We generally think of technology and the Internet as a good thing for photography: digital cameras continue to make more things possible at a higher quality than ever, and the Internet makes the dissemination of one’s work both easier and vastly more widespread than ever. Nonetheless, it’s not all positive, and this interesting interview takes an honest look at how things have changed.
Coming to you from L2inc, this great video features an interview with Rick Smolan. Smolan is a photojournalist who has worked with Time, Life, National Geographic, and more and is currently the CEO of Against All Odds Productions. He also recently released "The Good Fight: America’s Ongoing Struggle for Justice." Having worked as a photojournalist in the film era, he has a very interesting perspective on how technology has changed the landscape for photographers. While ultra-connectivity has certainly made aspects of a photojournalist’s job easier, the financial viability of the profession has eroded. As Host Scott Galloway points out, it seems that the inherent value of such imagery has gradually been siphoned from the photographer to the platforms that distribute it. The interview is pretty enlightening and a great watch.
You can buy "The Good Fight: America’s Ongoing Struggle for Justice" here.
Having just reviewed both WD My Passport Wireless SSD and the original Gnarbox, I came to the conclusion that both were half-baked solutions (with each having its own list of pros and cons) due to all the performance, hardware and software issues I encountered. It looks like while I was busy reviewing the Gnarbox, the team behind the product was already busy releasing the next iteration, “Gnarbox 2.0 SSD”. After looking at the details of this major release, it appears that most of my concerns have been addressed.
First of all, the performance of the built-in SD card reader has been pushed all the way to 75 MB/sec, which is impressive compared to the original Gnarbox that could barely push 22 MB/sec. According to the released benchmarks, this should put it ahead of the speed of the WD My Passport Wireless SSD. Second, the new Gnarbox 2.0 now features a USB Type C connection, which should make it a breeze to connect with the latest laptops, as well as provide the ability to transfer data at up to 450 MB/sec. Third, storage concerns have also been addressed – now you can get Gnarbox in 512 GB and 1 TB configurations, which means that you no longer have to carry an extra storage device to fit your data needs when traveling. Fourth, the software has been completely revamped, allowing Gnarbox 2.0 to integrate with Adobe Premiere, Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic, LumaFusion and Dropbox.
You can now cull through your photos and rank them, which saves the metadata in sidecar XMP files, so that the information gets transferred over to your image editing platform of choice. For those who shoot video, it will be possible to export edits to XML Project files, so that the data can be imported back into Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro software. Fifth, there are now buttons and a small LCD screen on the device itself, which allow one to back up data without having to connect any device, simplifying the backup process:
Sixth, for those, who want to preview or showcase their photos and video, it will be possible to output their work to an external display or a TV screen via the provided HDMI port. Seventh, the Gnarbox 2.0 will be IP67-Certified, allowing the device to be submerged into water up to 1 meter deep for 30 minutes without damage, as well as protecting the device against dust and debris. Just like its predecessor, it will be shock-proof as well. Eight, its battery will be easily replaceable, something that was not possible on the original Gnarbox:
And lastly, the Gnarbox 2.0 will feature Intel’s 2.4 Ghz Atom processor with up to 4 GB of RAM, which makes it a pretty powerful device for its size. To make sure that the device does not suffer from overheating issues like its predecessor, Gnarbox engineers designed the chassis with much better heat dissipation – there are now heatsinks installed right above the main board:
Speaking of the chassis, it is now a little longer in size, but slightly narrower as well compared to the original, which should make it easier to pack it in a camera bag, or carry inside a pocket.
As you can see, the Gnarbox 2.0 is a whole different beast compared to its predecessor. This is not an incremental update that we are used to seeing in most other products – the Gnarbox 2.0 is a completely new platform with pretty large updates to make it an appealing choice for traveling photographers.
And here is the live demo of the product from one of the Gnarbox founders:
For now, Gnarbox 2.0 is only available for backing on Kickstarter, so if you want to jump in on an early deal, you can back the project through different options from $299 for the 128 GB version, all the way to $599 for the 1 TB version (no longer available, but you can get the 1 TB model + extra battery for $699). Gnarbox has announced the project today and they have already far surpassed their goal of raising $180K ($316K at the time of writing this announcement), so this product is most likely going to see the light of the day, something many other Kickstarter projects often fail to do. As of today, it looks like the product is set to ship at the end of 2018.
Here is a comparison of the Gnarbox to its main competitor MyPassport Wireless SSD, along with other laptops:
Below is an official press release from the company:
(Los Angeles, CA) – MYGNAR INC., the developer of rugged backup devices for cameras, proudly announces aKickstarter campaign to support the development of the second generation of their core product GNARBOX, launching globally on April 3rd, 2018.
GNARBOX 2.0 SSD is a rugged backup device for content creators who prefer to travel without a laptop. Unlike other portable hard drives, GNARBOX has assembled an ecosystem of mobile applications that serve the professional workflow from the field to the studio.
“We believe in making the creative process easier for anyone with a camera. Since the launch of GNARBOX 1.0, we’ve worked with our active community of photographers and videographers to understand the goals of content creators.” said Tim Feess, co-founder and CEO of MyGnar Inc. “GNARBOX 2.0 SSD is designed for professionals who want to reliably back up their cards in the field and advance their mobile editing workflow. The goal is leave your laptop at home and streamline a process that can otherwise be a burden to creativity. With this product, you can get more work done in the field so you spend less time at home in front of your computer. It’s water, shock, and dust resistant, yet packed with the power to review RAW photos and render ProRes videos while in the field.” continued Feess.
