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Setting Up Your Locking Lens Safe

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As we travel lighter, we're leaving more gear at home. Spare camera bodies and extra lenses that may not be needed for the work at hand, may be essential for next week's assignment. So it's not a bad idea to keep them safe... in a safe.

The plan is simple. Purchase a moderately priced, ample storage container, such as the Exacme Steel Digital Electronic Safe ($109), secure it in a cabinet, or to the floor or a shelf in a closet, and store your gear inside.

I like the Exacme model because it measures 20"x14"x12", has an easy-to-use electronic lock passcode, and includes an override key (just in case) plus bolting hardware.

I use old camera bags to organize my equipment inside the safe. One kit includes spare mirrorless gear, and the othe other is for DSLRs. When I'm preparing for a shoot, I open the safe, grab the lenses I need, lock up, and hit the road.

There are plenty of other safes on the market that also provide fire protection and more advanced locking systems. But the way I look at it, any safe is an improvement over having my lenses displayed on the office desk.

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After posting my review of the excellent Nissin i40 flash on c't Digital Photography, and talking about it on this week's podcast, I still have a few pictures leftover. So I thought I'd put together this brief visual tour for you.

Looking Good from the Front

nissin-140-em1-v3.jpg This size of the flash seems to be a perfect match for many Micro Four Thirds bodies, such as the Olympus OM-D E-M1.

Gotta Love Those Dials

i40-manual-setting.jpg The flash is controlled by the Mode dial on the left, and Power dial on the right. So easy!

Built-In Diffuser and Bounce Card

i40-flash-diffuser.jpg Go to 16mm focal length coverage with the diffuser and bounce away with the built-in card.

Nice Kit!

nissin-i40-kit.jpg Kit includes flash, case, stand, and diffuser cap to soften shadows.

Available Now...

The Nissin i40 Compact Flash for Four Thirds Cameras is available for $269.


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The Nissin i40 flash has a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting TheNimblePhotographer.com.

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This week on The Digital Story Photography Podcast: The Best Flash for Micro Four Thirds Cameras, My Favorite iPhone Camera App, Guide for Improving Your Photography - All of this and more on today's show with Derrick Story.

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Story #1 - Manual: Custom Exposure Camera App for iOS 8 - I finally have the control I want for my iPhone camera. I've used this app to capture some tough shots, and it works like no other. (Source: The Digital Story).

In other news, Fotodiox FlapJack LED Edgelight Series - "Rather than using forward-facing LEDs common in conventional panels, the FlapJacks' LEDs are mounted around their outer edge, aimed inward at layers of diffusion material to produce bounced light." Prices run from $249-$399. (Source: PhotographyBlog.com).

And finally, Rumor: Samsung Working on a Black-and-White Only NX Achromatic. "...the camera will be a special-edition version of the NX300 called the NX Achromatic, and it will sport the same 20MP sensor as the standard NX300 only without a bayer array or low pass filter." (Source: PetaPixel.com).

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Story #2 - The Nissin i40 Compact Flash for Four Thirds Cameras ($269). This hotshoe strobe has it all: TTL, wireless, manual, and LED continuous. Plus, thanks to its twin control dials on the back, it's super easy to use. I discuss this gem in the second segment of today's show. And you can read my review of the i40 on c't Digital Photography Magazine.

Story #3 - Book Review: Learning to Photograph, Vol. 2 (eBook, 256 pages, $31.99) by Cora Banek / Georg Banek. Topics include:

learning-to-photograph-vol2.jpg

  • Visual perception
  • Composition, shapes, and lines
  • Managing light
  • Color and its effects
  • Sharpness, blur, and movement
  • The interplay of visual design elements
  • Image analysis and evaluation

Terrific guide to improve your images, plus provide inspiration when feeling stuck. Use coupon code LP14 for a 35% discount (making it only $20.79 saving you $11.20). And if you forget the code, there's a tile in the far right column of The Digital Story.

Virtual Camera Club News

Visit the Red River Paper Card Shop. You can peruse top selling cards, order the card sample kit, and read tutorials on card printing. Save on Ground Shipping for Red River Paper. Use coupon code ground50c to receive a 50 percent discount on UPS ground shipping for Red River Paper. No minimum purchase required.

Photo Assignment for September 2014 is "Shot from Behind".

If you haven't done so already, please post a review for The Digital Story Podcast in iTunes.

BTW: If you're ordering through B&H or Amazon, please click on the respective ad tile under the Products header in the box half way down the 2nd column on thedigitalstory.com. That helps support the site.

Download the Show

In addition to subscribing in iTunes, you can also download the podcast file here (30 minutes). You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. And from those images, I choose the TDS Member Photo of the Day.

