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Posts tagged with "photography"

The iPhone XS’ Camera and Neural Engine

Apple describes the XS as sporting “dual 12MP wide-angle and telephoto cameras”. This will be obvious to most of you, but in case it’s not, they’re not just dual rear-facing lenses, they’re dual rear-facing cameras. The wide-angle and telephoto lenses each have their own sensors. As a user you don’t have to know this, and should never notice it. The iPhone XS telephoto camera is the same as in the iPhone X — same lens, same sensor.

But the iPhone XS wide-angle camera has a new lens, which I believe to be superior to last year’s, and an amazing new sensor which is remarkably better than last year’s. And last year’s was very good.

Anytime an iPhone review gets too technical about camera details and photography lexicon, I tend to gloss over it and move on. I'm not a camera expert and I usually don't care about the nitty-gritty. But John Gruber's analysis of the iPhone XS' camera stack, A12 SoC, and seemingly unadvertised improved sensor is one of the most interesting camera-focused iPhone reviews I've read in years. I don't want to spoil it – move past the photos at the beginning and keep reading.

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The History of Aperture

For years, iLife defined the Mac experience, or at the very least, its marketing. An iMac or MacBook wasn't a mere computer; it was a tool for enjoying your music, managing your photos, creating your own songs, editing your home videos, and more.

iLife was brilliant because it was approachable. Programs like iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, and GarageBand were so simple that anyone could just open them from the Dock and get started creating.1

Of course, not everyone's needs were met by the iLife applications. iMovie users could upgrade to Final Cut, while Logic was there waiting for GarageBand users. And for those needing more than what iPhoto could provide, Apple offered Aperture.

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Spect: Simple Image Management on the Mac

Spect from Steven Frank is based on a single, straightforward idea: separating image navigation from the Mac’s folder hierarchy. Point the app at a folder and tell it how deep to peer into subfolders and the app quickly generates thumbnails of the images to that depth of the folder structure. If you’ve ever found yourself drilling down into folders and subfolders only to have to back out and follow another path, you’ll understand the power of Spect immediately. The app saves users from a tremendous amount of clicking around.

Just like the Finder, your image thumbnails can be resized with a slider in the lower righthand corner of the window. In the bottom lefthand corner is where you specify how deep Spect should look into your folders.

Highlight an image and hit the space bar to toggle preview mode, which fills the window with the selected image. In preview mode, there are navigation arrows in the lower lefthand corner of the window so you can advance through your images one at a time.

Previewing an image in Spect.

Previewing an image in Spect.

Spect can display a wide variety of image formats including JPG, PNG, HEIC, RAW, GIF, and PDF. It’s worth noting, however, that Spect is not a replacement for a PDF document viewer. The app is designed for images and can only display the first page of a document-based PDF.

The toolbar at the top of the window has buttons for moving images to the Trash and revealing them in the Finder that are excellent for basic organization. There are also Slideshow and Shuffle buttons in the toolbar, which are a handy way to create a quick slideshow of images from several folders at once. By default, images change every four seconds, but that can be adjusted in the app’s Preferences.

One preference I’d like to see added to Spect is a way to limit which types of image files are displayed in the app. For example, I’d like the option to exclude PDF files, which in my case, are usually documents that I don’t want to see when I’m browsing photos and screenshots. Spect includes drag and drop support for moving images from Spect to different Finder folders, but it would also be handy to be able to create new folders from inside Spect and move photos into them without switching to the Finder at all.

Spect isn’t designed to replace a photo management tool like Adobe Lightroom. Instead, its power lies in its simplicity and the speed with which you can triage a collection of images without getting lost in a complex folder structure. In the two days I’ve been using it, Spect has already helped me understand what images I have and organize them better. For example, I located Apple press photos scattered throughout multiple folders and consolidated them into one folder. I also quickly scanned and retrieved images I wanted to save from my Downloads folder and deleted the rest. If you work with images on a Mac, Spect is a utility you should definitely check out.

Spect is available on the Mac App Store for $4.99.


iOS 12 Brings Improved Support for Camera Import, RAW Photos

Speaking of smaller features I wouldn't have expected to see at last week's WWDC, Bryan Gaz, writing for Digital Photography Review, has noticed some welcome improvements to camera import and RAW files in iOS 12:

Now, when you plug in Apple’s SD card to Lightning adapter (or camera connection kit), the Photos app will show up as an overlay on whatever app you’re using. This comes as a much less invasive method than previously used in iOS 11, wherein whatever app you were in would be switched over to the full-screen Photos app for importing. It also means you can multitask more efficiently, importing photos while getting other stuff done.
[...]
Now, when photos are detected on a card, iOS 12 will automatically sort through the content and determine if any of the photos have already been imported. If they have, they will be put in a separate area so you don’t accidentally import duplicates. Another new feature is a counter on the top of the screen that lasts you know how many photos are being displayed and how much space they take up on the memory card. This should help alleviate the guesswork involved when trying to determine whether or not you have enough storage on your iOS device.