Since shipment of its first units in Spring 2017, GNARBOX is quickly becoming the industry-standard mobile workflow platform for on-the-go content creators. The market for backup devices has expanded in early 2018 with the introduction of the Western Digital MyPassport Wireless Pro SSD and LaCie DJI CoPilot. GNARBOX 2.0 SSD will be the highest-powered, most versatile, premium option on the market. With software tools for creative independence, hands-on customer support, and the most third party integrations on the market, GNARBOX has demonstrated its clear position as the leader in this space.
New to the redesigned GNARBOX is an on-box OLED display and button array, allowing users to backup files faster than ever before. When a card is detected, the box prompts you to kick off a transfer with the single press of a button. With a second tap, you can direct the transfer to a preset folder tree for automatic organization. This new tool is designed to save creators meaningful time in the field, and add needed reliability to their creative process.
GNARBOX 2.0 SSD is proud to offer key integrations with widely-used software tools, including LumaFusion, AdobePremiere Pro, Adobe Lightroom and Dropbox:
GNARBOX + LumaFusion Integration: GNARBOX integrates with LumaFusion by leveraging its processing power in support of the most powerful multi-track timeline video editor available on iOS.
GNARBOX + Adobe Premiere Pro/Final Cut Pro Integration: GNARBOX integrates with Adobe Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro to create a frictionless video editing workflow that starts in the field and follows you back to your production studio.
GNARBOX + Adobe Lightroom Integration: GNARBOX integrates with Adobe Lightroom CC to create a direct connection to the industry-leading photography app.
GNARBOX + Dropbox Integration: GNARBOX can sync folders with Dropbox to create a seamless transition to your cloud storage.
GNARBOX is also launching four new mobile applications with the 2.0 product:
Safekeep: The most powerful field backup experience, with tailored file/folder organization and sleek tools to manage file movement across your devices.
Selects: Super-fast preview of RAW photos, making it easy to mark your selects with EXIF metadata and prepare for editing in Lightroom Classic/CC.
Sequence: An accelerated rough-cut assembly app that acts as a bridge to Industry-Standard editing tools like Premiere Pro and FinalCut Pro. You can review videos, prepare bins, and send your sequences to your favorite timeline editor with the widely-used XML format.
Showcase: The laptop-free way to project your photos and videos on a big screen, wherever you are.
Complete Technical and Hardware Specifications of GNARBOX 2.0 SSD:
CPU: Intel Quad Core, 2.40GHz
GPU: 4 Core Intel HD Graphics GPU
WiFi: 867mbps 802.11 ac/b/g/n
RAM: 2-4GB LPDDR3
Storage: NVMe SSD up to 1TB
SD Card Backup: 75-100MB/sec write speeds
USB-C Backup: 400-500MB/sec read/write speeds
Ports: 2x USB-C, SD & microHDMI
Battery: 3200mAh 7.4v removable lithium ion
Battery Life: 5 hours backup / 3 hours editing
Weather-Sealing: IP67, Waterproof to 1m for 30 minutes
Dimensions: 6” x 3” x 1.16” / ~1.1lb
GNARBOX 2.0 SSD will offer several storage capacities in association with special pricing for Kickstarter rewards throughout the campaign, which are listed below along with MSRP:
GNARBOX 2.0 SSD (128GB) – $399 USD
GNARBOX 2.0 SSD (256GB) – $499 USD
GNARBOX 2.0 SSD (512GB) – $599 USD
GNARBOX 2.0 SSD (1TB) – $999 USD
Each pledge for a GNARBOX 2.0 on Kickstarter will receive an extra battery along with a USB-C to C cable and custom wall plug for superfast charging. With a Kickstarter goal of $180,000, MyGnar intends to begin manufacturing in September 2018 and shipping to backers in December 2018. International pledges are encouraged as the product will ship globally.
Three years after the first successful Kickstarter for the original GNARBOX (now aptly titled GNARBOX 1.0) whichraised over $500,000 in 30 days, the brand has developed a strong, supportive community of experienced content creators; ranging from professional photographers, videographers, adventure/travel bloggers and even field reporters and journalists.
“GNARBOX 2.0 is a tool that we expect to be in everyone’s camera bag before long,” said Will Africano co-founder and CMO of MyGnar Inc. “We’ve heard from many of the industry’s most decorated photographers and videographers, our own community of GNARBOX users on live chat and Facebook, and the YouTube reviewers who helped share our story. We’re confident in how innovative 2.0 will be for the world of creators.
”GNARBOX prides itself on offering unparalleled customer service which includes personal one-on-one guidance and assistance from their internal teams who maintain expertise in media production workflows and troubleshooting. In addition, GNARBOX also crafts workflow-specialist-led tutorials and reviews designed to support the skills and development journey of a streamlined content creator via Youtube.
An active community of production industry experts also supports the GNARBOX Ecosystem with reviews and testimonials, including support from Chris Burkard, UnboxTherapy, Peter McKinnon and PhotoJoseph. GNARBOX Insiders, a forum-like Facebook community, gathers creative individuals dedicated to streamlining their workflows; connecting GNARBOX users and sharing their latest content and workflow tips and tricks. Insiders also provides an exclusive look at software and product releases before they are publicly announced.
In 2017, the GNARBOX Pro Team was introduced as a group of photo/video professionals who are both creators as well as educators. As Pro Team members, they actively aid in creating public conversations around GNARBOX, and provide GNARBOX-related education at workshops and industry events. The original device is now referred to as GNARBOX 1.0 with differentiating storage versions of 128GB or 256GB. This entry-level GNARBOX will continue to be supported and will see the same software improvements from future 2.0 software releases and updates. GNARBOX 2.0 SSD will provide significant improvements to backup speeds, transcoding times and on-board functionality that are not available to GNARBOX 1.0. There are currently no plans for an upgrade or trade-in program. With single-step backup, fast file review and culling, and integrated access to professional editing software, GNARBOX 2.0 SSD will save content creators time and make them more reliable creators.