Podcast Sponsors

lynda.com - Learn lighting, portraiture, Photoshop skills, and more from expert-taught videos at lynda.com/thedigitalstory.

Red River Paper -- Keep up with the world of inkjet printing, and win free paper, by liking Red River Paper on Facebook.

SizzlPix! - High resolution output for your photography. You've never seen your imagery look so good. SizzlPix.com. SizzlPix! now is qualified for PayPal "Bill Me Later," No payments, No interest for up to 6 months, which means, have your SizzlPix! now, and pay nothing until March!

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WD My Passport Wireless HD Review

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The WD My Passport Wireless HD ($179) is a compact, spinning platter hard drive with built-in WiFi and a DNLA server. It wirelessly connects computers, tables, and smartphones, and includes USB 3.0 for hard wire access. Its built-in battery and SD card reader round out an impressive feature set for mobile photographers.

After 2 weeks of testing, it has earned a permanent home in my everyday camera bag and will be accompanying me to PhotoPlus Expo on assignment. The WD Wireless isn't perfect, but it is impressive.

Wireless Options

You have three wireless connectivity options, each useful depending on your situation: Direct Connection, Hotspot, and Home Network.

Direct Connection establishes a link between you and the My Passport via its WiFi server. The advantage is fast bandwidth. The disadvantage is that the Internet is not available using this method.

Hotspot leverages an existing network allowing both communication with the My Passport and online activity. Others on the network do not have access to your hard drive. You most likely give up a little performance, but gain Internet access. This is the method I use most often.

Home Network also leverages an external network, but makes the drive visible to all who have access to it. Great for sharing work among users in an office or around the house.

Seeing Drive Content via iOS

wd-dashboard.jpg WD Dashboard as shown in Safari on an iPad Mini.

Once you've connected to the My Passport via Settings, you can use the WD My Cloud app to customize the hard drive and access its content. Plus you can monitor battery life, drive capacity, and other vital signs.

I also log-in to its server as an admin via the browser on my iPad for even more configuration options. The dashboard is well designed and easy to use.

Backing Up Photos

I have the My Passport set up to automatically backup the photos from any SD card I insert into its reader. All of the content is copied to the hard drive and organized in folders using this hierarchy: SD Card Imports > SDCard_XXXXX > DCIM > 100OLYMP > images.

images-from-memory-card.jpg Images copied to the My Passport drive via its SD card reader and viewed on an iPad.

The WD My Cloud app can display the Jpegs, but not the RAW files. However, the RAW files are there for when you return from your trip. The simplest method is to shoot RAW+Jpeg, use the Jpegs while on the road, and tap the RAWs at home.

You can copy an image to your device's Camera Roll by selecting it, then tapping the Download icon. Other sharing options include Email, Print, and Open In.

Being able to backup photos from the camera's memory card, then view them on your mobile device is the killer feature I've been waiting for.

More Functions Than I Can List

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In addition to the photographer-friendly goodies, you can stream music and video via the drive's built-in DNLA media server. I also store work documents that I can securely read while on the road, even if I don't have cloud services available. And, now while on the plane, I have dozens of movies to choose from instead of just the one or two my iPad could accommodate.

And if you wish, you can use other apps, such as MoliPlayer HD to view your content. Any software that is DLNA compliant will work.

The battery life is good, about 4-5 hours. The WiFi access point remains active, even when not being used, as long as the device is booted up. The My Passport is also easy to recharge. I've used its compact wall plug as well as my solar Waka Waka charger with great success. WD did a good job with the battery technology for this unit.

A Few Quirks

The drive ships with a dummy SD card in the reader slot. Remove it to activate WiFi. Otherwise the drive will try to read the dummy card. And you don't get an indication of when the drive has finished backing up an SD card when in Automatic mode. I've been leaving it in the reader for about 5 minutes, just to be safe. In the future, I could test the actual copy time using the WD My Cloud app in manual copy mode.

The user interface is robust, but it is a bit odd at times. For example, you can create new folders to organize your work using the iOS app. But in order to put files in the new folder, you have to select > copy > paste. I wasn't used to copy/paste for moving files around. But once I figured it out, it was easy to remember.

You can also back up images from your iOS device to the My Passport drive. To do so, select Add Photo, navigate to the image in your Camera Roll, and tap Upload. The file will be copied to the drive at root level.

To move it to the desired folder, tap Select > Cut > (navigate to the directory) Paste. It's a bit weird, but it works.

