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Photographers like me who run a variety of imaging applications can bring a little continuity to their life via plugins. I've been using DxO FilmPack 5 since its release. And with one purchase, the software works with Aperture, Lightroom, Photoshop, DxO Optics Pro 10, and Photoshop Elements... plus, it's a standalone app too.

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If FilmPack 5 isn't on your radar, check out my post on lynda.com Article Center titled, Rediscover Analog Photography with DxO FilmPack 5 Elite.

The bottom line is, FilmPack 5 allows you to create versions of your images that look as if they were captured on film, such as Kodak Tri-X, Kodachrome 25, and Fujifilm Velvia 50. In the lynda.com article, I walk you through the ins and outs of the application, with lots of sample images. Plus, I talk about the difference between processing RAW files vs. roundtripping images in FilmPack.

Speaking or roundtripping, DxO FilmPack 5 works with just about any photo software that accepts plugins. Here are the options I was presented with when I installed the app.

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I recommend Elite for $99 over the Standard $49 version. Here's a comparison chart of features that show why. And the best part is... they have a 30-Day Free Trial.

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Someone had their thinking caps on for this design. Westcott just announced the 38" x 45" Omega Reflector Kit for $99. Among its plethora of features, its center flap opens allowing you to shoot through it. In essence, the Omega becomes a giant, natural, ring light.

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Highlights (yes, pun intended) include:

  • Innovative 10-in-1 design
  • Can be used as a traditional reflector or shoot-through
  • 2:3 Ratio removable center frame panel
  • 38" x 45" white, silver, sunlight, black and 1-stop diffusion surfaces
  • Durable fabrics
  • Folds down to 1/3 open size
  • Includes two window suction cups and carry case with shoulder strap
  • Lifetime frame warranty

I'm also impressed with the loops attached to all four sides and the window suction cups that come in the kit. You can hang the translucent Omega on a window to help diffuse direct light coming in. To see more of the features, here's a short product video.

I'll report more once I have a chance to test the Omega Reflector. You can preorder it now from B&H. And I suspect that we'll be using it for the upcoming Bodie and Fall Color workshops.

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Camera Profiles in Lightroom 5

One of the advantages to processing RAW files in Adobe Lightroom is taking advantage of camera profiles. A favorite example is choosing among Fuji's film effects from the X20.

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The process couldn't be simpler. Open the RAW file in the Develop Module. Scroll down to Camera Calibration. Choose the look you want from the Profile popup menu.

The options are based on the actual profiles offered in the camera menu. So, for example, I'll see different available profiles for my Olympus RAW files than those from the Fuji X20.

The thing I really like about the profiles feature is this: there are times during post processing that I say to myself, "I wish I had used the monochrome film effect when I took that shot." With these profiles available in Lightroom, I get a second chance.

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No More! - Olympus XZ-2 for $179

This special is now over!

Amazon is running a Gold Box special on the Olympus XZ-2 digital camera for $179 that originally sold for $549. The sale ends Tuesday night.

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Features include:

  • Super fast, bright i.ZUIKO f1.8 to f2.5 lens that uses high quality ZUIKO digital lenses.
  • Pairs a powerful TruePic VI sensor with an SLR-quality image processor to dramatically improve image quality with spectacular low-light performance and blazing autofocus speed.
  • 3.0", 920K dot super high resolution Tilting Touch screen with FAST Touch Autofocus and shutter release just by touching the screen.
  • Built in Accessory Port, Hybrid Control Ring and Function button and level for ultimate control.
  • Special effects for your photos & HD Videos with Olympus' 11 in-camera Art Filters and Art Effects.
  • Enjoy low light photography with the built-in pop up flash and increased ISO sensitivity to 12800.

The one thing it doesn't have, however, is built-in WiFi. Instead, the camera pairs with the Toshiba FlashAir card. If that's not a deal-breaker, however, the price is certainly right.


Nimble Photographer Logo

The XZ-2 has a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting TheNimblePhotographer.com.

This week on The Digital Story Photography Podcast: Insane Compact Panasonic Zoom, iStick Blues, Leah Goes to Mexico - All of this and more on today's show with Derrick Story.

Snapshot - "17 Pounds and Counting" - Everything I need for an assignment abroad, in a situation without Internet much of the time, needs to fit in a bag that weighs less than 20 pounds. Can I do it?

Weekly Update - Should you get an iStick? The iStick does allow file sharing among your iOS devices and a Mac or PC computer. Even though the hardware is clever and works, the device is hampered by subpar software. I add-on to the discussion that I began with my post on TDS.

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Story #1 - The Panasonic 35-100mm f/4.0-5.6 - this tiny optic packs a big punch. I explain why in this segment of the show.

Story #2 - Photo Q&A with Leah - "Travel Abroad" - Leah will be heading to Mexico soon, and she wants to hear if I have any tips for her protecting her gear while on the road. 

