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How Much Lens Does $8,000 Get You?

How Much Lens Does $8,000 Get You?

The Nikon NIKKOR Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct is anything but cheap, but it is also one of the most impressive lens designs out there. So, what does all that money get you? This great video review takes a look at what the 58mm f/0.95 can offer you.

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Nikon NX Studio Review: A Good Start That Will Get Better

Nikon recently announced the launch of its free NX Studio software, which has hopes to be a Lightroom/Capture One Pro alternative for Nikon RAW processing on Windows and Apple computers.

This new application is supposed to view, process, and edit still images and videos from any Nikon digital system (past, present, and future), merging the tools found in ViewNX-I & Capture ND-D applications. The idea was that it would take two applications — one for minor adjustments and one for more comprehensive changes– and consolidate them into a single application while fixing some of the workflow headaches for the Nikon user base.

The result would thus give — as Nikon explained to me on a call — “the best raw processing experience for Nikon files instead of what you’ll get from the other apps out there currently.”

For any Nikon shooter who’s visited the downloads page of the Nikon website, we’re more than familiar with the variety of stand-alone apps provided, so starting to merge some of these and reduce the clutter is a more than welcome shift. However, the question remains: Is this application as good as advertised?

A Familiar Interface

The NX Studio application’s layout should be familiar (mostly) to anyone who’s used ViewNX or Capture ND along with some similar layout options you’ll find in the other big-name RAW processors out there.

Compared strictly to the previous ViewNX and Capture family of apps, NX Studio has a much-improved menu layout that provides an easier interface for importing, sorting, and performing basic edits of your raw photos and videos than in previous Nikon applications. In particular, most of the menu and tools are labeled to match the naming and order you would find in your Nikon camera’s menus, a choice that is designed to theoretically give a more comfortable experience for Nikon users.

Included are options to transfer your files (edited or even RAW) directly to Nikon Image Space or YouTube, effectively speeding up your sharing workflow should you choose to take advantage of the features.

That’s Great, But How Well Does It Work?

As far as file support goes, the application can load up any existing RAW file from any Nikon digital camera dating back to the 1990s and will support any new file coming from future cameras on the day they’re available to the public.

As for its processing feel of the workflow, it’s actually not that bad. It’s not perfect by any stretch and far from industry-leading, but for a free application, it’s actually pretty robust. Additionally, keep in mind this is a version 1.0 and updates/improvements will come.

The tools should be familiar to anyone who has used a RAW processor before: white balance, exposure, sharpness, active D-lighting, noise reduction, LCH/Chroma and Color Booster adjustments, and even a Color Control Point tool — more on that in a moment.

For the most part, if you’re familiar with Adobe Lightroom, the layout, workflow, and tools in Nikon Studio NX all worked in a way that was pretty much in line with what you would expect.

I did some quick testing with a flat raw file by exporting it (flat) from Adobe Lightroom to Photoshop and saving it as a JPG versus doing the same but with NX Studio, and as you can see below, the NX Studio file actually does have a more vibrant & sharper image to work with than the Adobe RAW processed file. For Nikon shooters, if you want to get the absolute best out of the colors & detail from your RAW files, incorporating NX Studio into your workflow should definitely be a part of your plan.

Processed in Lightroom and Exported in Photoshop
Processed in Nikon NX Studio and Exported in Photoshop

Another nice touch is the Color Control Point tool Nikon included, which is a lovely throwback to the NIK Software days, and a solid bonus to see.

This tool, which you can add multiple times through your file(s), gives you some localized control over color and exposure adjustments to your file. It lets you add a little creative layer-like flare to your shots before moving on to sharing or editing further in applications like Photoshop.

There Are Some Problems

In my testing of this application, a few things bugged me. In particular, there were some significant latency issues in the previews of the adjustments, particularly when using an external or secondary monitor. There was also some intermittent latency with both tool activations/display and even the preview renders (sometimes up to 4 seconds).

This could be largely due to my particular computer being heavily used for testing applications on the regular, but a few other “testers” I’ve spoken to have also experienced this same lag so it appears to be something on Nikon’s side. The problems seemed to disappear whenever I chose to use the software with just the laptop display and no external monitors connected, though. Clearly not ideal, but there is a workaround.

Is it a dealbreaker? Not at all, but as with everything in the editing world, speed is of the essence and having these issues is certainly something I hope Nikon addresses in the next update.

The next issue I experienced involves the “Retouch Brush” tool seen above: it did not seem to work right for me. After some frustrating testing, I decided to try and solve my issues by speaking with the developer team at Nikon, and after some back and forth discussion it was determined that the basis of my frustrations are in how the tool is advertised versus what it is supposed to do.