NOTE:This update spreads across the whole Lightroom universe: It’s for Lightroom Classic, Lightroom CC, Lightroom Mobile and even Camera Raw over in Photoshop.
Adobe just changed the way we work in the Develop Module forever, and it’s awesome! So much to share, so let’s just get right to it:
OTHER NOTE:If you’re a KelbyOne member, we’re releasing a full-length in-depth course today on this new update to Lightroom featuring the new workflow, all the profile stuff, and more to get you up and running fast!
A Profile-Based Workflow If you read this first, it will make all this make that much more sense. When you shoot in JPEG mode, your camera applies all sorts of edits to your image right in the camera — everything from adding lots of contrast, sharpening, vibrance, noise reduction — a whole bunch of stuff to create a fully processed nice-looking image pretty much ready to share.
When you switch your camera to shoot in RAW, you’re telling your camera, “Turn off all that contrast, sharpening, vibrance, noise reduction, and so on, and just give me the flat-looking RAW image my camera captured. I’ll add that all contrast, and sharpening stuff myself later in Lightroom.” However, the image you see on the back of your camera (and the one that first appears on screen in Lightroom) is still a JPEG (that sharper, more colorful, more awesome-looking image). Then, in Lightroom, you see the word “Loading” on screen. That’s it rendering the actual RAW image. When it does this, it needs to use some math to interpret this RAW image, and since the beginning of Lightroom (nearly 11 years ago), by default, it has applied a RAW profile called “Adobe Standard.” It’s a very accurate rendering of your image tonally, but also a very flat-looking starting place for tweaking your RAW image. I’ve joked for years at my Lightroom seminar that this Adobe Standard profile is misnamed — it should have been called ‘Adobe Dull’ because the resulting RAW image looks…well…dull. Nothing like the JPEG preview you saw on the back of your camera.
By the way — you could see this color profile (and even apply a different profile — more on this in a moment) in the Camera Calibration panel, and the reason to do this was to make your RAW image look more like that colorful, vibrant, contrasty JPEG you saw on the back of your camera.
Today, Adobe fixed that. And then some!
Today we have a new default profile for our RAW images called Adobe Color, and it’s a much more pleasing starting place, but that’s just the start. First, Adobe moved access to the profiles to the right at the top of the Basic Panel (where I believe they belonged from the start).
Above: Now right near the top of the Basic Panel you can change your Color Profile — and yes, you could change your profiles back in the Camera Calibration Panel, but these new Adobe RAW profiles are significantly better than the legacy profiles that were previously available. For example, here’s what Adobe says describing this new default RAW profile:
“Adobe Color was designed to greatly improve the look and rendering of warm tones, improving the transitions between certain color ranges, and slightly increasing the starting contrast of your photos. Since Adobe Color is the new default (but only for newly imported photos), it was designed to work on the widest range of photos and ensures that regardless of the subject, your photo will look great.”
I think they did a great job with this profile. It is noticeably better without making your image look overly processed. It’s not a night-and-day difference from Adobe Standard (and that’s a good thing — if it looks a lot different, it wouldn’t be an accurate rendition of the RAW image your camera captured), but it’s certainly a better-looking more modern interpretation of the RAW image.
The other Adobe RAW profiles are all a big step up, compared to the original RAW profiles we’ve been using for 11 years, which are still accessible through the Profile Browser (seen at the top of this post).
To access these new profiles, just choose “Browse” from the Profile pop-up menu at the top of the Basic Panel (as seen here), or click the icon with four tiny rectangles to the far right of the Profiles pop-up menu (circled in red above).
More than just RAW profiles — Creative Profiles!!!!
Adobe just dipped it’s big toe (and maybe an entire leg or two), into creating “looks” — one click effects that are more like Filters. Here’s why: Presets move sliders to preset locations for you, right? These don’t. You can apply a Creative Profile, and it doesn’t move a single slider, so you get these cool looks, and then you can still tweak to your heart’s content using all of Lightroom’s tools. This is a whole new world, and I love it!!! (Note: these use a form of color look-up tables to make their magic happen).
Above: One thing I love about these profiles is that you can hover your cursor over them and it gives you an on-screen preview of how the profile would look it you applied it (as seen here).
Holy Cow there’s an Amount Slider!
With these Creative Profiles, you can control the amount of the effect of each profile (just the Creative Profiles — not the Adobe Raw profiles) — it’s right at the top of the Profile Browser. Click on the Thumbnail to apply the look, then use the Amount slider to dial in just the right amount.
Really nice B&W Profiles are here, too!
These are pretty awesome (and just to note: the B&W panel is missing from the HSL / Color panel — now it only appears when you choose a B&W profile. When you close the Profile Browser, you’ll see that where the HSL / Color panel used to be is now the B&W panel).
Look! The Dehaze slider is finally where it belongs
It’s moved from the Effects panel to the Basic panel (right below Clarity). No more “out of sight, out of mind” for this brilliant slider.
The Tone Curve is larger to make working with it easier, and the algorithm for the Face Tagging feature has been improved (that’s a win because…well…ya know). Plus, lots of bug fixes, new camera, and new lens support.
Lightroom Mobile Gets Some New stuff, too!
Like a new Geometry panel where IOS (iPhone) users will find the Upgright Feature, and even Guided Upright (yes, in Mobile, but the Mobile app is called Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC). Android users instead get the Sharpening and Noise Reduction panels (already in the IOS version, but not the profile stuff yet as far as I can tell. The Android version always lags, feature-wise, the IOS version which was developed first).
Hope you found that helpful.
If you’ve been waiting for the update of my Lightroom book…it’s on the printing press now!