Bottom Line

The WD My Passport Wireless HD allows me to travel with just my iPad and iPhone, leaving the laptop behind. Yet, when I return home, it connects to my MacBook Pro via USB 3.0 or wireless... my choice. I'm impressed with its feature set, design, and battery life. Quite honestly, it's the best new gadget I've tested in a while.


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The WD My Passport Wireless HD has a very high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting TheNimblePhotographer.com.

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Tech Hand-Me-Downs

New gear is everywhere. And for those who give in to temptation, decisions must be made about the items being replaced.

One route is to sell you old iPhone, digital camera, iPad, or computer on the used market. And in a lot of situations, I think that makes sense. I know I've made a lot of people happy with a good price for a gently used item.

But I hang on to a surprising amount of equipment too. I bought this stuff when it was new, I know it's been well-maintained, and I have uses for it. What might those be? Well, let's take a tour around my studio.

ipad-picture-frame-web.jpg


The Original iPad

Even though it won't run iOS 8, my original iPad looks and operates exceedingly well. I currently have it serving as a digital picture frame. Plus, it works great with those iHome speakers you see in the illustration as a music player for my studio.

It's running iOS 5.1.1, and that's where it tops out. So as long as I use it for my basic environment enhancement, I'm fine. BTW: the battery is still fantastic and has amazing life.


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2008 MacBook Pro 17" Laptop

I bought this 17" in early 2008 because of its exceptional screen with matte finish. I still love the way images look on it. A few years ago, I installed an SSD drive to replace its spinning platter. This move definitely added new life to the aging, but otherwise fine laptop.

Currently the MBP is running Mac OS X Mavericks, and it can handle the Yosemite upgrade later this year. So it's a full-fledged member of my Apple ecosystem.

Today, I use the 2008 MacBook Pro to record my weekly podcasts. I'll also be using this classic machine to record an upcoming title for lynda.com.


iphone_4s_camera_web.jpg

iPhone 4S Unlocked

There's still plenty of life in my iPhone 4S, and I've found a variety of uses for it.

My current favorite is keeping a SIMsmart card in it for travel abroad. Since phones out of contract can be unlocked, I maintain a European phone number with the 4S.

It's also my podcast player during my morning commute and on business trips. Everything works just as well as originally, and it will accept the iOS 8 upgrade when I'm ready.

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manual-iphone-ios8.jpg

iPhone photography is about to get a bit more interesting for serious enthusiasts. A new app for iOS 8 called, Manual - Custom exposure camera ($1.99), lets you set ISO, shutter speed, white balance, and focus. Plus you get geeky goodies such as live histogram and an EXIF viewer.

I took Manual for a test run around the studio with my iPhone 5S, and found it easier to use than I anticipated. In large part, the ease resulted from having a live view of your settings. If I increased the shutter speed, for example, the scene on my iPhone became darker in real time.

If you decide you want to work in auto mode, you can by setting ISO and shutter speed to green "auto." You stil have exposure compensation available, so it's auto with some control.

Overall, Manual is fun to shoot with, and it's particularly handy in situations where you want to create a low key or high key look. By using it, you can become quite the sophisticated shooter with your iPhone.


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Manual for iOS 8 has a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting TheNimblePhotographer.com.

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DIY Slide Digitizers for Fun

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I just read an interesting article on Petapixel, DIY: A Cheap and Effective Rig for Digitizing Negatives Using a Smartphone that shows you how to make an easy rig to use with your smartphone to copy slides.

The article reminded me of how many times, and different ways I've address this type of project. So I thought I'd list them all here for your entertainment and reference.


Review of the Lomography Smartphone Film Scanner

lomography_scanner_iphone_web.jpg

The Lomo enables you to connect a smartphone, in my case an iPhone 4S, and scan 35mm film strips. The internal light is powered by 2 AA batteries. Operation is simple. Feed the film into the unit using a knurled knob, turn on the light, mount your phone, and take a picture of the illuminated image. Read about the Lomo film scanner here.

Bottom Line: The Lomo is fun to use and convenient, but the results are so-so at best.


DIY Copy Stand for iPhone 3GS

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If you've ever tried close-up work with the iPhone, you know you have two challenges. The first is holding the camera steady enough to avoid camera shake. The second is getting the plane of the camera parallel to the plane of the subject to avoid distortion. This little device helps with both, plus diffuses the light for a more flattering rendering. Read about the DIY Copy Stand here.

Bottom Line: It might not be pretty, but this rig produces great results.


DIY Slide Digitizer with Olympus OM-D and Leica Projector

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This set-up solves the quality problem by using an Olympus 60mm f/2.8 macro lens with an Olympus OM-D E-M1. The Olympus 60mm has excellent edge-to-edge sharpness, plus a small barrel diameter to correctly couple with the slide projector. I simply remove the lens that came with the projector, then point the 60mm optic toward the illuminated slide. Read about the DIY Slide Digitizer here.

