Blog, Landscapes, review, Tips

The Cokin Z Pro reflection issue


Aargh! What’s that at the bottom of my image?!

I should start off by saying that this will only happen when shooting directly towards the sun.

So I left home this morning (Sunday) to photograph the sunrise at Bexhill beach as the weather and tide looked quite favourable. Armed with my new Cokin Z Pro filter system I quickly checked the light levels and decided to put on the ND8 graduated grey filter to balance the light between sky and land. The sun hadn’t reached the horizon yet (but I had the camera pointing directly where it would soon appear) so with camera set, I started to happily shoot away. Now, I do look at the LCD screen to check exposure using the histogram often but I don’t constantly chimp the camera to look at the image itself, I just get on with the job of composing and shooting. It wasn’t until I stopped for a brief moment to review my composition that I noticed something across the bottom of my image. What was it? I hadn’t seen it through the viewfinder though it must have been there, perhaps it was just too faint for me to see. However, zooming in on the screen revealed it to be the writing on the adapter ring being reflected back onto the filter. A closer look reveals that the edge of the ring itself is also visible due to the shiny black finish. A huge f-up in the design process that I thought Cokin would have foreseen.

 The only way of getting around this problem would be to shoot the scene unfiltered. Unfortunately in this instance filtration was essential and the two shots I took unfiltered proved this to me. Yes, I could have bracketed to merge later in something like Photomatix but I’ve gone off using this method for my landscape photography and leave it just for my urbex work. Somewhat annoyed and rather cold I packed everything up and headed back home.


As a person who shoots a lot of landscapes, I believe that having a good filter system is essential to help balance light. So, I have two suggestions on how the folks at Cokin could improve upon their adapter ring design. First would be removing the print from the front of the ring and to print it on the back, or have no print at all. Second would be to use a matte black finish to help cut down light reflection. I’m sure these ideas are not beyond the realms of possibility but until then its off to the hobby shop to buy some matte black enamel paint to sort it myself.

Just so I don’t finish off on a grumpy note, here’s a shot I manged to rescue using the clone tool in Photoshop Elements.

Thanks for reading.


Blog, Mono, review, Tips

Topaz Detail 50% discount


A new month and a new offer from the good folks at Topaz Labs. This month they are offering 50% off their “Detail” plugin.

As its’ name suggests, Topaz Detail helps to really bring out the shapes and textures in your images but in a way that doesn’t overly enhance noise. Think of it like using the clarity slider in Lightroom, only achieving the effect to an even greater degree. Take a look at the examples below, both are produced from the same RAW file shot on my Fujifilm X10 camera: Both images have had the exact same Lightroom adjustments applied but the left image has also been put through Topaz Detail. There is a good range of built in presets with varying looks that range from soft focus through to harsh punchy detail. In this example I used one of the mid-range presets and I think the results are pretty obvious.

Screenshot 2014-04-11 08.29.32

Both examples at 100% zoom.

Screenshot 2014-04-11 08.30.02

If this is something that you think would benefit your workflow then just follow this link and make sure you enter the code “aprdetail” when you checkout. This offer will be available until the end of April.

Thanks for stopping by.

Blog, review

Harry Potter and the Nokia Lumia 920/925

So we took a trip up to the Warner Brothers Harry Potter studio tour last weekend as a birthday treat for my wife. I decided that this would be an ideal location to test out the camera capabilities of both the Nokia Lumia 920 and 925,  which have been kindly loaned to me by Nokia Connects. It was a bright sunny day so I would get a chance to use the phones in a wide range of lighting situations as two parts of the tour are contained indoors with one outdoors.

First lets take a look at the 920. As I’ve had this phone for a little while longer I knew that I’d get pretty solid results when shooting in good outdoor light. Focus was accurate and colours were good with the pics being bright and vivid. I have noticed that on my model there is a some drop off in sharpness on the left hand side of the pics but strangely not on the right. Both these phones have the option to shoot in either 16:9 and 4:3 formats but I prefer to leave the images full size then crop later if needed. When it comes to printing, 16:9 is not a standard format and it would have been nice for Nokia to have included a 3:2 crop option, giving a nice 6MP file easily good enough for A4 size prints straight off the camera. Like I said, you can crop later but choosing a different crop factor in camera does alter the way you compose your shot. Shooting in 16:9 is quite interesting though and does look nice when viewing on the computer monitor which, lets face it, is how most people view their images these days.
I had no trouble focusing the camera indoors, you can either use the two step button on the side of the phone which focuses the middle portion of the scene, or you can tap on the screen to pinpoint focus. By tapping the screen you not only choose the focus point, it will also meter for the light on that point anf take the shot. I personally would have prefered the option to tap focus then choose when to take the picture using a shutter button on screen. There is no user option for light-metering which is a shame, so it is useful to remember that it will meter wherever you tap to focus.
Had this been the only phone I had with me that day I can honestly say that I would have been fairly happy with what I got. The limitation of the ISO topping out at 800 did cause some issues so it would have been nice to see it go up to at least  ISO1600, a more useful option for indoor shooting. I can say that at this point that the Nokia Lumia 920 is one of the best smartphone cameras I have seen…That is until I received the Lumia 925.
But before I go on, here are a few shots taken with the Lumia 920.






Sharper images with the Lumia 925

On paper there is very little difference between these two phones. Both have an 8.7MP cameras using Carl Zeiss optics. Using both of these phones together it became very apparent that the 925 was producing even sharper/clearer images than the 920. Also, the ISO on the 925 goes all the way up to 3200 which is a real boom when shooting indoors, as a result I ended up using the 925 for pretty much the whole day with the 920 being relegated to my back pocket.