We’ve known this new workflow was coming for a while now, so we intentionally delayed publishing the book until now. We didn’t want to release a version of the book earlier and have it already become obsolete today — so this new version, with all the new profile and all the latest features is already at the printers and should be out soon. This is my biggest update to the book EVER, and it includes the most updated version of my Simplified Lightroom Image Management (SLIM) System, too!
Heads up KelbyOne members — my new Lightroom course on all this comes out today!
I cover all the new stuff in-depth and how to make the most of this new workflow. Lots of cool stuff to share in that course. Over at KelbyOne.com
P.S. I’m off to Venice, Italy today. Whoo Hoo!! Follow my trip and pics over on my Facebook and Twitter pages.
While a lot more than camera gear goes into making those movies look the way they do, the fact that professional filmmakers are using cameras that many of us keep in our pockets is a pretty encouraging sign when it comes to what we should be able to produce.
I wanted to test out just what you can do to improve your phone’s photo- and video-taking abilities, so I tried out a few different things: some add-on lenses, a microphone, and a stabilizer. You can see the results in the video above.
One thing I was particularly interested in was add-on lenses, which fit on top of your phone’s existing lens to provide a different field of view and potentially even better image quality. The best known of these come from Moment, but Moment’s lenses are expensive — they’re around $90 to $100. So I also tried out some cheaper lenses from no-name companies on Amazon.
It turns out, you really do get what you pay for. Here’s some of the differences:
Left: Ztylus Switch 6 fisheye lens / Right: Moment 2nd gen superfish lens (photos taken a few hours apart)
Macro shot of tree notch. Left: Amir clip-on lens / Right: Moment 2nd gen macro lens
Left: Ztylus Switch 6 tele / Right: Moment 2nd gen tele
So yeah, if you’re serious about getting more out of your phone’s camera, those photos should make it obvious that it’s worth paying more — in all cases, Moment’s lenses were brighter, sharper, and nicer to look at. That said, if you’re just curious about what add-on lenses can do and want to explore some fun effects, I don’t think you’d be too upset with the cheap lenses, so long as you don’t spend much more than $10. The three-lens kit that I got was only $12, and I probably got $12 of fun out of it. I just wouldn’t shoot anything too important with them.
Portable hard drives are no longer just boxes that let you carry large amounts of data on the go. They now aim to be hubs around which your mobile life is centered, offering card ingestion and backup, device charging, wireless access, streaming, and more. Western Digital recently upgraded their My Passport Wireless line with an SSD version. Check out our review!
Capacity: 250 GB – 2 TB SSD
USB 2.0 host port for card readers and battery charging
Built-in SD 3.0 card reader
6,700 mAh battery with up to 10 hours battery life
Drop protection bumper
LED lights for battery, Wi-Fi, and transfer status
802.11ac/n wireless (5 GHz and 2.4 GHz)
Output: 12 W, 2.4 A
Dimensions: 5.3″ x 5.3″ x 1.2″
Weight: 1 lbs
Warranty: 2 years
SSD Speed: listed read speed of up to 390 MB/s
SD reader speed: up to 65 MB/s
Appearance and Setup
The My Passport Wireless SSD is solid, and in between the rubber bumper and SSD internals (lending it greater durability), I have no doubt it can withstand a bump or two (WD rates it to drops of a meter). The drive itself is a light gray color and the dark gray and orange bumper accents it well. All ports and buttons are flush with the exterior, which helps to protect them. The drive also comes with a power adapter and 18-inch USB 3.0 cable.
Setup is exceedingly straightforward and can be done either via the app or at your computer. The drive comes with a sticker that shows its internal network name and the passkey (note: the Wi-Fi is passthrough, so if you connect to it, you can still browse the Internet). I simply connected to the drive’s Wi-Fi network on my Mac, headed to the URL on the quick setup card, and landed on the administration dashboard.
Dashboard and App Interface
The web interface is straightforward and gives you a good overview of the drive’s capacity and basic stats. Within the dashboard, you can configure Wi-Fi behavior, FTP access, security, battery usage optimization, the Plex server, card import behavior, and more. You can also update firmware or reset the device from this interface, which makes it very easy to configure the drive exactly as you please.
The mobile app has an equally straightforward interface. You can adjust almost all the same settings as the desktop version, and you can also have the drive automatically back up your phone’s videos and photos should you so choose. What’s particularly cool is the ability to preview raw files and edit them in a mobile raw editor such as Lightroom. So, if you’re shooting a wedding and want to fire off a quick shot to social media between the ceremony and reception, you can access the files you’ve already backed up via the built-in card reader, edit the shot to taste, export, and post without ever touching a computer.
What makes the My Passport Wireless SSD so useful are all the extra features that make it an all-in-one hub for photographers/videographers on the go or simply someone who travels a lot. For example, I could load videos to watch on the drive, then use the VLC app to connect to it and watch anything on my iPhone or iPad. In practice, this worked flawlessly (the device will even stream 4K video) and was a great way to not take up precious space on my phone with bulky videos. If you want to really dig deep into media management, you can also set up a Plex server on the device. In practice, I had no problem doing without this, though; I simply copied whatever I wanted to watch or listen to to the drive and all my devices had no problem seeing the drive and playing media from it.
The device can also charge devices using its host USB port, and in practice, it still has plenty of power to spare. For example, I could charge my iPhone 7 Plus’ 2,900 mAh battery from completely dead to fully charged and still have over 5.5 hours of battery life left in the device, which means you can really rely on it to top off devices when you need it and not lose the ability to work. For example, if you’re a wedding photographer, you can pop in a card to back up on the way to the reception and top off your phone while in the process.
