Wake up, shutterbugs. It’s time to capture those seemingly never-ending sunsets while you still have the chance. Too much work, you say? No, the photo gadgets and tools in this week’s Surf Report are all about streamlining the process, featuring capabilities from wireless image transfer to robust touch-up.
LYTRO GOES WIRELESS
By now, it’s become clear that the folks at Lytro ($399) are just toying with us. Back in 2011, they dazzled us with the wonder of light-field technology that introduced us to the concept of shoot now, focus later. Then came manual controls a year later, and perspective shift not too long after that. In time for summer shooting, Lytro just turned on yet another dormant feature: wireless uploading and sharing.
Along with hitting the switch on a stowaway wireless chip, the company introduced a mobile app for iOS devices (sorry Android fans, we live in an iOS-first world). It’s kind of crazy to think it took Lytro this long to drop an app, but it perfectly complements the newest hardware capability. With it, you can bypass Lytro’s desktop software. When your mobile device connects to the network broadcast by the wireless chip, it transfers the living photos, which can be refocused, to the app. There, images can also be shared to lytro.com, Facebook, Twitter, e-mail or text message.
Living pictures can also be saved as GIFs, animated based on the change in focus or perspective shift. (The latter only works on images that have been processed for perspective shift on the desktop app.) Unfortunately, you can’t share GIFs directly from the app.
The rise of mobile photography means people like to shoot fast. Lytro is all sorts of interesting, but it’s always retained a novelty status. For a photo portfolio, the image quality was subpar. But for an inline tweet, the quality is perfectly fine — plus, there’s the drama of the refocusing capability, adding a new dimension to shared media on Twitter and other social networks.
I have to say that early adopters of Lytro have been hugely rewarded by taking a chance with their purchase. This camera, already a gadget of the future, has so far proved to be future-proof.
REVIEWED.COM: Read a scientific review of the Lytro
EYE-FI’S NEW WIRELESS CARD
With Lytro out of the way, our next wireless items are going to look like chump change.
Eye-Fi, which lays claim to beating everyone in wireless photo transfers from cameras, introduced a new card in June. Mobi ($50 for 8GB, $80 for 16GB) is its new entry-level card, capable of transferring photos wirelessly to mobile devices. Perhaps if mobile sharing were easier, eliminating the PC from the equation, you might actually want to use your dedicated SLR, mirrorless or point-and-shoot — that’s the idea anyway. The card, which fits in cameras’ SD slots, broadcasts a wireless hotspot. Direct transfers are facilitated when your mobile device connects to it.
Mobi’s functionality isn’t anything new. The higher-end Pro X2 — geared toward pros supposedly, but not so in practice without a CF option — also has a wireless chip and can send files to mobile devices. At a much heftier price tag of $100, it’s also capable of uploading RAW files and transferring directly to computers and photo services.
BACK UP PHOTOS WIRELESSLY
Rounding out this trifecta of wireless photo transfers is Toshiba’s Canvio Connect (beginning $100).
Designed to facilitate easy backups, the connected drive uses software by online storage service PogoPlug to transfer files wirelessly. For Windows users, getting started is as easy as plugging the drive in. Those on Macs don’t necessarily have to reformat the NTFS drive because a bundled driver allows users to write directly to the Canvio Connect.
PogoPlug lets you leave the drive at home. So long as it is connected to a computer that’s online, users will be able to remotely access (and share) their photos, music, movies and other files. On top of the drive’s 500 GB to 2 TB of storage, the PogoPlug desktop software comes with an additional 10 GB of cloud storage.
Though the Canvio Connect uses USB 3.0, it isn’t the speediest wireless drive on the market, compared with Seagate’s Wireless Plug (which we reviewed back in February), for instance. But considering this is geared toward smartphone photos, the difference will be a matter of seconds. Surely, you won’t even notice because it’s all happening wirelessly and seamlessly.
ROBUST PHOTO TOOLS IN LIGHTROOM 5
Now that wireless technology has taken the hassle out of getting images from your camera, let’s talk photo management.
In June, Adobe dropped its latest version of Lightroom, my software of choice as a hobbyist photographer. Touting more powerful editing tools, Lightroom 5 is the ultimate photo assistant designed to make the lives of photographers easier.
New capabilities include the advanced healing brush, updated so you can paint over areas you want to retouch, as opposed to the old tool that only allowed photographers to heal in spots. Also freshly revamped is the upright tool, which now has auto controls. Prior, straightening tilted images meant adjusting a number of confusing sliders. This one-click solution takes the guesswork out of leveling images. The radiant gradient tool, meanwhile, lets photographers create off-center vignettes to draw attention to certain parts of a photo.
One of Lightroom’s best and most unexpected features is smart previews, which allows photographers to manage and edit images from a non-local photo library. This works because Lightroom generates stand-in files that are smaller than the originals. Adjustments made to the smart previews will be applied to the originals when the library’s drive is reconnected to the computer.
With the launch of Creative Cloud, pricing for Lightroom has gotten a bit tricky. Upgrades begin at $79, and the full version, which comes with a perpetual license, is available for $149. Lightroom 5 is also part of the Creative Cloud for $50 a month, and there is special promotional pricing for the membership as well.
LOW-PROFILE BAG FROM A HIGH-PROFILE PHOTOGRAPHER
Incase typically hits it home with its bags. Its DSLR Pro Pack is very much my go-to backpack for lugging around far too much equipment. But so far, its Ari Marcopoulos pack ($200) has proved to be a mixed bag.
Designed in collaboration with its namesake, an Amsterdam-born photographer whose work has been featured in the Whitney Museum of American Art and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the low-profile bag is designed to protect gear from the elements while making it accessible for spontaneous shooting. The exterior is made with a water-resistant heavy-duty canvas, and there’s even more protection with a removable rain fly that infuses a bit of the photographer by featuring one of his custom prints. A slick front flap with a magnetic enclosure also lets photographers easily reach for a camera or accessory from the main compartment.
This sling-meets-messenger can be a bit awkward to wear, unevenly balancing the deceivingly heavy weight of the bag and gear with its single strap. An oversized buckle lets you remove the bag quickly, but its plastic material goes against the aesthetics of the elegant gray canvas and seat belt strap.
Of course, this was designed not for you or me. It was designed for Ari himself, and for him, it’s the perfect bag to hold his: Canon 5D Mark II, zoom lens, Leica film camera, snapshot camera, chargers, batteries, memory cards, film canisters, markers, checkbook, lens cleaner, passport, headphones and iPad.
E-mail Alice Truong at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @alicetruong.