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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.

 

 

 

Tonality from MacPhun video

One of the things I always love it playing with new software, being it plugins or apps, it’s always nice to see if a piece of software can give you a boost in workflow or simply give you a new/better/faster way to make your images stand out.

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Now there are some great BW converters out there, I love Alien Skin Exposure, SilverFx and DxO filmpack so when the guys from MacPhun asked me to testrun their newest app called Tonality (in base a BW convertor) I was very curious what they could add to the market with their app, but after some weeks of test-driving Tonality I can tell you that it ROCKS, the interface is very easy to understand but most of all the options you have to really custom make the look you want for your image is awesome. I’m 100% sure you’re gonna love it.


As with all MacPhun software it’s for Mac only, it will work as a plugin in for Lr, Photoshop but also as a standalone.


You can order it here :
https://secure.avangate.com/order/checkout.php?PRODS=4626017&QTY=1&AFFILIATE=59677&CART=1


Congratulations to our buddies at MacPhun for releasing another awesome app.

 

And here is my video on Tonality Pro.
As you can see I don’t use the layers option, this is something I do use in Photoshop, but if you want it in the software it’s there.

Which RAW software DxO vs Capture One vs Lr

I think that on software this is probably one of the most asked questions “Frank which RAW convertor do you use and which one do you advise?”

 

Well let me start with saying that there is no 100% best solution, in this blogpost I can only tell you what my experiences are and my results, the problem is that all three convertors are strong in certain areas and less strong in others but none is the strongest in all. So in this post I will tell you my opinion and how I use them, this might differ from yours of course.

 

The contenders :
DxO optics 9.5
Lightroom 5.x
Capture One

 

First lets look at my opinion on them and when/why/how I use them.

 

Lightroom
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I think it’s no secret that Adobe is a huge company and their products are among the best photographers use, in fact it’s the standard for most professional workflows. Adobe has several software packages I use including Premiere for video, Lightroom and Photoshop of course, and I have to be honest I LOVE all their products, and probably that’s also the reason that they are the standard in the industry for so many people.

 

Lightroom is where all my files “life”, it’s my hub where I keep everything combined, make smart albums, label and keyword my images, and yeah I’m even using their GPS map module. In short Lightroom is what is on my computer screen a lot and when I search the archives it’s actually the only software I use.

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Plastic bullet, cool “new” plugin

I’ve already been a huge fan of “plastic bullet” for the iPhone (and now iPad).
I also asked many times “why not something like this via Photoshop, or via a stand alone program” and yes I know there is the great Alien Skin exposure 3 in which you can emulate all the film types you would ever wish for, and there is the great NIK and OnOne software, both with great options. But somehow the “clickyerdy click” method of plastic bullet is just great, just press and wait till it’s cool and every time the outcome is different, just like with a real toy camera.

Much to my delight plastic bullet is now available for the desktop under MacOsX. Today I showed it to some of my students and one even considered buying an Apple for this one alone (ok this was a bit over exaggerated, but let’s say he REALLY loved it).

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