I found that this tool is more of a localized spot healing tool than an actual brush, despite its function and name. Coming from a heavy Adobe and Capture One background, I was expecting a content-aware type tool and it doesn’t quite work that way. Sometimes it would create more of a gaussian blur while other times it would copy a chunk of texture from a nearby area. As you can see from the examples below, this tool is mostly designed for small, single-click clean-ups like dust spots and other smaller blemishes and imperfections. Should you need to do more than this, I’d recommend avoiding this tool and using Photoshop.

The next grievance — and this one is particularly important — is currently there are no “undo/redo” features for quick mistakes you may make while editing in the app. The tools are there, but they simply do not work in its current release. They’re actually greyed out and unavailable to be used. If you make a mistake (like the retouching brush above), the only way to undo it is to revert to the “original value” on that particular edit.

This is frustrating and problematic, however, there is a small silver lining to this problem: Each reversion to the original state is tool/section specific. So if you make a mistake with the retouching brush and revert it back, it only erases the changes made in that section of your edit. The same applies to each other tool and section in the application.

While it’s clearly a problem to not be able to step forward and backward in your edits, the good news is at least not everything would be lost should you make a mistake and want to backtrack along the way.

A Good Start That Will Only Get Better

There is a lot to like here, and because it offers great processing of Nikon RAWs it is easy to recommend for Nikon shooters even with the bugs and errors I encountered. The Nikon team told me that every digital camera they release will be supported, (immediately), with this application. While they couldn’t confirm with me any sort of update or development cycle for it, we can probably assume that as new cameras are released, the NX Studio application will get at least a minor update to go along with it. With that in mind, there should be no interruption in your workflow if you decide to be an early adopter for any new Nikon cameras that hit the market.

Photo edited in Nikon NX Studio

Are There Alternatives?

As you can see from this list, there are plenty of other free (or affordable) RAW processing applications out there. However, if you’re a Nikon shooter, the NX Studio application is built to provide the most faithful representation of color and clarity from a Nikon camera that you can possibly get. For free software, that’s hard to beat.

Should You Buy It?

Well, it’s free, so if you’re a Nikon shooter, yes. There is no risk and, as a result, there will be no buyer’s remorse with this software. Nikon NX Studio, while currently not perfect, is only going to get better and more robust with age.

A Review of the Fujifilm XF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 R LM OIS WR Lens

A Review of the Fujifilm XF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 R LM OIS WR Lens

The XF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens offers Fujifilm X Series shooters a versatile set of long focal lengths suitable for things like wildlife and sports at a reasonable price. This fantastic video review takes a look at the lens and the kind of performance and image quality you can expect from it in practice.

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A Review of the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art Lens

A Review of the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art Lens

A 24-70mm f/2.8 lens is the workhorse of choice for a ton of photographers and filmmakers, offering a versatile focal length range and a wide maximum aperture. They can be quite expensive, however, which is why Sigma’s 24-70mm f/2.8 Art, which is about half the price of first-party options, is so intriguing. This excellent video review takes a look at the lens and if it can compete with more expensive options.

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Nikon D850 Versus Z 7II: The Ultimate Showdown

Nikon D850 Versus Z 7II: The Ultimate Showdown

As an unabashed proponent of the Nikon D850, specifically my own personal D850, as being the greatest DSLR to ever come off the assembly line, the prospect of ever actually trading in my beloved camera for a mirrorless option has always been met with a healthy dose of skepticism. So, today, having had both a Z 7II and a D850 in my possession for a couple of months, I thought I would try to definitively answer the question of which is the best Nikon on the market, or, more specifically, for me.

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Silicon Power 1TB Superior microSD card – Faster than SanDisk at less than half the price

Many of you know I’m a fan of big memory cards. Sometimes you just need a lot of tiny portable storage. Some of you might have seen my thoughts on the SanDisk Extreme Pro 1TB microSD card (review here), and it’s still going strong as both a portable backup card and for shooting footage in my […]

The post Silicon Power 1TB Superior microSD card – Faster than SanDisk at less than half the price appeared first on DIY Photography.

Review: Postlab Drive

Let’s talk about Postlab again. You know Postlab, the cloud-based post-production collaboration tool that I have reviewed here on PVC as well as talked with the creators during our NAB-AT-HOME coverage.

One thing we’ve touched on in these articles but haven’t delved into very deeply is Postlab Drive. At its most simple, Postlab Drive is “shared storage, in the cloud.” That’s a five work description and it is accurate. It’s also a nice feature addition for Postlab itself since it is a tool built on collaboration. Having shared storage amongst your team seems like a no-brainer. But when that team is located remotely around the world shared storage isn’t quite as easy. Unless it is in the cloud.

Enter Postlab Drive which is shared storage in the cloud. Did I just say that? Yea.

