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New gallery: Kompani Giraff

Kompani Giraff

© 2012 Stefan Lundberg

Pictures from Kompani Giraffe’s guest appearance in Lund with an amazing circus variety show. A collaboration between the National Theatre, Folkets Hus och Parker and Sommarlund. From the program: Air acrobatics by Michiel van Leeuwen, Juggling with Erik Åberg, Spex of Gay Lundin aka Gajoni and trapeze number by Esmeralda Nikolajeff and Mira Leonard. For more information see the National Theatre’s Kompani-Giraff-page or the information page by Sommarlund.

PTGui Pro – Best panorama creation tool

I use PTGui Pro for panorama stitching. The support in Photoshop for panorama merging is really bad. It is a little tricky to use PTGui until you realize the work flow and what’s needed in each case. Take your time and start playing with this tool. It is a very good program and can be used for many thing besides standard panoramas, for example this circular panorama from a local playground with my daughter riding on the carousel.

Carousel panorama image

Multiple pictures were used to create this carousel image using PTGui Pro

Depending on how badly aligned your source images are, PTGui might need some help to do a good job. A few smartly selected reference points can do magic. Apply the reference points before trying to align the images. For normal panorama images the default setting works very well, but in some cases when assembling a panorama including very close objects any small misalignment ruins the final result. In those cases try to enable viewpoint compensation for each misaligned source image. This can be done in the hidden optimizer menu: go to the advanced setting (Project Assistant, upper right corner) then select Optimizer, click Advanced again and enable viewpoint optimization for each image that you think needs to be tilted.

In most cases the need for post processing is very small. The automatic alignment is very good but usually there are moving people in the scene, cars driving by and other local difficulties that have to be fixed. This is fixed in Photoshop, export the panorama with all layers separated (blended and layers) to one single .psb file (Photoshop large). The example below needed a lot of Photoshop adjustments because the water moved between each image and it was shot on free hand.

Full scene stereographic image created with PTGui Pro

True 360×360 panos require at least one image to be shot vertically down. Often this image is the most difficult to get right because all other images can be shot with the tripod and perfect alignment. I shot this image on free hand and in night scenes with very high ISO (which means much higher noise level). To limit the use of this noisy image in the final panorama it is a very good idea to lower the blend priority for this image (the nadir shot). Blend priority can be adjusted in the advanced settings menu under image parameters, change blend priority from 100 down to 10-20 for the relevant images.

It is also very common that dirt on the image sensor repeats itself all over the place after stitching a panorama. The human eye is very sensitive to this type of effect and repeating patterns have to be fixed. When finalizing the carousel image on the top, lens vignetting (light fall off in corners) in the sky needed additional work. Each image had to be compensated before the import into PTGui.

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Which lens should I buy to my Canon DSLR?

That depends on what you plan to do! Prime lenses are always sharper, but zoom lenses are more flexible. It you miss a shot because you are switching lenses than the zoom would have been a better choice. The weight is a second reason to limit what you carry in your bag. Zoom lenses are heavier so it might be better to carry a could of primes in certain situations.

For me sharpness of my primes are the main reason for using them but remember the contrast and saturation from a zoom lens can be post-processed to get similar look as the prime but you can’t add missing details. If you are only taking photos for the web you will be fine with a zoom for a resolution perspective.

Single lens only

If you are serious with your photography but only want or can afford one lens for some reason, you need to buy something more general like the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS, or the older work horse Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8 L, there are cheaper alternatives from Sigma that are ok, but than versions are really well built and will always work.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS
A really good al round lens with includes image stabilization which come in handy in low light situations. This lens produces really nice images and is used by many traveling photographers and is very attractive as kit lens together with Canon 5D mark II. Total lens weight is 670g (without protection filter as in the image bellow), here on black background captured with Canon TS-E 45mm f/2.8 which is something very different than an al-round lens.

Canon EF 24-105 f/4 L IS, here on black background captured with Canon TS-E 45mm f/2.8 which is something very different than an al-round lens.

Canon EF 24-105 F/4 L IS is a very good al-round lens which is very attractive as kit lens available together with Canon 5D mark II.

Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8 L
This lens is the older version and can be a really good lens, easy to find on the the second hand market, since it is used by almost every photojournalist. Watch out for lenses that has been used professional for many years, they may need service, especial the iris may wear out. This lens is sharp enough for most assignment but a prime lens is even sharper. This lens performs better in the corners than the 24-105 listed above, less light fall off. Minimum focusing distance is small which is good but it is heavy, 950g

Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8 L II
A newer sharper version the lens above, expected to be an impressive high performing zoom lens, probably the best general purpose lens around for now. The new version is much more optimized and weights only 805 g. Not available yet, expected in July 2012. Expensive!

Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS
A good budget lens, 645g

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II
Very good universal wide angle zoom, very usable in low light situations du the the wide aperture and short focal length. This lens has a classical zoom range in you will find one in every photo journalist lens collection. 635g

Canon EF-S 17-85 f/4-5.6 IS
Good budget lens with a little longer zoom range. 475g

My recommendation here is to buy something that is good enough for what you plan to do, do not buy something over expensive that you do not need. It is easy to upgrade this type of flexible equipment due to the large second hand market. Also think twice about the lens weight, heavy equipment is a real problem while traveling. I you are lucky and have the financial options, always remember: A good high quality lens keep a lot of it value, crappy lenses do not.

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Elinchrom Skyport Trigger Problem

Last week I had a really bad flash transmitter problem during a photo assignment. The defect device was an EL-Skyport Eco Transmitter (19349) a standard 2.4 GHz digital wireless flash trigger. The Trigger failed to fire the flash, I changed camera, tried another flash unit, verified trigger channel on both receiver and transmitter, basically tried everything, but nothing worked. The Skyport transmitter looked like it worked, I was able to turn it on, turn it off, change channel and use the test button, even a power cycle didn’t improve anything. Finally I replaced the almost new battery to a brand new, but unfortunately no flash was trigged and the complete photo session was in danger. But this time I was lucky, by coincident I had a spare remote trigger from another manufacturer and with help of an external sync-cable I was able to fire one flash and then I could use slave triggering using the Eye cell on the other.

Small wireless flash transmitter from Elinchrom

Small wireless flash transmitter from Elinchrom

After the session I tried to debug this issues and this particular unit continued to malfunction. Another Transmitter worked perfect, but this looked like it was broken. I also searched Internet for suggestion on the problem but found nothing. As the last option I downloaded the Skyport manual and looked for some sort of debugging checklist.

The problem was solved while reading the manual carefully, there’s a “hidden” speed mode that is enabled by pressing the Test button in 5 seconds. This mode-setting is then stored in the unit (independent of power cycles) until the unit is factory restored by pressing the Test button in at least 10 seconds. This is an example of a feature with really bad user interface, catastrophic outcome and even a bad description in the manual design. This type of design errors shall not be present in professional photo equipment.

I think this “feature” is present in the other Skyport transmitters from Elinchrom, for example Skyport Transmitter RX Speed.

Pinterest info

Pinterest allows “pinning” of photos from other sites in a digital so called pinboard. This could be a great opportunity for photographers, but if for some reason you don’t want pinning of your stuff, there’s a way out. Simply copy and past the following line of code into the head of any HTML page on your website:

<meta name="pinterest" content="nopin" />

Skiing in ARABBA 2012 using GoPro HD HERO2 action camera

This video was 100% captured in Italy using GoPro Hero cameras. My daughter wanted to have a real ski movie so I brought one GoPro HD HERO2 and two Hero cameras to Arabba. The weather was unbelievable good for the beginning of january, the snow cold and the air temperature just below zero. We were skiing on Sella Ronda, a great ski route in the Dolomites. In addition to Arabba this video contains captures from Corvara, Cherz, Colfosco, Marmolada and Canazei. I recorded in 720p@50 and worked with the widest field of view. The most difficult thing was to avoid camera shake and to ski close enough for a really good view.

Hopefully this film inspires you to get out and capture some really good footage. I was inspired by the official GoPro commercial, one of the best action camera productions.

YouTube Video

Music by DanoSongs.com

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New iPhone/iPad physics game

Brand new iPhone and iPad game

Spare time without anything to do? Try this new touch and rotate ball game for iOS created by Jonas Lundberg. Challenge your physics understanding with this easy to play and fun game.
Available in the App store Rollr ball

New gallery: Citytunneln

Citytunneln

© 2011 Stefan Lundberg

A collection of images from the new train connection through Malmö. The tunnel starts at the central train station and continues under the city and is then connected directly to Öresundbron, the bridge to Copenhagen. Central station and Triangeln are the under ground stops and both stations include very nice art installations.

