it should be incredibly easy to do.

Ok let’s go to the goodies…..RAW
40MP pure raw files…. mmmmm
Now we are talking, this is night and day compared to the JPG files, the RAW files I didn’t expect a lot from when I bought the phone (to be clear I’m NOT associated with Huawei, in fact I did try to contact the Netherlands and got a standard reply that they are not interested in working with Photographers… well ok, and I paid full retail for my phone). The moment I got the phone and saw the RAW files I did like them a lot, but after today it did convince me about one simple thing….

The P20Pro could be the best street/travel cam out there today in the compact range.
Yes you heard that correctly. But I also added could be.
In essence.
If you are ok with shooting on the 40MP RAW setting, and not using all the special features like HDR, Lightpainting, portrait etc. and can work with the wide angle lens this is in fact a full replacement for a compact camera. Yeah the compact camera will be better in some cases, but let’s be honest your phone is always with you and the compact camera you have to drag with you. In essence I would say that the resolution of the sensor is really good, without doing the scientific stuff I would say it renders detail just as good as 30mp sensor in a DSLR, there is some fringing in some areas due to the bayer filter they used which is inherent to the pixel binding but for a smartphone…. man this baby can shoot.

Ok let’s take a look at some images.

First up dynamic range
All these files are straight out of the camera with Lightroom adjustments, now this might not be your taste, but I tried to show how much you can get back from the files, and it’s pretty impressive. Again… remember this is a smartphone… or let’s say a really really compact camera.

Next up some more shots with difficult lighting situations and some bright colors.
Now it has to be said that when you shoot with perfect light the noise levels are extremely low on the RAW setting. HOWEVER… as soon as you start to push files you might end up with some noise in the shadow areas where a DSLR will be as clean as a whistle. However do remember that this is a much smaller sensor with a huge amount of pixels, and…. also as with DSLRs with 40MP you should actually never ever judge noise on 1:1 on your monitor, for the very simple reason, that’s like looking at a billboard with a magnifying glass. I dare to say that the more noisy shots will hold up to prints as large as A3 and maybe even A2 without showing any problematic noise. Kick in a little bit of noise reduction in lightroom or your favorite plugin (I love Topaz denoise for this, use Doorhof99 as a coupon for a cool 10% off (and I don’t mean this as a commercial, just pointing it out for you guys to save some money)) and I’m sure you can print a lot larger.

Also do realize that a little but of noise is not a bad thing, just a few years ago almost every single DSLR had noise above ISO400, we’ve come a long way with that and every year also these cameras will get better, for now it’s already not a big deal, but I’m very anxious to see the future.

Ok next topic.
Black and white
I’m a bit in doubt with this one…
Why not just shoot color and make it Black and White right?
Well yes and no.
The main advantage of the BW sensor is of course the noise levels and dynamic range. Because it’s a dedicated monochrome sensor it handles noise and dynamic range a lot better than the main sensor, add to this that it’s also a very nice 20MP and shooting dedicated BW is in fact not a really bad thing. Call me old fashioned but I just LOVE shooting BW with a real dedicated setting, but only when it gives me an advantage over color. For example I never shoot BW on my Sony’s but I love shooting BW film in my Leica R or Mamiya RZ ProII, with the P20pro shooting BW is a dedicated sensor with advantages, so why not use it 🙂

Now one thing that I found really fun to work with is shoot in aperture mode and just lower the aperture all the way down. It’s a bit of hit and miss and some images came out pretty ugly but when it works…. man this is a LOT of fun.

Talking about Depth of Field.
You’ve heard it before, the sensor is REALLY big for a smartphone and the aperture is really fast, meaning if you stand close to your subject and choose your focus point carefully you can get some awesome DOF effects, I think a lot of people could be fooled by this shot and might even think it was shot on a full frame DSLR.

The Bokeh is ok so it’s a bit of a give away that it’s not a Sigma Art 1.4 lens… but let’s be honest, this looks pretty sweet right?

Ok so how bad is that noise?
Well it’s ok.
This was shot in a pretty dark parking garage.

And let’s do a 100% crop of this one.
This is with a slight noise reduction in Lightroom (not the best noise reduction)
PLUS… I zoomed in on a problem area, focus was actually somewhere else but there was less shadow there, so just focus on the noise, not on sharpness.

And this is without any noise reduction.
Seeing it wasn’t the brightest situation I think it’s very usable, also remember this is a 40MP crop from a smartphone.

So how does 40MP look when you shoot it under good conditions?
Well like this.

I think that pretty much shows what you can expect.

 

“Final conclusion”
Overall I’m more than impressed with my new Phone.
I truely think that this is a major step up from ANY smartphone out there, and this camera system actually rivals many many compact cameras, will it beat a Sony RX series? well no duh, that’s a totally different camera, it has a zoom lens, it’s a dedicated camera and it has better noise handling, but… it’s also more expensive if you have to buy it next to your phone and the RX100 is one sick camera. Will it beat anything that is well… cheaper? I didn’t test all cameras out there of course but I almost dare to say that if you look at sub 500 euro compact cameras this will actually beat it with a margin.

Do remember… you have to be ok with shooting with a “prime lens” if you want to use the 40MP setting. Stay away from the JPGs until they fix it, which again I really hope they do because if they do, I dare to say this is a killer allround camera because the 3x tele lens is actually more than ok (stay away from the 5, just crop from the 40MP sensor or use it because you have to, it’s not bad but it’s far from good).

One thing I really have to mention as conclusion.
My phone is hardly used for making calls, I do my work on it, answer mails, update social media, watch videos etc. and I take a LOT of photos and video, and I mean A LOT, with the P20 pro for the first time I now have a camera/phone that makes me happy when I see the results, not because I see cool shots but most of all because I see the detail and dynamic range I normally missed.

Add to this the 4000Mah battery which lasts me all day, I don’t know how they do it but my Note 8 always needed at least one top up per day, and with the P20 Pro I end up with 15% left at night.

And finally… the most important thing that will make or break ANY camera phone or camera….
BOOT UP TIME…
This thing is FAST.
Just double tap the volume button and you’re ready to shoot, you can even set it up to shoot an image as soon as it boots.

 

Improvements…
1. Back down on the sharpening of JPG’s
2. Back down on the sharpening of JPG’s
(I mention this twice because it really destroys an otherwise awesome camera in JPG)

3. In the camera it would be nice to create a custom order, I would for example love to see, PRO, Night, BW, Video next to each other and the rest after these three. It shouldn’t be hard to do in software, but it would make working fast a lot easier.

Ok I think this concludes the very long review.
Again, I only did this because you guys kept asking me things to try out, and because I think this is a ground breaking product. And let’s be honest….. it is a camera 🙂
No go out and buy one…. tell them Frank send you.