The drive also comes with security features as well, including a drive lock that prevents USB access in case you ever lose it or it’s stolen. It can also act as a Wi-Fi hub for up to eight devices. If the drive is not connected over USB, any USB device you connect to the drive’s host port is also shared automatically over its network. If the drive is connected over USB, it acts as a card reader for connected devices and cards (it can also do this with cards over Wi-Fi).
While the non-SSD version of the drive performed quite well, the big news here is of course the new SSD and the blazing speeds it brings along with it, which should make any photographer or videographer quite happy. Below are tests with the Black Magic Design Disk Speed Test app and various file transfers. To note: transferring via SD or a connected card reader is as easy as can be. I have my drive set to automatically ingest new files only as soon as a card or reader is connected, which keeps things running efficiently. The built-in LEDs show the status of the transfer (they can also show battery life).
USB 3.0 Computer Connection
In practice, this matched the speeds I experienced. When I attempted to write over about 3 GB of data in one pass, the drive would slow down by maybe 30 percent, but was still very fast. It makes for very quick work.
5 GHz Wi-Fi and Computer Connection
Built-in SD Card Reader (3.2 GB, 89 Raw Files)
Transfer from card to drive: 0:57 (56 MBps)
USB 2.0 Host Port Connected to Card Reader
Transfer from card to drive: 2:03 (26 MBps)
The hard drive comes with a 12 W (5.1 V at 2.4 A) power adapter, giving a recharge time of just under 3 hours. Western Digital rates battery life at about 10 hours, and in practice, that’s about what I got out of it. This means it’s easily possible to make it through a day of shooting, creating backups, charging my phone, and more.
What I Liked
High level of customization
Easy, automatic backup
Lightning fast compared to normal hard drives
Can function as external battery, card reader, and Wi-Fi hub and create network shares
Fast and reliable performance
What I Didn’t
Non-SD card backup is about half as fast due to USB 2.0 port
Conclusion and Purchase
The thing I appreciate about the Western Digital My Passport Wireless SSD is that all the features are truly useful and not just gimmicks. For any photographer who travels or needs backup in the field (wedding, travel, and sports photographers would particularly appreciate this), the drive performs well enough to keep up and lasts all day. Add in the SSD and it becomes a very high performance drive when you’re back in front of your computer. I definitely recommend it; it’s one of my most used tools. You can purchase yours here.
As photographers, we heavily rely on computers to store, edit, backup and export our work. While it is nice to be able to work from home or from our offices, many of us have to count on using more portable solutions in the field. As a result, those of us who frequently travel to remote locations often end up using portable laptops. However, laptops are large, heavy, fragile and they require power to work for more than a few hours. What if one could replace a laptop with a smaller, lighter, water-resistant and shockproof device that is designed to be able to edit content on the go? That’s where Gnarbox comes into play.
Initially funded by a very successful Kickstarter campaign, Gnarbox is essentially designed to replace a laptop. This means that the device is equipped with its own mini-computer, storage, memory card slots, RAM and enough ports to be able to charge the device and transfer data. It is a relatively small and lightweight device that measures 5.3 x 3.4 x 1″ (13.5 x 8.6 x 2.5 cm) and weighs just 1 lb (0.5 kg). It features Intel’s 1.92GHz Quad Core CPU, has 2 GB of RAM and provides two memory card slots (SD and microSD). For external media connections (to be able to connect CF, CFast or XQD memory cards via an external memory card reader) and for connecting additional storage, two USB ports are provided (1x USB 3.0 and 1x USB 2.0). Speaking of storage, the cheaper Gnarbox configuration sports a total of 128 GB of flash storage, but there is also a 256 GB model for those who need more built-in storage. Gnarbox is powered by a built-in rechargeable battery and it is supposed to last 4-6 hours depending on how the unit is used. The nice thing about Gnarbox, is that one can charge it with a Micro USB cord, so it is possible to recharge the unit with either an external battery pack, or by connecting it to a standard USB wall outlet that often comes with your phone. While the Gnarbox does not have a built-in LCD display, it is designed to be used along with a phone or a tablet that runs either iOS or Android operating systems.
Below are the key specifications for Gnarbox:
1.92 GHz Intel Quad Core
Quad Core Intel HD Graphics GPU
2 GB of RAM
128 GB / 256 GB of eMMC Flash Memory
1x USB 3.0 Type-A, 1x USB 2.0 Type-A, 1x micro USB 3.0, 1x SD, 1x microSD
Read: Up to 270 MB/s, Write: Up to 100 MB/s
Dual Band 802.11 a/b/g/n, 300 Mb/s
Shock, dust and water resistant
H.264 (.mp4 and .mov)
Up to 4K
Up to 240 fps
JPEG and RAW (Sony, Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Fuji and Olympus RAW Support)
iOS and Android
Realtime, hardware accelerated up to 4K
5.3 x 3.4 x 1″ / 13.5 x 8.6 x 2.5 cm
1.0 lb / 0.5 kg
As you can see, the Gnarbox looks great on paper. But how does it hold up in the field? I had a chance to use the Gnarbox for a few weeks and I have some both positive and negative feedback to share on it.
Charging the Gnarbox
Charging the Gnarbox is pretty easy. There is only one micro USB cable provided with the unit, so you simply plug one end into the micro USB end on the device, while plugging the other end into any USB Type A port. This means that you can charge the Gnarbox with pretty much any power source – whether it is the USB port of your laptop, a solar panel, or even an external battery pack. The more powerful the charging source, the faster it can charge the Gnarbox. Ideally, you should provide at least 1 AMP of power. During charging, the second LED indicator will turn blue and will stay blue until the unit is fully charged. Once full, the blue LED light will blink.
