Sony RX1R


In episode #5 of All About the Gear, Frederick Van Johnson and I discuss the Sony RX1R.


The RX1R is an awesome little camera, which I very quickly learned to love. After the Leica M-series, it’s the second full-frame mirrorless digital camera on the market. Should you rush out and buy one? No, because I think Sony is about to release even better options. Let’s start with the basics.

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(Un)Stiffed by Adobe

[Update: This issue has been resolved in my favor. It was a case of one hand not knowing what the other was doing. Although people on the Adobe Forum (including at least one forum staffer) insisted I didn’t qualify for the Photoshop Photography Program, they were in fact wrong. Not only that, but Adobe had already automatically switched my account from single-app Photoshop CC to the PPP bundle that included Lightroom 5. I accept some of the blame for not going to the My Account page on to check. But since I couldn’t find any info about his in the FAQs or other online Help pages, I thought I’d ask in the Forum.

Special thanks to Larry Nienkark who pointed out that he successfully received this upgrade. It caused me to check to see if I’d received it automatically as well…and I had!]

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Gigapan Experiments

This afternoon I started work on a future episode of All About the Gear on which I’ll review the Gigapan EPIC Pro. Here’s my second attempt at a Gigapan image of the Golden Gate Bridge. Expand to full screen, zoom into it and pan. Check it out. (Sorry it’s Flash, but that’s how the Gigapan viewer works.),hidetitle,fullscreen/iframe/flash.html?height=400

32 images in a 4×8 grid. Shot with a Nikon D800E at ISO 100. 70-200mm f/2.8. 1/400 second, f/8, 200mm. Stitched in the Gigapan Stitch app. The limitation to the resolution here isn’t the 36MP camera, the lens or the application. It’s due to atmospheric aberration. A problem with long-distance shots at 6pm on a warm September day.

Photoshop: Fixing Those Shiny Faces

I was shooting a wedding rehearsal dinner in New York in a restaurant with dark walls and ceiling. No choice: I couldn’t bounce a flash off of anything white, so I had to use on-camera flash. I popped a Gary Fong Lightsphere onto the SB900 atop my Nikon D3s for the job. Although Gary’s “Tupperware” diffuser helps, you still end up with results like this. Obviously lit from just above the lens, and the awful glare from shiny skin.

Andrew & Mikey

But as luck would have it, I just returned from a four-day intensive workshop with color-correction.retouching guru Dan Margulis, where I learned a marvelous technique for improving those blown-out shiny highlights. After some experimentation, I came up with a variation of Dan’s technique. It works so well, I thought I’d share it with you here. The results are shown below.

Andrew & Mikey

The first steps are from Dan:

  • Dan’s technique requires that you switch to the Lab colorspace. Using my variation, you can stay in RGB.
  • Create an empty layer. (Dan uses a duplicate layer. I prefer to work in an empty one.)
  • Using the eyedropper tool, select an area with color near the blown-out highlight. This sets the foreground color.
  • Using the brush tool, paint that color over the shiny area. Dan sets the brush to Color mode. I paint in Normal mode, then change the layer to Color mode.

The results replace the white in the shiny area with color, but keep the luminosity. In Dan’s Lab version, this creates a color that Photoshop can’t render. It’s as bright as pure white but still has color. Since this isn’t possible in RGB or on your screen, Photoshop is forced to convert it to something else, which is why Dan’s technique works. I stay in RGB, then use the following additional steps:

  • Duplicate the layer you just created containing the touch-ups.
  • Switch it to Normal mode.
  • Dial back the Opacity to 30%-40%.

The result is similar to what Dan achieves in Lab, but I think you have a bit more control over it. Dan’s technique preserves virtually all of the contrast and texture. My version allows you to sacrifice some of that texture in order to reduce the highlights further. Give it a try!

Sony RX1R — Visions of Cameras Future?


I’ve been shooting with the Sony RX1R for the past week as research for the next episode of All About the Gear. It’s certainly not perfect, but there are aspects of this camera that make it quite extraordinary. And now the word on the street is that the RX1R will be the basis for a full-frame Sony NEX body (ie, interchangeable e-mount) within the next month or two. If so, it will likely be the best (overall) interchangeable-lens full-frame-camera. Sorry Leica users, but it could be true.

Here’s an example. This 24MP image was shot at ISO 8000 (not 800!), f/5.6, 1/320 second. It’s pretty much straight out of the camera. (It has a permanently affixed Zeiss 35mm f/2 lens.) This image is scaled in your browser to 600×400 from a 1920×1280 JPEG, which in turn was made from the original 6000×4000 pixel RAW file. In other words, what you see below is 0.24MP or a 1/10 (linear) scale of the full-size image. There are 100x more pixels in the RAW file than what you see here. Click (maybe twice) to see the 1920×1280 version.


Now take a look at three full-scale 100% crops from the above image.


The image above shows the detail of an area with a lot of specular highlights. Much of it is beyond the depth-of-field limits, so don’t judge it for sharpness.


This one, above, shows the level of detail in a non-highlight area. Two things of note: First, there aren’t any moire problems due to the lack of an anti-aliasing filter on the RX1R’s sensor. I haven’t been able to create any moire patterns except when I worked very hard to do so.

Second, check out the noise in the shadows. Yes, it’s ISO 8000 so there’s some noise, but notice how natural it appears. It almost looks like film grain, and there’s certainly none of that annoying colorful “confetti” grain.



Finally, the image above is from a very dark area of the original. Again, look how unobjectionable the noise is.

I plan to shoot at even higher ISOs, but so far I’d say that this sensor/lens combination looks as good to me as any lens on my Nikon D800E.