Category Archives: Reviews

Nik HDR Efex Pro First Impressions

Sunrise in Canyonlands, processed in Nik HDR Efex Pro

Nik Software has recently announced HDR Efex Pro, a new application for creating high dynamic range images.  The new software functions either as a stand-alone application or as a Photoshop/Lightroom/Aperture plug-in.  I’ve had a chance to demo the release (1.0) version of this software; this is my initial report.


Nik HDR Efex Pro is a native 64-bit application. It is not guaranteed to work under 32-bit operating systems, so be sure to download the demo before purchasing.


The HDR Efex Pro interface will be very familiar to users of other Nik plug-ins.  The left-hand side of the window contains a listing of starting point presets (with thumbnails), while editing controls are on the right.   There is a zoom (loupe) window in the lower right-hand corner that allows you to see your image at 100% as you move the cursor over the image.

The Nik HDR Efex Interface

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Hands-on with the 85mm f/1.4 AFS G Nikkor

The Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 AFS G on a Nikon D3s DSLR

Last month, Nikon announced a redesign of their legendary 85mm f/1.4 AF lens. The new model includes an internal silent-wave focusing motor (AFS design) and does away with the aperture ring (G designation). The new lens also adds Nikon’s proprietary “Nano-Crystal Coat,” which should improve contrast and reduce ghosting and flare in back-lit situations. Having received a copy of this lens from Roberts Imaging, here are my initial impressions of the new model. Disclaimer, I don’t spend a lot of time photographing brick walls, so I’m not going to try to dive into “absolute” optical performance. I will, however post some test shots and give feedback as to what I have seen so far using this lens. Continue reading Hands-on with the 85mm f/1.4 AFS G Nikkor

Are you sabotaging your workflow?

Back in the film days, workflow was pretty easy.  Shoot a roll of slides, send it in for processing, and then put the results on my light table and pick out the select few images to scan and print.   With film, many creative decisions were made for you.  Each film type had a particular look and feel to it; the color palettes and contrast responses varied between emulsions.  With film, what you saw in the slide was pretty much what you got out of a scan.  Moreover, with film, I shot far fewer images than I do now with digital.  The tangible cost component of film shooting kept the number of images down for most casual shooters.  Shoot a couple of 36-exposure rolls, pick the keepers, scan ’em and you’re done.  Scanning slides was a tedious enough process that I really only chose the best images to scan.

Today, we shoot hundreds or even thousands of images with our DSLRs and high-capacity memory cards.  Transferring these images to your computer only takes a few minutes, and there is no agonizing wait for film to return from the lab or the scanner to scan the slide/negative.  That means we’re quickly filling up our hard drives with images that may have never even made it into a slide sleeve in the film days.  Moreover, unless you shoot only JPEG, you are now the photo lab.  Instead of choosing a film type to get a particular “look,”  we have to process our own RAW files to achieve a desired result.  The prospect of processing thousands of files is intimidating, to say the least.

If you shoot for your own personal pleasure, I’d like to recommend simplifying your workflow.  Don’t put yourself into a position where you must process EVERY SINGLE FILE.  Simply put, you don’t need to.  Start by trying to get things right in your camera.  Choose the right white balance and get the exposure right.  Use camera settings that are appropriate for your subject– don’t shoot a portrait session using “VIVID” mode; you wouldn’t shoot a wedding with Velvia film, right?  Once you’re back from your shoot. be picky.  Choose the select few images that you really want to share, and only process those.  Not only will you save time in post, but your friends and family will appreciate that you didn’t bombard them with every variant of every shot in a 100MB email bomb!

For more on my workflow and how I have integrated modern tools with Capture NX2, sign up for my NEF-Centric workflow workshop!

Hands-on review: Nikon 16-35mm f/4.0 AFS VR G zoom lens

L to R: 14-24mm f/2.8, 16-35mm f/4 and 17-35 f/2.8 Nikkor zooms

I received my copy of the much-anticipated 16-35mm f/4.0 AFS VR G zoom Nikkor lens last week, and I have done some preliminary testing.  My basic tests fall into the following categories:

  • Build/Handling
  • Optical Performance
  • Comparisons with other lenses

For this test, I compared the new super wide-angle zoom with its Nikon competition for FX:

Both of these lenses are generally considered to be high-end “pro” glass, and they each cost significantly more than the 16-35mm VR.


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Going long: Shooting with the Nikkor 600/4 VR and TC-20EIII

Odell_20100212_5225.JPGI finally got a little time (and sunshine) to head out to the local nature center to fiddle around with my 600mm VR lens and try it with the TC-20E III.  When you are using long lenses, tripods are absolutely mandatory; hand-holding is not at all feasible (well, maybe if you pump iron like Ah-nold).

I started off with my normal combo for small birds: 600mm + TC-14E. This gives an effective 840mm focal length on my FX Nikon D3s. The TC-14E only costs one stop of light, so my lens behaves as though it were f/5.6 instead of f/4 when it is wide-open.  I’ve used this combination several times in the past, and it works really well.  I get sharp images and AF performance is still very fast and accurate.

Continue reading Going long: Shooting with the Nikkor 600/4 VR and TC-20EIII