While it is helpful to have the two LED lights, I personally would prefer some other way of providing information to the end user. Perhaps a small, low-power LCD screen would have been more helpful. Otherwise, you will have to refer to the provided “LED Indicator Meanings” table in the manual, or the manual within the app to see what’s going on with the unit.
It is important to note that per Gnarbox “Best Practices” document, one should not attempt to transfer any files or connect external hard drives while the unit is charging. So I would recommend to charge the unit before doing anything serious on it!
Using the Gnarbox
The Gnarbox is designed to be easy to use, with its minimal interface and buttons. In fact, the unit literally has one button that is used for powering on, powering off and resetting the device, and as I have already indicated, there are two LED status lights. To power on the unit, you push the power on / off button and hold it for one second. The first LED light will blink yellow and red and after 35 seconds or so, the unit should be fully powered up, with the first LED light staying green.
At this point, the unit is ready to receive external connections over WiFi. All you have to do is fire up the Gnarbox app (available for both iOS and Android platforms) and start the connection. Let’s go over the app in detail.
Upon first launch, you will be presented with a tutorial that you can go through, which is nice for a first-time user. After you go through the screens, the app will ask you to connect to the Gnarbox WiFi access point, so you will need to visit WiFi settings and connect (the password to the Gnarbox is provided on the box). Once connected, the app will check if Gnarbox has the latest firmware. On my unit, the app showed that there was an update 1.7.4 available, while the unit had version 1.6.0 on it. The update did not take very long and the unit was on the latest and greatest firmware in less than a minute, as shown below:
Abusing the Gnarbox
Gnarbox is designed to be used and abused in the field. As I have already pointed out earlier, the device is nicely weather-sealed to withstand tough weather conditions. I tried submerging it into shallow water and the rubber seals that protect the ports worked very nicely, protecting anything from getting in. This means that the unit should be able to stay protected from the elements when traveling, even at high levels of humidity. Obviously, once the port doors are open, the unit is no longer protected, so I would discourage using the device with any external cables plugged into the unit, since water could still get through. I only have a very slight complaint – because the doors are tightly sealed, it takes a bit of effort to get them to open. I almost broke a nail while trying to prop one of the doors open. After that, I used a coin or my car keys to open it up. Not a huge deal, especially considering how well the ports are protected, but definitely worth pointing out.
The specifications of the camera point out that Gnarbox works with a number of different RAW file formats from different manufacturers. The list is limited to Canon, Nikon, Sony, Panasonic, Fuji and Olympus cameras, but I would not be surprised if it works with other brands as well. I wondered how Gnarbox was able to bring compatibility to RAW images – after-all, RAW file demosaicing is not a simple process and it requires a proper RAW converter. Having recently received the Fuji X-H1, I thought I would give it a try. While most other software cannot properly read RAW files from the newest cameras, I wondered if Gnarbox would be able to. I put an SD card into Gnarbox with a few RAW files and opened up the SD card in my phone:
To my surprise, I was able to see all the image thumbnails of RAW files from the X-H1, which is pretty cool! However, after touching the “Edit” button on the top right corner, it turned out that the actual RAW converter was not able to digest the contents of the RAW file:
That’s understandable, since the camera is very new and RAW support will probably arrive later on. When I initially saw the thumbnails, I knew that Gnarbox was reading the embedded JPEG images within the RAW file and if the software was able to actually allow me to edit the RAW file, it would most likely mean that only embedded JPEG images were being processed. The fact that the RAW file did not load means that Gnarbox is actually using a real RAW converter to work with the RAW data, which is nice.
I repeated the same test with images from the Sony A6500 and this time the Editing feature worked like a charm. The Gnarbox software is nothing close to what Lightroom mobile can do, which is I guess expected. Below are the list of sliders that are available:
In addition, you can change orientation and perform basic cropping, although it is impossible to adjust tilting from the software.
So, how well does the RAW processor work? Unfortunately, it is not great, not anywhere close to what you can do with many other editing tools out there, even on phones / tablets. After playing with one RAW file for a little bit, here is what I was able to achieve:
First of all, the software down-sampled the original resolution from 6000×4000 to 4096×2736 pixels. Second, despite my attempts to keep highlights preserved, I clearly could not make an image that was bright enough in the foreground without blowing out the sky. Third, the resulting image contained a lot of JPEG artifacts, despite having a rather large image size of 6.2 MB.
Now, for a comparison, take a look at the below image that I edited in Lightroom in about 30 seconds, with very basic adjustments:
The above looks significantly better, since Lightroom has excellent image editing capabilities in comparison. The image contains more details, all highlight information is preserved and it has more punch to it. With Gnarbox, there is not even a way to add sharpening to the final image…
Obviously, it is not fair to compare what one can do in phone software vs full-featured desktop software, but that’s another reason why I personally don’t edit anything on my phone. If I were to edit on an iPad or a laptop, I know that I could get pretty similar results as the above using Lightroom.
All this basically means that the image editing capabilities of the software are quite limited. For me, the software is way too basic. In addition, I did not like editing images while looking at a pretty small thumbnail – I wish there was a way to change the orientation of the software to be able to take advantage of more screen space. In fact, the software only works in portrait mode and it has a number of bugs with non-standard resolutions (more on bugs below).
One of the most important features of Gnarbox, is the ability to edit video footage all the way to 4K. Having recently traveled to New Zealand, I was able to capture a bunch of footage of different places using the DJI Mavic Air drone, so I thought it would be a good idea to see what I could get out of the Gnarbox when doing editing of 4K footage.