Bottom Line: It's a bit of a hassle to set up, but the digitized slides look great and can be used for a variety of purposes.


Canon 5D 35mm Slide Digitizer - DIY

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If you have a full frame DSLR, you can easily digitize your favorite 35mm slides at home. I'm using a Canon 5D, Sunpak 444D flash, and a 1980s slide copier. That's all you really need. Read about the Canon 5D Slide Digitizer here.

Bottom Line: If you find the parts, you'll like the results.

So there you have it. A roundup of whacky, but often effective devices for digitizing content. What can you come up with?

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This week on The Digital Story Photography Podcast: What You Need to Know about the Canon 7D Mark II, the Wireless WD My Passport Hard Drive for Mobile Devices, iOS 8 Gets Its Photos On - All of this and more on today's show with Derrick Story.

Story #1 - Twice as good? Hands-on with Canon EOS 7D Mark II ($1,799) - After you read this piece, you will probably answer, "yes." Little goodies such as the mic and headphone jacks, to dual SD/CF slots, to new sensor and AF system, to clever advances such as the "anti-flicker" control add up to a big upgrade. (Source: DP Review).

canon-7d-af-config.jpg Improved AF for the Canon 7D Mark II - Those are all cross sensors.

In other news, The Olympus OM-D E-M1 ($1,399)update lands ahead of schedule - It's like a new camera in some aspects. This article provides all the new features and improvements, with links for downloading. (Source: Imaging-Resource.com).

And finally, Skip The Lab: How To Mount And Frame Prints Yourself - A terrific 15-minute movie plus text explaining a tried and true process. (Source: Fstoppers.com).

Story #2 - The WD My Passport Wireless storage ($179) for iOS and Android devices. This is the solution I've been waiting for to allow me to travel with just an iPad. The 1TB drive allows me to bring a variety of files with me -- music, video, photo, PDF, text, etc. -- and more importantly, enables my saving files from the iPad or iPhone to the device. Plus it has a built-in SD card reader for on-the-fly backup. Those files can then be read by any of your mobile devices. I discuss this gem in the second segment of today's show.

my-passport-control-panel.jpg Sharp looking control panel for the WD My Passport Wireless hard drive.

Story #3 - New Editing Tools in iOS 8 Photos App (free). What a leap forward. We've gone from having virtually no editing tools in Photos app to and array of color and luminance adjustments. I provide an overview in the third segment of today's show.

Story #4 - From the Screening Room - Finding the Perfect Portrait Lens with Chris Orwig. Not only will Chris help you decide which lens is best for the type of portrait you want to capture, but he has lots of tips for using those lenses.

You can watch Chris in action by visiting the TDS Screening Room at lynda.com/thedigitalstory. While you're there, you can start your 7 day free trial to watch other design, photography, and computing titles, plus every other topic in the library.

Virtual Camera Club News

Visit the Red River Paper Card Shop. You can peruse top selling cards, order the card sample kit, and read tutorials on card printing. Save on Ground Shipping for Red River Paper. Use coupon code ground50c to receive a 50 percent discount on UPS ground shipping for Red River Paper. No minimum purchase required.

Photo Assignment for September 2014 is "Shot from Behind".

If you haven't done so already, please post a review for The Digital Story Podcast in iTunes.

BTW: If you're ordering through B&H or Amazon, please click on the respective ad tile under the Products header in the box half way down the 2nd column on thedigitalstory.com. That helps support the site.

Download the Show

In addition to subscribing in iTunes, you can also download the podcast file here (33 minutes). You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. And from those images, I choose the TDS Member Photo of the Day.

Podcast Sponsors

lynda.com - Learn lighting, portraiture, Photoshop skills, and more from expert-taught videos at lynda.com/thedigitalstory.

Red River Paper -- Keep up with the world of inkjet printing, and win free paper, by liking Red River Paper on Facebook.

SizzlPix! - High resolution output for your photography. You've never seen your imagery look so good. SizzlPix.com. SizzlPix! now is qualified for PayPal "Bill Me Later," No payments, No interest for up to 6 months, which means, have your SizzlPix! now, and pay nothing until January!

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The Joy of Manual Flash

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I just finished a big two-month project for a Northern CA credit union, and I did not use TTL flash once for my strobe lighting. Instead, I relied my manual flash rig that's been serving me well the last year or so.

I've never been happier. The results have never been better.