MicroOLED for electronic viewfinders

5 million effective-dot-display for future electronic viewfinders, thats the announcement from MicroOLED a french manufacturer of power efficient micro-displays. That means that the display can have 1280×1024 color pixels using 4 dots per pixel layout and still only consume halt the power of competing produts. The display is 0.6 inch with 4.7 micrometer dots and is targeted for professional near-to-eye usage like cameras, camcorders night vision and other head-mounted equipment.
Is this the viewfinder of the future ? Will the optical viewfinder disappear ? Read more here about what to expect in the near future Camera trends 2012 (and 2013).

New gallery: Frost

Frost

© 2011 Stefan Lundberg

Frosty images from Lund. The first page contains images from Lundagård in Lund city. The second page contains images from Botan, the botanical garden and from IDEON close to LTH. The last part is more varied. It includes an image from Stadsparken. Snow and frost are relatively common in Skåne during January but when these pictures were taken, it was extremely frosty in combination with a lovely mist.

Camera trends 2012 (and 2013)

It’s a lot than can be improved in modern digital cameras, each product contains technology from many different research fields and there are always new stuff in the pipeline from all manufactures. This article lists a couple of areas in witch I expect announcements of product improvements during 2012.

Better displays

A new generation of displays are on it’s way to the market, delivering better readability and consuming less energy. The largest practical difference will be touch control, which will be a better way to ease access to various functions and hopefully replace hidden features deep down in traditional menus. The touch display has an theoretically option of being very user configurable, but is is unclear if the camera manufactures will let the user move around buttons and/or create custom panels for fast access to the most used functions. I think that Android based cameras will come, but not until 2013, delivering extreme personalization and even options for added features by installing new application.

OLED has been in the pipe for many years and finally it looks like many models will have OLED technology which promise to improve the color fidelity and lower the power consumption. This flexible SONY OLED prototype was on display at CES 2009 and 2012 might be a good time for the first flexible camera display ?

Small but flexible prototype OLED

Quantum dot filters from Nanosysinc is another technology that improved the color accuracy of the displayed image. It is a filter placed in the normal LCD stack matching the backlight with the LCD color filters, resulting in up to 50% more colors than without. The filter contains embedded dots made from phosphor which convert light depending on the dot size, smaller dots emit shorter wavelength (towards blue) and larger dots longer (towards red). The dots are embedded in a plastics sheet which are tuned by mixing the dot size to generate new spectrum of light for best color accuracy and efficiency. This sheet is called a Quantum Dot Enhancement Film (QDEF) and will not affect thickness and other important manufacturing steps of the display.

Do not expect much larger displays because there is no room for larger displays, the limit is somewhere nere 3 inch.

Improved sensors

A clear trend is larger images sensors, even for cheaper cameras. In many case this means higher sensitivity which is converted into higher ISO numbers. Canon is leaving APS-H in their high end line in flavor for full format sensors and introducing larger sensors in their PowerShot G1 X. Many mid end cameras will switch from really small sensors to APS-C sized sensors. As an end user it is important to notice that this will increase the requirement of the optics and may force the consumer to buy more expensive lenses than before for the same image sharpness.

Full HDTV video capture

Another feature already in place in many products which will be a must during 2012. A resolution of 1920×1080 is very useful because most modern computers and television screens fit such video in native size. Available sensors and compression circuits deliver 1080p without much higher cost. SD card storage has also matured enough to support 1080p with good quality without reaching the critical write speed limit.

Higher frame rate

In most case it’s enough to capture video with 30 fps but there are many applications where for example 60 fps is much better. During 2012 there will be many products available that delivers 720p60 and 1080p60. It is also possible that we will see special modes to deliver even 120fps but with somewhat limited resolution. Sport action cameras already does 60fps but I think 3D cameras are in most need of higher capture frequency.