I've never imported photos on my iPad using the Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader because I don't have a camera, but I know that the import process is one of the pain points for photographers who want to use an iPad in their workflows. The idea of having Photos show up automatically in Slide Over upon connecting an external device is interesting; it perfectly ties into the iPad's focus on drag and drop for multitasking and file transfers. It seems like this approach would work nicely for importing files from external USB devices if only Apple decided to add support for those too.

Update: After looking into this more closely, it appears that Photos only appears automatically upon connecting an SD card if it's already in Slide Over mode. This isn't as convenient as DP Review's original report, but at least all the other improvements mentioned in the story are indeed part of iOS 12.

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Retrobatch from Flying Meat Brings Nodal Batch Processing of Images to the Mac

Retrobatch is a new batch photo processing app for the Mac from Flying Meat, the maker of Acorn. Batch processing of photos isn’t new. There are plenty of apps available that let you manipulate collections of photos. What’s different about Retrobatch is how it goes about processing images.

If you’ve ever used Audio Hijack from Rogue Amoeba, you’ll understand the power of Retrobatch immediately. The app is based on the idea of linking individual nodes together to create complex workflows. Point your new workflow at a batch of images, hit go, and Retrobatch goes about its work, delivering your processed photos to wherever you specify. The power is in abstracting complex actions into simple building blocks that can be strung together and branched as though you were building a flowchart.

That last point is the essential distinction between Retrobatch and other batch processors. Most image processors are linear, moving through a series of steps that outputs modified images. Retrobatch’s nodal structure allows you to start with a folder of images, perform actions on them, and then branch off to different actions at any point in the process.

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Obscura 2 Review: An Approachable Manual Camera App with Tasteful Filters

I enjoy taking lots of photos. Over the years, I’ve dabbled with DSLRs, but more often than not these days, I use my iPhone because it’s always nearby.

I’ve historically used Apple’s built-in Camera app. It has the advantage of being available from the Lock screen, which is a big plus because it lowers the barrier to getting up and running with the camera. Later, I would go back and pick out the best shots, edit them a little in the Photos app, and share a few.

Over the past couple of weeks though, I’ve been moving between Apple’s Camera app and Obscura 2, which was released today by developer Ben McCarthy. I’ve used manual camera apps in the past, but always wound up going back to Apple’s option in the end.

Obscura has been different. I’ve found myself going back to it repeatedly because I enjoy the way it approaches taking pictures and editing them so much. I don’t expect I’ll stop using Apple’s Camera app altogether; it’s just too convenient. However, when I leave the house with the intention of finding something interesting to photograph this summer, I’m going to use Obscura.

One of the things I like most about photography is that it’s a creative outlet that’s just for me. Sure, I share some of the pictures I take, but it’s entirely for fun.

One of the issues I’ve always had with pro camera apps is that many take the fun out of photography for me. They have intimidating UIs that throw lots of photography jargon and controls at you in a way that sends me looking for a manual. It feels too much like work.

Obscura doesn’t dispense with camera-speak entirely, but it succeeds by presenting the complexities of manual camera features in a simple, thoughtful UI. Instead of sending me looking for support pages, I found myself experimenting with Obscura’s controls, learning what each does by doing, which has been an enjoyable, organic process.

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Halide 1.7 Brings New Depth Photography and ARKit Features, Darkroom Integration

We first reviewed Halide, the powerful third-party camera app by Ben Sandofsky and Sebastiaan de With, when it debuted in the summer of 2017, providing a powerful and elegant alternative to Apple's Camera app that fully embraced RAW photography and advanced controls in an intuitive interface. We later showcased Halide's iPhone X update as one of the most thoughtful approaches to adapting for the device's Super Retina Display; to this day, Halide is a shining example of how the iPhone X's novel form factor can aid, instead of hindering, complex app UIs.

While Halide was already regarded as an appealing alternative to Apple's stock app for professional photographers and RAW-curious iPhone users (something that designer de With covered in depth in his excellent guide), it was lacking a handful of key features of the modern iPhone photography experience. Sandofsky and de With want to eliminate some of these important gaps with today's 1.7 update, which focuses on bringing the power of Portrait mode to Halide, supporting the iPhone X's TrueDepth camera system, and extending the app's integrations via a special ARKit mode, new export options, and native integration with the popular Darkroom photo editing tool.

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Sebastiaan de With Tackles RAW Photo Editing

Editing RAW photo files can be intimidating for beginners. There are a seemingly endless number of adjustments that can be made, and it’s not always clear what each does. However, if you take the time to learn the tools and shoot RAW images on your iPhone or another camera, the results can be stunning.

Sebastiaan de With, the designer of Halide, an excellent RAW camera app for iPhone, has published the second in a series of articles about shooting and editing RAW photos. As de With explains at the outset of this second article in the series:

This guide will walk you through the basics of RAW editing and adjustment. Most of these pointers also apply to editing RAW files from other cameras, but some parts focus on iOS editing workflows and how to transfer your RAW files from your iPhone to your Mac or PC.

The remainder of the article is full of great tips and eye-opening examples of what can be done on a Mac or iOS to edit RAW photos. If you’re interested in photography on any platform, this is a must-read article. In an upcoming installment de With will cover advanced editing and editing with depth channels.

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