Story #3 - 2-for-1 Subscription of c't Digital Photography Magazine with eBook Chapter One from "The Essence of Photography" by Bruce Barnbaum - Engineered in Germany, this quarterly photographic publication provides deep dives into gear reviews, techniques, and artists. There's no publication like it in North America, and for a limited time, you can give a subscription and garner one for yourself. The best deal of the year!

Story #4 - Two seats open for the San Francisco Street Photography Workshop on April 24-26, 2015. Update on the plans for the event.

Virtual Camera Club News

Photo Assignment for December 2014 is "Frozen".

Red River Paper - Save 10 percent off your next order of inkjet paper and greeting cards. Good one per customer. Use discount code STORY10X - Ends 1/15/15.

And Finally...

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 (31 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 May!

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The HyperDrive iStick is a pocketable Flash drive with a Lightning connector on one end and USB on the other. By using its free iStick app for iPad and iPhone, users can share files among all of their iOS devices and Mac or PC computers. It's particularly useful for bringing movies with you on long journeys.

In my testing, I've been able to accomplish the following with the iStick:

  • Backup photos from an iPad/iPhone to the iStick.
  • Stream movies from the iStick to an iOS device.
  • Play music from the iStick through my iPad/iPhone.
  • Move photos from the computer to the iPad

The device does work. I've streamed movies from a variety of formats to my iPad and iPhone. iStick's built-in player handles the playback. All I had to do was launch the iStick app on the iOS device, navigate to the movie I wanted to watch, and select it. The player itself is quite basic. But you can enjoy the video without having to copy anything to your mobile device. And since most feature movies are 1 GB or larger, that relieves a lot of pressure off the iPad or iPhone.

PC065132.jpg The iStick includes a Lightning extender cable so you don't have to remove the case from your mobile device to use it.

Same goes for music. I use Apple's iCloud to manage my music library and to free up space on my devices. Works great except when Internet isn't available, such as flying cross country. With the iStick, you can load up your albums and stream them to your iPhone/iPad without any stress on the device. Again, the player is very basic.

movie-player-istick.jpg The iStick has its own movie player, as basic as it is.

Here's where we start to get in to the nits of the device. The hardware seems fine on initial inspection. But the iStick software needs work. Is it functional? Yes, in a basic way. But it does not have the fit and finish that most of us expect from iOS applications.

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Plus, as it stands now, it's not very useful for photographers. Why? The biggest problem is that photos are displayed with filenames and a generic icon. No image thumbnails. So yes, you can backup your iPad to the iStick on the road. But if you want to find a photo, you'll have to wait until you can copy them to a device that displays thumbnails.

Plus there's no swiping or slideshow feature. So you have to open files one by one to display them. This isn't practical at all for showing others your work.

Along the same lines, the music player does not move from song to song through the folder. So you have to play each track individually. That's nuts. And you don't get any standard controls beyond play/pause. No album artwork either. Same complaints go for the movie player, but since you don't have to change tracks that often, it's more tolerable.

The bottom line is this: The iStick 16GB USB Flash Drive with Lightning for iPhone and iPad ($109) does provide easy, secure sharing among your devices. But it's hampered by subpar software. Right now, I see its best use for viewing movies on the plane, because the built-in player can handle that function, and the nature of movies is to hit "play" and sit back. But beyond that, the iStick needs an overhauling of its software for the device to get a positive review.

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The Panasonic LUMIX G VARIO 35-100mm f/4.0-5.6 ASPH. MEGA O.I.S. zoom lens, designed for Micro Four Thirds cameras, packs a ton of quality into a small, jewell-like package.

The optic weighs a mere 4.76 ounces and is measures a svelte 2.19" x 1.97" (DxL). Yet, its effective focal length is 70mm-200mm, perfect for outdoor field work. When mounted on Panasonic mirrorless cameras, the optic's built-in image stabilization is rated at 3 stops.

On Olympus bodies, photographers have the option of using sensor-based stabilization or optical MEGA O.I.S. They can switch to optical in the "gear" menu > "C" Release > Lens I.S. Priority. Since the optical stabilizer is quieter than the sensor-based alternative, there may be situations where Olympus owners want to take advantage of this feature.

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The Panasonic lens maintains its compact size by retracting. To use it, twist to the right to move it into zooming position. The nicely-damped zooming ring keeps the barrel in place regardless of shooting position. The manual focusing ring also feels good. Like the image stabilization, switching to manual focus happens in the camera's menu. There are no switches on the lens itself.

Outdoors, focusing is fast and accurate. Indoors, the lens may hunt for a second or two before confirmation. This highlights the fact that the Panasonic 35-100mm f/4-5.6 is an outdoor lens. Its maximum aperture and focusing capability will not satisfy the indoor, existing light photographer. Outside, however, the optic is a joy to use.

panasonic-35-100mm-leaf.jpg Autumn leaf captured at the 100mm setting on the Panasonic zoom mounted on an Olympus OM-D E-M10: f/5.6, -1 EV, ISO 250, 1/200th sec., optical stabilization.