Mirror less

Mirror less and/or see-through mirrors using electronic viewfinder is a very strong trend. Changing one of the the basic property of an DSLR while trying to solve difficult problems, improved autofocus during video recording, smaller sized equipment and less weight. This trend expected to continue with more and more options especially among the cheaper camera products. Professional photographers are not so impressed with all new Electronic Viewfinder with Interchangeable Lens (EVIL) system cameras. But SONY is very innovative, pushing this technology very hard and there are both good and bad things which this solution. Cost, weight and size is lower but image quality as seen through the viewfinder does not convince any professional photographer yet, the resolution is too bad and the dynamic range another problem.

More processing power

New camera system on chip solutions contains more and more processing cores because it is very easy to just add some more gates. In all practical cases the real limit is power consumption and memory bandwidth, which is not that easy to solve.

GPS

Already a big trend but not yet available in many high end products.

Accelerometers

We might start to see new use of accelerometers during 2012, but most likely this feature will slide into 2013. Recording of camera shake with accelerometers and gyros for later post processing will be a very useful features in high end models to de-blur images destroyed by accidental unwanted camera shake. This can of cause not be possibly in all cases since the de-blurring operation comes with a cost – artifacts, but still an unusable photo might be useable after the cleanup.

Learn more about the deep future of photography here Redefine photography with computational snapshots

Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 manufactured by Sigma?

The well known Canon 15mm fisheye lens - by Sigma?

I just received the news that the classic full frame 15mm fisheye by Canon has been discontinued and will soon be unavailable when the stock has been sold out. This is very sad because this lens is extremely useful and difficult to replace by something else. Some customers may select the new EF 8-15mm f/4L which has been introduced but in my opinion this is not a full replacement since the original fixed focus fisheye is faster and possibly sharper.

Canon 15mm Fisheye lens with Sigma lens cap

Sigma has a 15mm f/2.8 prime lens that is extremely interesting and can be used as a replacement. I have not tested the Sigma lens but I think the Sigma lens is the same design as the Canon lens because I think Sigma is the manufacturer for the original Canon 15mm lens since my copy of the Canon 15mm lens was delivered with a Sigma lens cap! I do not know if this is true for all copies of this lens but please check the backside of the rear cap for the Sigma logo next to the text “MADE IN JAPAN”

Canon 15mm fisheye lens cap by Sigma

The rear cap look exactly as the lens cap delivered with Sigma lenses with the text “FOR CANON AF” printed on the front. I compared this cap with a Sigma cap delivered with a 8mm fisheye and they are identical, I suspect they where manufactured in the same machine or at lease with the same tool because the typical injection mold markings where the same on both caps.

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Flash emitter window replacement

Fixing the broken IR glass on Canon flash 550EX.

Recently I broke the small red protection window on my Canon 550EX flash. This plastic part protects the light emitter used by the autofocus assist system to project a red light pattern in the middle of the image to ease autofocusing in dim environments. The optics used to produce this vertical and horizontal pattern is clearly visible in this image with the spare part nearby. It was extremely easy to snap the new part in place after the unit was carefully cleaned from small plastic parts after the small accident.

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Slot racing

This video was recorded at Hjärup Slotracing Center, it’s an experimental video recorded with GoPro Hero cameras mounted along the racing track and direct on one of the racing cars. Have fun watching!

YouTube Video

How to extract audio from FLV files using VLC and converting into .mp3

A simple method to convert audio from FLV files (YouTube videos) into .mp3 files using VLC

1. Open FLV file with VLC by drag and drop and press stop as it starts to play.
2. Export the file by opening the VLC Wizard: File -> Streaming/Exporting Wizard…
3. Select Transcode and press Next.
4. Select your file from the list and press Next.
5. Check only the Transcode Audio checkmark and leave Transcode Video unchecked. Select 192 kb/s and .mp3 as audio codec, press Next.
6. Select MPEG-1 as Encapsulation format, press Next.
7. Save the file with any name ending with .MPG
8. Open the created .MPG file again with VLC, press stop.
9. Export the file by opening the VLC Wizard again.
10. Select Transcode and press Next.
11. Select your .MPG file from the list and press Next.
12. Check only the Transcode Audio checkmark and leave Transcode Video unchecked. Select 192 kb/s and .mp3 as audio codec, press Next.
13. Select RAW as Encapsulation format, press Next.
14. Save the file with any name ending with .MP3 or .mp3