After inserting a microSD card with the video footage, I was able to browse to the card to see the files. Even though I was using a pretty fast SanDisk Extreme-series card, it took a very long time to render previews. When attempting to look at some footage without rendering anything, I got some messages, such as “Processing, playback may be choppy”, as seen below:
Indeed, the process took a while and the playback was very choppy. I realized that it would be much faster if I were to move the contents of the microSD card into the Gnarbox, so I started the copy process before waiting for the rendering job to complete. I am not sure if it was the combination of the rendering process plus copy or something else, but boy, transferring around 40 GB of video footage took quite a bit of time. By the time the copy process was done, the battery level on the Gnarbox was at 56% – far less than the promised 4-6 hours of usage time.
Once the whole process was complete, everything worked much faster. I was able to view some clips, cut them and load them into the “Reel”, and editing the video footage was a breeze. From this regard, I personally liked Gnarbox’s video editing features to be of more use compared to image editing. Gnarbox provided the same controls for video editing as image editing, so it was great to be able to make quick adjustments without loading footage into either Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro on a computer. At the end of the process, I was able to export the video right into my iPhone’s camera roll at different resolutions from 720p to 4K, which was nice, because it meant that I could upload it to social media directly:
Exporting worked out great and I was able to extract footage in both 1080p and 4K formats. Below is sample footage of 4K video from the DJI Mavic Air:
I will let you be the judge of the quality. I think the overall footage looks decent, although to be honest, I would only use the Gnarbox to post something quick to social media. I would still prefer to use a computer for proper video editing, where I can fine tune the footage, do proper transitions between clips, position video clips with audio tracks better, etc.
In short, Gnarbox yet again loses to dedicated video editing software on a computer. The end result is decent and usable, but not for working on a polished, finished product. Personally, I would avoid using Gnarbox for anything other than previews and snapshots…
Gnarbox as a Backup Solution
So far, it looks like Gnarbox is a half-baked solution for image and video editing. But what about its use as a backup solution? I wanted to test the Gnarbox in two scenarios: when backing up to the Gnarbox internal storage (which is quite limited, especially on a 128 GB model) and when backing up images to an external hard drive.
For the first test, I used a 128 GB SD card (fastest UHS-I card, 95 MB/sec read and write speeds) to transfer approximately 53 GB of RAW images to the Gnarbox (uncompressed RAW files from the Sony A7R III). I started at 64% battery level. The whole process took a total of 45 minutes and 27 seconds, which is abysmal compared to what I could get on a computer with an SD card reader. In fact, I repeated the same test on my computer and copying the files from the same card only took 10 minutes and 55 seconds total – a 4.5x difference in speed! I am not exactly sure what caused such slow transfer speeds, but I cannot imagine waiting for one memory card to take an hour to transfer images – that’s just not practical. And keep in mind, that the 128 GB SD card was not even half full – if I were to attempt transferring 128 GB of data, I would have to wait almost two hours. Let’s also not forget about the battery drain. By the time all files finished copying, my battery level went from 64% to 38% – that’s almost a drop of one third of the charge. This means that if I had three 64 GB memory cards, by the time I was done backing up all the data, it would have pretty much drained the whole battery.
For the second test, I used the same SD card to copy the contents to external storage. I attached a fast Samsung Portable SSD drive to the USB 3.0 port and selected the destination. I was really hoping that this time the copy process would be faster, but I was seriously wrong. By the time I reached 25%, it already took over 11 minutes. Simple math calculation showed that even with an external hard drive, I was looking at 45+ minutes of copy time.
Lastly, I am not a big fan of the way that the Gnarbox backs up storage media. In order to back up the files, one has to either navigate to the folder structure, pick a folder and start the copy process, or go to thumbnails, select everything and then start the process. Instead of this routine, I would prefer to have a one-click solution, where one is able to select the source (SD, microSD or any other card from a reader) the destination (Gnarbox or external storage) and simply click a “Backup” or “Copy” button to start the backup process. It is nice to have the option to select some files to copy, but for those who need a solid backup solution in the field, I would prefer to see a simpler approach. Either way, it really doesn’t matter how files are backed up – the bigger issue is clearly performance-related.
While working with the Gnarbox, I noticed one very noticeable hardware issue, which could potentially impact the life and the performance of the product. When working on transferring files or editing content, I noticed that the area around the Gnarbox logo was so hot that I could barely touch it. My guess is that the main components of the Gnarbox (CPU, RAM, etc) are located right under the logo. I think that because of the weather-sealed nature of the Gnarbox, there is not enough air getting into the chassis to cool down the main components, so there is practically no heat dissipation taking place, resulting in extremely hot temperatures. What’s worse, the hot temperatures also impact inserted media – after the above copy process was complete, my SD card was also pretty warm.
Now keep in mind that I was performing my tests in an indoor environment, with temperature staying around 70° F. I cannot imagine what would happen to the unit if I let it copy a memory card at warmer temperatures – it would probably end up melting the chassis and potentially even destroying the data on both the unit itself and the memory card. So if you are planning to use the Gnarbox in the field, keep it cool and try not to subject it to direct sun rays – you might end up damaging it. To me, this is a rather serious hardware issue to be concerned about. From my prior experience working in the IT field, I know that computer hardware just doesn’t last when subjected to very high temperatures.
A big part of success of any product, is how well it performs when it comes to operating it via software. Operating systems, firmware and user interfaces matter, especially on something that claims to be able to replace a laptop. Unfortunately, I encountered a number of issues when using the Gnarbox app on my iPhone X. They are not critical in nature, but still worth pointing out. First of all, the iOS app is not compatible with all iOS devices. It was pretty clear that the software was not designed to be used on the iPhone X, so I experienced a number of problems when navigating through the software, as shown below:
As you can see, none of the pointers match the real menus and icons on the screen. I saw this problem more than a few times and I bet it would look quite confusing for a first time user.
Second, when using the app, if the screen of my iPhone timed out while I was editing an image or a video clip, the software forced me to go back to the card and reopen the image or video before I could edit it again. I found this to be quite annoying.