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Guess which mounted volume is Postlab Drive?

If you read the Editblog regularly I know what you’re thinking … didn’t you just review a product like this called LucidLink? You would be correct. These are very similar products. In fact, Postlab Drive is a collaboration with LucidLink and uses a lot of LucidLink technology. It takes everything great about the LucidLink cloud-based storage and packages it into a tool that is more targeted to post-production. It’s a perfect fit for Postlab.

For those who don’t know, Postlab Drive is like a hard drive that lives in the cloud. That drive can be mounted on your desktop and accessed just like any hard drive, be it via the Mac Finder or within your NLE. Or any application that has disk access. If you’re reading this and wondering about Windows PC support? Right now Postlab and Postlab Drive is Mac only but the engineers from Hedge are working on the PC version.

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Final Cut Pro X and all your post-production applications will see Postlab Drive just like any other mounted volume.

Files that live on Postlab Drive can be called upon and streamed into any application, like those files are local on your disk. A sophisticated (and adjustable) caching system runs in the background to make things smoother and allow for a better overall experience.

Will you be able to interact with a Browser full of tens or hundreds of Final Cut Pro X thumbnails, skimming and range selecting just like ProRes media on a local SSD? The answer is no. It won’t be that fluid but think again about what you’re doing. Streaming media from the cloud into your NLE.

If you keep your expectations in check a bit you’ll end up with what will become an invaluable tool in your post-production arsenal. I would encourage you read my LucidLink review as there are many things there that parallel exactly how Postlab Drive works. So go read it, I’ll wait.

Like LucidLink, Postlab Drive will monitor your connection and alert you to the status. You can see the connection status in the Postlab app.

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Or you might get an alert in the OS.

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And you can see the status of whatever might be going on at any point in the Postlab app.

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If you move files into a folder on Postlab Drive you might see what appears to be a very fast file copy into the Drive folder in the Finder. That initial copy is putting the file, or files, into the cache (more on the Drive cache later) after which Drive goes to work uploading the file to the cloud services. That’s what is happening in the image above. Review: Postlab Drive 18

Once files are in your Postlab Drive they look just like and other file in a Finder window. And yes that says 1.13 PB available.

What is the cost of Drive?

The pricing for Postlab Drive is very flexible and has recently changed to very scalable from a tiny plan of 10GB for $1 a month up to 10 TB for $270 a month. That means you can scale up and down as your needs change. That is a huge benefit for the changing world of post-production.

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This can be managed from the settings of the Postlab app. It’s important to note that the Postlab application is the interface for all things Drive. The integration to your system, mounting and unmounting, account management, plan size changes as well as the links that I cover below.

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If you’re already using LucidLink or have your own Amazon S3 bucket you can connect that as well. Read over the Drive page and you’ll also see a number of integrations with other tools you might already be using. Also take a close look at the FAQ there as well. A few notes I learned from the FAQ:

  • You do not have to pay for the Postlab service to use Drive but you do have to use the Postlab app to connect and manage Drive.
  • Drive is secure and uses top level security to keep files safe.
  • Drag a file out of Drive onto another local disk and it’s downloads the whole thing and you’ll have the file locally.

What else does Postlab Drive give you?

Beyond the amazing convenience that is cloud-based media you can actually use without downloading or syncing, Postlab Drive adds some really useful features knows as Drive Thru. And these features will free you from the shackles that is using Dropbox (and all that syncing and file managing) for post-production. It will also free you from the fresh hell that is using Google Drive for video and media assets.

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Bookmarks

Creating a Bookmark is a fast way for someone on a Postlab team to get to a directory on your Drive.

Pick Up Link

We live in a world of Hightail, Dropbox Transfer and lot of other ways to send files. Postlab Drive give us the Pick Up Link. Any file you’ve got living in your Postlab Drive can be used to generate a Pick Up Link.

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Once generated, send that link to a client or whoever you want to download the file. Perhaps it’s a flattened Quicktime file going to a colorist or a final master that goes to the client. A little clipboard icon copies that link to the clipboard to then send to anyone who can received a link.

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It’s worth noting that Pick Up Link is for single files only so you can’t send a folder full of files. I hope that is coming as it’s a glaring omission and would be very useful. Often when delivering final files to a client you’ll send multiple files with different delivery specs, not just one master file.

So as of this writing, a Pick Up Link is file based.

Drop Off Link

The flip-side of a pick up is a Drop Off Link. Create that link, send the it to a client and they can upload files right into a Postlab Drive folder you have created.

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In the image above the CO_drop link is a Drop Off Link while the file on the bottom, STE-000.mp3, is a Pick Up Link. The other two are bookmarks. Both Drop Off and Pick Up Links can have expiration dates and those default to 7 days.