My photo assistant, Leah, posing while I test my lighting on location for a client assignment. I used the manual flash rig described in this article.


I cover the gear and techniques I use in the article, Manual Flash in the Digital Age. The concept is simple. Using manual exposure settings for my camera - a Canon 5D Mark II in this case - and variable power settings on a pair of old Sunpak hotshoe flashes, I'm able to capture exactly the lighting effect I want, and enjoy extremely consistent images over the span of hundreds of frames.

Because the camera exposure and flash output is "locked in," I don't have to worry about variances if I recompose, focus on a different part of the composition, or change camera angles. This exposure consistency looks very professional when clients review the proofs.

If you want to learn more about this technique, and possibly put into use those old strobes stashed in your closet, take a look at Manual Flash in the Digital Age on the lynda.com Article Center.


Recover Photos from Memory Cards

What should you do (and more importantly not do) if something goes wrong with your camera's memory card? Help is on the way! Check out my lynda.com title, Recovering Photos from Memory Cards, and save those valuable pictures.

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The new Photos app in iOS 8 not only adds functionality to our iPhones and iPads, but it's a preview of things to come in Mac OS X Yosemite. So it's worth a look at its image editing tools. Here's a tour on my iPad Mini with Retina Display.

photos-basic-editing-tools.jpg

Basic Editing Tools

Most enthusiast photographers will want to head over to the Light/Color/B&W panel that is activated by tapping on the icon that is fourth from the top. Apple logically displays options for Light, Color, and B&W - the basics of image editing.


Adjusting with the Light Tools

Tap on Light and you can make a global adjustment by sliding up and down on the thumbnails that represent tonal adjustments. It works fine, but the real goodies are revealed by tapping on the menu icon beneath them.

exposure-adjustments.jpg

Now it gets interesting. There are six additional adjustments that you can play with just by tapping on them. Here's what they do:

  • Exposure - Adjusts the bright values of the image. For those familiar with Histograms, Exposure effects the right side of the graph.
  • Highlights - Enables recovery of highlight detail. If you have tones that are "blown out" in the brightest areas of the image, this will help you bring them back.
  • Shadows - Helps you recover lost detail in the darkest areas of the photo.
  • Brightness - This is a midtone luminance adjustment. For those familiar with Histograms, Brightness effects the middle of the graph.
  • Contrast - Impacts the bright areas and dark areas at the same time. Increasing contrast makes the darks darker and the brights brighter. Decreasing contrast does just the opposite.
  • Black Point - Adjusts the dark areas of the image. For those familiar with Histograms, Black Point effects the left side of the graph.


Adjusting with the Color Tools

As with Light, you can make an overall color adjustment by sliding up and down on the color thumbnails. Tap on the menu icon beneath them, and there are three additional adjustments: Saturation, Contrast, and Cast. Here's what they do.

color-tools-photos.jpg

  • Saturation - Increases or decreases the intensity of the color for all values.
  • Contrast - This is a new control, and it behaves similar to Saturation, but also impacts the tonal values. I like this new effect.
  • Cast - It's not really warm to cool, or magenta to green, but more of a hybrid color adjustment that seems to combine the two. Bottom line, if your color is a bit off, this slider is designed to help you correct it.


Adjusting with the B&W Tools

The engineers at Apple must like B&W photography. The tools here are pretty sophisticated. Here's what they've included.

bw-tools-photos.jpg

  • Intensity - This adjustment attacks the color conversion to B&W. As you slide it up and down, you'll notice that it effects the colored areas of the image, but doesn't have much impact on the neutral tones.
  • Neutrals - On the other hand, Neutrals has a powerful effect on the whites. So you have a separate control to work with the conversion of the brightest objects in the image.
  • Tone - This slider seems to impact everything in the image: blacks, whites, and middle tones. It's almost like a contrast slider for B&W.
  • Grain - Do you want to add a little grit to your image. Maybe Tri-X pushed to ASA 800? Grain is your slider for that.

    • General Tips

      You can view the original version of the image by tapping and holding on it. Lift your finger and you're returned to the edited version.

      The tool bar can be positioned on any side of the frame. Rotate your iPad to place it on the side that works best for you.

      When cropping, you can pinch to zoom the image in the frame. Very handy. You can lock-in aspect rations by tapping the icon in the lower right corner next to Cancel.

      There's no sharpening feature (that I could find) at this time. For that, you'll need to move over to another app.


      Final Thoughts

      Overall all, Photos App in iOS 8 is a big step forward. I like the tools that are there now. And I'm hoping for more to come with future updates.


      Nimble Photographer Logo

      Photos for iOS 8 has a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting TheNimblePhotographer.com.

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