Here is a 100% zoom from both cams.

ComparisonYou can see that the result from the 925 is a lot crisper than the 920, also the 925’s handling of moire and jpeg artifacts is much more pleasing.

There is not much more to add about the 925 that i haven’t already said about the 920. Both cameras work in exactly the same way, the lighter weight and matte finish of the 925 makes it a little nicer in the hand but the extra low light capabilities and sharper results mean that in my view it is worth spending the extra money for the 925 if photography is a factor when buying a new phone. Both run Windows which I found to be just fine, I quickly got used to flicking around the menus and customizing the screens to how I liked. Battery life too seems to be pretty good on both phones. I used the 925 from around 12pm till 7pm constantly as a camera and there was still some life left. It’s worth noting that I am using these phones solely as cameras, so there are no network or WiFi drains on them.

At the end of the day I ended up taking 369 shots on the Nokia Lumia 925 compared to just 73 on the Nokia Lumia 920, which proves to me how much better the camera is on the 925.

A few shots taken with the Lumia 925

WP_20130706_035 WP_20130706_058 WP_20130706_078 WP_20130706_105 WP_20130706_126 WP_20130706_155 WP_20130706_168 WP_20130706_190 WP_20130706_205 WP_20130706_206 WP_20130706_219 WP_20130706_237 WP_20130706_312 WP_20130706_364 WP_20130706_370If you subscribe to to thinking “The best camera is the one you have with you”, then you’ll not be disappointed you had either of these two phones.
Thanks for stopping by.

Blog, review

Nokia Lumia 925-camera test

So as some if you may know, last week Nokia sent me their Lumia 920 smartphone to try out and give opinions on its camera capabilities. Today I also received a brand spanking (yes, still in its wrapper) new Lumia 925 that Nokia kindly sent me also to try out as a camera. Taking a quick look at the specs of both phones there doesn’t really seem much to separate them, even from the front they look almost identical. Flip the phones over and small differences in design are apparent. The 920 has a shiny all plastic case whereas the 925 has a metal surround and what appears to be a plastic back, however the 925 has a textured finish giving it a nicer feel. The reduced weight is another difference of the 925, and as a result the phone does feel nicer in the hand. The camera lens on the 925 is placed similarly to that of the 920 nearer the middle of the phone. I would have preferred the lens on both to have been placed nearer the top as when handling the phones normally the palm of your hand coats the lens with all manner of greasy stuff, meaning that you inevitably have to wipe the lens before taking any pics.
So as you can see there are a couple of small ergonomic changes that have happened and for the better IMO.
The next thing that will be interesting for me to see is if there have been any changes in the performance of the camera itself. Both use what I believe to be the same 8.7MP sensor and Carl Zeiss lens. (It could well be a newly developed sensor, I do not know). What is evident from having a quick play with the 925 (I’m still giving it its first battery charge) is that there are a few new features to check out. Also I noticed that the ISO now goes up to 3200 whereas the 920 only goes up to 800,so this should make a considerable difference when shooting in low light. There’s also something called the Smartcam which as far as I can gather takes a small burst of shots when you press the shutter and then gives you the option to swipe through to pick and save the best one in the series. Could be useful.
Anyway, that’s as far as I’ve got for now, next step is to start shooting with it. We’re off to Harry Potter studios for my wife’s birthday this weekend so it’ll be a great opportunity to test out the low light capabilities of Nokia’s latest flagship phone.

Thanks for stopping by.


Blog, Mono, review

Mono Monday-Feline


Here’s a pic taken with the Nokia Lumia 920 for today’s Mono Monday shot. Taken using the phones standard camera, I then imported into Lightroom and processed it to my liking using Silver Efex Pro2.

I also learned today that Nokia will also be sending me the new Lumia 925. It will be interesting to see how/if the camera differs compared to that of the 920. On paper they are pretty much the same thing.

Thanks for stopping by.

Blog, review

A day at Ightham Mote with the Nokia Lumia 920

So my wife and I decided to have a family day out at Ightham Mote, a beautiful National Trust property set in the wonderful Sussex countryside. Also, I thought, a great opportunity to test out the camera on the Nokia Lumia 920. One small problem though, I forgot to put it on charge and because I’d connected it to my home router the battery was only showing 50% left. Oh well, I took along my trusty Fuji X10 just to make sure I had everything covered.
It turned out to be a bright sunny day so the harsh lighting would certainly pose a challenge. Trying to view the screen in bright sunlight can sometimes be infuriating but the beautiful and huge screen of the Lumia was surprisingly clear and I had no real troubles using it outdoors.
Inside the house the darker rooms proved to be a bit more of a challenge as the iso only goes up to 800, even on a tiny sensor I would like to have seen it go up to at least iso1600. Despite this I still managed to get a few shots inside the house, luckily I have a very steady hand.
So there’s a couple of things that do annoy me a little, and that is the rather limited features Nokia have decided to put into the camera. First, there is no way to decouple focusing and shutter release. I like to make sure I have focus first before taking the shot but having both focus and shutter coupled together resulted in me getting a lot of shots destined for the bin. Aha I thought, enter Camera 360, a photo app I downloaded from the Windows store. It has the separated focussing and shutter I desire and also has a manual focus ability. Additionally there’s a number of cool effects that you can apply too. Now I’m not here to review the camera apps but because it had a couple of simple shooting features not found in the default camera I though it would be a good work around. Not so, upon transferring my shots to the computer I was disappointed to find the app works at a much lower resolution, around 3.1 MP! A bit of a come down from the 8.7MP you’ll get shooting the camera normally.
Still I got a few shots that I liked which you can view below.