A Drop Off Link points to a folder you have created on your Postlab Drive. When someone goes to that link they are presented with an upload page.

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This is the Postlab Drive Drop Off landing page a client will if you’re asking them to send you files.

That will launch them into a place where they can drag and drop the files to upload or select them from a Finder window.

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On the upload page you can drag and drop a batch of files or choose them from a dialog box.

The uploader will show progress as those files are uploaded. Once they are safely in your cloud Drive, Postlab will send you an email alerting you that they are there.

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There’s one thing I don’t quite agree with and that’s what the landing page of a Drop Off Link says. The first screen shown up above says this: “Need to halt uploading? Just close this window, and come back when you’re ready to upload the remainder.”

To me that implies you can just close that window mid-upload and somehow coming back to the link that was sent or jumping back in a browser history will pick back up where it left off. That hasn’t been my experience in how it works.

What happens if you, the owner of the Postlab Drive, delete the link you had sent a client? The link that was created seems to remain live even after the owner has deleted the link from the Postlab application and even the folder from Postlab Drive. I’m not sure where those uploaded files go if that happens.

One thing about both the Pick Up and Drop Off link is that they look professional. People are so used to seeing Dropbox and Google Drive and Hightail links with annoying backgrounds they take notice when sent something different, especially if they don’t have to create a new account, log in or (worst of all) ask for some kind of file permission to get the file right from the link they were sent. Bonus points could be awarded to Postlab Drive if you could brand you Pick Up and Drop Off links with a logo or custom background. That would be a nice addition.

Mail Drop and Snapshots

A final element to Drive Thru are in the flesh services you might not need. With Mail Drop you can ship a physical drive to Hedge and they will load all that media straight to servers in the cloud which will be much faster than your Comcast upload speed. 🙂 For this service the Hedge team supply the customer with a physical address to ship the drive to. This works for most any location as there are drop zones around the world. Include a return label and the drive is returned once the content are safely in the cloud. The service is free with a minimum 1 TB plan and can scale up if you have a large project which goes over your current plan amount. There those that use this as a dailies service. I wonder if you happen to live in a drop zone city if you could physically drop the drive with someone and not have to ship it. 🤔

Snapshots is the reverse where the Hedge team will take your empty drive and return all the contents of your Drive to you on disk.

Read more about these Drive Thru options on the Postlab Drive page and you can see that the Hedge team will work with customers and adjust workflows depending on their needs.

The Drop Off and Pick Up Links you create live in Postlab Productions

One thing that is worth noting is that those Drop Off and Pick Up Links you’re creating live with your Postlab Productions. Productions are containers that contain NLE project files and are the things you’ll open up when you work in Postlab.

While all your files and folders and assets all live in the Postlab Drive, which can be access in a Finder window, Drop Off and Pick Up Links live within a Postlab Production. So if you want to use Drop Off and Pick Up but you’re working outside of the Postlab environment you’ll need to interface with the Postlab app to create Drop Off and Pick Up links. Clicking on the Drive icon under the PRODUCTION pane in the Postlab app will show all links and Bookmarks created for that Production.

I created a Utility Production just for using Drop Off and Pick Up Links but it would be nice to see a workflow created just for this purpose. Drop Off and Pick Up Links are too handy not to use, even when you’re working outside of Postlab. If you click on the Drive icon under POSTLAB CLOUD you can eject your Drive or see the current speed status but that seems like it could be another place to create and manage Drop Off and Pick Up Links

The Cache is important

If you read my LucidLink review there was a good bit of discussion about the cache as the architecture uses an adjustable cache on your hard drive to work its magic. Postlab Drive is no exception.

The cache is easy to understand thanks to Hedge’s relaxed style.

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I cranked the cache as high as it would go for the image above and that is 1 TB. Notice the urging to put your cache on as fast of a hard drive as possible. Postlab Drive will write data to the cache as you stream it to your system and we all know that when working with video media, the faster the drive (or Drive) the better. This could be a good place to grab one of those fast and affordable Samsung T7s.

What you see above in the Postlab Preferences is pretty much it as far as setup and settings go so it’s very easy to use.

Oh so useful

As I mentioned in my LucidLink review, having an online, cloud-based hard drive that can actually stream media for editorial is incredibly useful and does mean we’re finally living in the future. You won’t realize how handy a tool this is to have at your disposal until you begin to integrate it into your post-production work.

Add to that the many things that using Postlab in general can add and it’s a very compelling reason to come into the Postlab fold. Chances are if you’re using (or considering using Postlab) you’re doing some kind of collaboration so having cloud-storage adds an extra layer of functionality on top. I think we can expect more functionality to be added as the years go by so I look forward to what the future holds.