Image quality is excellent edge to edge, with slightly better performance in the center. Distortion and chromatic aberration are also well-controled, a surprising performance for such a compact, affordable zoom.

panasonic-35-100mm-building.jpg Try as I may, I could not get the lens to produce noticeable chromatic aberration: focal length 35mm, f/11.

The Panasonic 35-100mm f/4.0-5.6 zoom lens was released in late October for $397. It's styled to compliment the Panasonic GM line of mirrorless bodies. But it looks great on the Olympus cameras too. Its metal barrel construction and mount feel solid, and the swift focusing via the stepping motor inspire confidence. The optical performance is very satisfying.

panasonic-35-100mm-flower.jpg Flower close-up captured at 100mm, f/5.6. Photos by Derrick Story.

Bottom line: I love this lens. It's a quality optic that's easy to carry with me. My prediction is that I'll be capturing beautiful images with it for a very long time.


Nimble Photographer Logo

This Panasonic 35-100mm f/4.0-5.6 zoom lens 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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The latest version of DxO OpticsPro was introduced right before PhotoPlus Expo. It can be used as a standalone app or integrated in to a Lightroom 5.7 workflow. And for RAW shooters, it adds a fast, powerful way to process those files.

default-workspace-dxo.jpg The starting point workspace for DxO OpticsPro. It can be configured to your tastes.

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In my opinion, DxO OpticsPro is for photographers who want their images to shine, but who don't necessarily want to spend a lot of time fiddling with them in post. The software has a knack for bringing out the best in a photograph through its intelligent algorithms and lens profiles that correct distortion, minimize noise, enhance contrast. And with the latest version, removes haze via a new feature called ClearView.

I wrote about ClearView in an article titled, New ClearView Feature Shines in DxO OpticsPro 10. In short, it wipes away atmospheric haze for landscapes, and air pollution for urban scenes. I also discuss how to integrate DxO with Lightroom 5.7 in the article.

The bottom line is this: DxO OpticsPro 10 Elite costs $149 (through Dec. 25th) and is an intelligent, easy-to-use RAW processor that produces beautiful results.

It runs on Mac or Windows computers, can also fine-tune Tiffs and Jpegs, and supports camera and lens profiles for most popular hardware. In my case, all of my Canon, Olympus, and Panasonic gear had profiles.

And to be honest, I really like what it does to my RAW files.

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"Water" - TDS Photo Assignment 103

For the Oct. 2014 Photo Assignment, TDS shooters got their feet wet. See for yourself in our gallery, Water. And which one will be the SizzlPix Pick of the Month?

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Photo by Glenn Hubbers. Glenn writes, "I took this shot at sunrise after being out for half the night trying my hand at astrophotography. Despite going out to capture star trails, (which was a failure that will need more practice!) I decided to hang out to see the sunrise. After all was said and done, I thought this shot was the best of the trip. I had travelled for the weekend up to Tobermory, Ontario to get away from light pollution. It was a great trip, just me and my camera kit hanging out for the weekend." See all of the great images from this month's assignment by visiting the gallery, Water.


Participate in This Month's Assignment

The Dec. 2014 assignment is "Frozen." Details can be found on the Member Participation page. Deadline is Dec. 31, 2014. No limit on image size submitted.

Please follow the instructions carefully for labeling the subject line of the email for your submission. It's easy to lose these in the pile of mail if not labeled correctly. For example, the subject line for this month's assignment should be: "Photo Assignment: Dec. 2014." Also, if you can, please don't strip out the metadata. And feel free to add any IPTC data you wish (These fields in particular: Caption, Credit, Copyright, Byline), I use that for the caption info.

Gallery posting is one month behind the deadline. So I'm posting Oct. 2014 gallery at the end of Nov., the Nov. gallery will be posted at the end of Dec., and on and on.

Good luck with your December assignment, and congratulations to all of the fine contributors for October.


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Affordable Gifts for Photographers

Being a photographer, I know how difficult it can be to shop for one. For example, right now I would love to have the new Panasonic Lumix GM5 mirrorless camera. Unfortunately, it costs $897. I don't really have any friends who like me that much. (But, hey, the shipping is free!)

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But I do have folks in my circle who will spend $25, $50, or even $75 for something special. So I wrote the article 11 Great Gifts for Photographers - All Under $100 for those who care about the shooters in their lives, and want to get them a goodie for the holidays.

For example, did you know that you can get the versatile Lowepro Photo Hatchback 16L AW for $55? That will knock their Christmas socks off! And there's more...

Hop over to the lynda.com Article Center and peruse 11 Great Gifts for Photographers - All Under $100. It just might save you $800.

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