Third, when ejecting media, the software would indicate that the device is still ejecting it (after a long wait), although there was nothing displayed under “Devices”. It would eventually time out, with the “Unable to eject drive” error on the bottom of the screen. I saw this issue more than once, so it seems to be a software / firmware related problem.
Lastly, depending on what camera the RAW files came from, previews took a very long time to render. When I tried to look at the thumbnails from the Sony A6500 (RAW files were uncompressed, which could be part of the reason), it took a long time to show even one thumbnail – and I had hundreds of images on the memory card! So if I were traveling and I wanted to pick one single image to edit, I would have to sit and wait for the thumbnails to generate. I am not sure what method Gnarbox is using to fetch those thumbnails, but it is not a very efficient one for sure.
When Gnarbox was first announced via a Kickstarter campaign, it looked like a really cool gadget for those of us who want to travel light. The idea of leaving a laptop behind, while relying on a small and lightweight box sounded great, which is why I was hoping to test Gnarbox out for my own needs. However, after spending some time with the Gnarbox, I realized that it simply fails to deliver. Its image editing capabilities are very limited when compared to Lightroom mobile, so it is not a great post-processing tool. It does a better job at editing video, but I really don’t see myself relying on a tiny screen of my phone to deliver high-quality content, which basically diminishes the real use of Gnarbox to perhaps posting snapshots of content to social media. It is extremely slow at backing up images when compared to doing the same on a computer. It has both hardware (overheating) and software (stability) issues. In short, it is a “Jack of All Trades, Master of None” type of solution.
I was very excited about the Gnarbox, but as of today, I cannot say that it can replace a laptop. Not even close…
With the new Adobe Photoshop CC 2018, a new image enlargement algorithm, “Preserve Details 2.0,” came as an improvement over the previous upsampling algorithm that had been in place since 2013. The 2.0 version provides better details when it comes to preparing the images for large-scaled prints and potentially reduces the need for an ultra-high-megapixel medium-format camera for large prints.
In this eight-minute video, photographer and retoucher Michael Woloszynowicz of Vibrant Shot Photo shows the difference in quality between the original and the new versions of the Preserve Details function. He demonstrates this on a beauty image he shot, and the results might surprise you.
Image upscaling is a significant and tricky process, and it is good to know the techniques involved in it, especially when sending your images to your clients. Rather than relying on the operators in the print centers, this new algorithm makes it easier to have full control over the print-ready images. While this feature may not be necessary for standard magazine-size prints, it will definitely be useful when it comes to large-scale prints for your wedding, fine art, or even advertising work.
To use this feature, go to the “Image” tab in Photoshop 2018 and select the “Image Size” down below. While entering higher values for the width and height of your image, don’t forget to select “Preserve Details 2.0” under the “Resample” option. Also, remember to keep your resolution at 300 ppi.
Have you ever tried this new feature? Did it work better for your prints? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Google, it seems, is acquiring Lytro. Yes, the company that made that crazy light field camera and then got out of photography to move into VR and cinema is being snapped up. In a deal which TechCrunch report to be worth either $40mil or $25mil, depending on who you ask, Google will pick up the company in an “asset sale”. Presumably, this will include the 59 patents related to light-field and imaging technology which Lytro owns.
$25-40 million sounds like a lot of money, but when you consider that Lytro received over $200 million in funding and the company was valued at about $360 million in 2017, it seems to fall a little short. Investors include Foxconn, GV, Greylock, Qualcomm and plenty more. TechCrunch also points out that Lytro only recently acquired VR game developers, Limitless.
It does seem like an ideal convergence of technologies, at least for Google and consumers. Exactly how Google will make use of the technology obtained in the deal is unclear. But given Google’s constant push into VR and computational imaging, we can be reasonably confident that it’ll be something that’ll blow 90% of people away whenever it’s announced. 9% will still be impressed but will wait until the second generation when it’s a little more refined. The final 1% just won’t see the point and will rant about it on Facebook.
That’s the way things usually go, and it’s how things went with Lytro when they released their first light-field camera. Then, when the second generation came, people took a more serious look. And they might’ve actually done quite well in the photography world, had they not pulled out of it shortly after.
Whatever comes of this deal, it will be interesting. I’m curious to see how this might affect the inroads Lytro has made into Hollywood. Will it fork off as a separate company? Will it simply be abandoned? Or will Google start getting into movie production cameras and visual effects, too?
If you’ve never heard of Lensball before, don’t sweat it. I had not heard that particular term used until now, either. I’d be willing to bet, however, that you’ve seen some of the cool shots people are taking with these accessories though.
Ilia Alexanderson’s YouTube video has some straight-to-the-point tips on ways you can get started with your new toy. He makes a great point about composition and reflections (the main thing that a Lensball does). A Lensball allows you to play around with what is essentially two frames in one image, and this deliberate two-frame composition is what’s going to help create an eye-catching image. You have your background, whatever that may be, and then you have your flipped scene being shown inside the sphere. Choosing an appropriate location or subject that allows the background and the reverse image to compliment each other (with lines, colors, or lighting) leaves you with a pretty sweet shot.
Something that is quite a popular image style on Instagram is a really simple concept that anyone can experiment with. If you’re a fan of eye-catching images or shooting with a very shallow depth of field, this might be for you. A cell phone can do well if you’re looking for a cool shot and you’re in a pinch, too, so get creative.
Is this something that you’ve tried before? Surely you’ve seen these kinds of images circulating Instagram, usually rocking a sunset or ocean reflection of some kind? Personally, I think they are pretty sweet. Anything that takes something incredibly simple (a sphere of glass) and allows people to put it to work and create something that people want to see is always awesome in my book.