News

The unexpected beauty of China's bicycle graveyards – in pictures

For the past 18 months many cities in China have been flooded by millions of dockless share bikes. Those that block pavements or apartment entrances have been removed by authorities to vast storage areas. Viewed from afar they create compelling and mysterious patterns – but also represent waste on an enormous scale

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Categories: News

Shape of light: experiments in photography and abstract art – in pictures

These exclusive images from the Tate Modern’s major new exhibition reveal the entangled stories of photography and abstract art over the last 100 years – from playing with prisms to the Photoshop era

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Categories: News

'There's a lot of fakery': insiders spill on the dirty tricks behind wildlife photos

After a photographer lost an award for allegedly using a taxidermy anteater, colleagues describe cases of glued insects and trained tigers

The Brazilian photographer Marcio Cabral was stripped of a prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year award last week after judges noticed that the anteater at the foot of a glowing termite mound in his picture looked an awful lot like the taxidermy anteater found at the entrance to the national park where he captured the shot.

If Cabral did use a stuffed creature in his photograph – a charge he strongly denies – it would be a new low for those claiming to document “wild” animals, and emblematic of a murky underbelly in the field. Among the tricks regularly used without disclosure to get magazine-worthy natural history images are the hiring of trained animals, the gluing or freezing of insects into position and the use of bait to lure subjects closer to the camera.

Related: Anteater in prize-winning wildlife photo is stuffed, say judges

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Categories: News

Adobe is now making 'Lightroom Coffee Break' videos for Lightroom CC

DP Review News - Mon, 30/04/2018 - 16:50

For a while now, the official Adobe Photoshop Lightroom YouTube channel has produced a series titled ‘Lightroom Coffee Break.’ The collection of videos provides quick (~60 seconds) tips on how to make the most of Lightroom, and after 56 episodes, the creators have finally started to include tips specifically for Adobe’s cloud-centric Lightroom CC.

Until now, all of the videos have been based on Lightroom Classic CC. Now, the minute-long videos will include tips and tricks specifically created for Lightroom CC users—a welcomed change considering it’s becoming the go-to choice for many photographers, and there aren't a lot of resources out there as of right now.

The first video, presented by Lightroom team members Michelle Wei and Josh Haftel, details how easy it is to salvage an underexposed Raw photograph using only four sliders: exposure, highlights, shadows, and contrast. It might seem a bit basic, but you can count on future episodes to dive into more complicated adjustments.

Even though Adobe is just now getting around to making tutorials specifically for Lightroom CC, many of the previous videos made for Lightroom Classic CC still apply, so take some time and look at the archive. At one minute each, you could get through all 57 episodes in an hour—less time than it takes to watch an episode of Game of Thrones.

And if you want to keep up with future videos, be sure to subscribe to the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom YouTube channel.

Categories: News

GIMP 2.10.0 released: Features 32-bit support, new UI and more

DP Review News - Mon, 30/04/2018 - 16:13

Open-source image editor GIMP has been updated to version 2.10.0, its first major update in six years. In this new version, GIMP has been "nearly" fully ported to the GEGL image processing engine, which brings support for up to 32-bit images, multi-threaded processing, and optional GPU-side processing for systems with stable OpenCL drivers.

According to the team, GIMP 2.10.0 uses GEGL for all of its tile management and to build an acyclic graph for each project. That satisfies the prerequisites for eventually adding non-destructive editing, a future feature slated for version 3.2.

The new image processing engine aside, GIMP 2.10 brings an updated UI with a new default dark theme; the symbolic icons are also now enabled by default. This gives users a total of four theme option: Dark, Light, Gray, and System. However, themes and icons have been separated so that users can choose them independently for better customization.

Additionally, there are now four icon sizes to improve their look on HiDPI displays. The software automatically detects the best size for the display; however, since it may not always be accurate, users can manually change the size if necessary.

Many new features and improvements, as well as expanded support, have arrived in 2.10.0—complete details of the changes are available in the full release notes. Notable among the changes is support for multiple new formats (including OpenEXR, WebP, RGBE, and HGT) on-canvas previews for filters ported to GEGL, improved warp tools, color management has been revamped as a core feature, and the digital painting experience has been enhanced.

GIMP 2.10.0 can be downloaded now for Windows, macOS, Linux, BSD, and Solaris.

Categories: News

DxO Labs confirms bankruptcy, but promises updates to Nik Collection and DxO PhotoLab

DP Review News - Mon, 30/04/2018 - 15:21

DxO Labs has released an official update on its financial situation in the form of a blog post on its website, and it’s not as doom-and-gloom as it seems... or sounds. While the statement confirms DxO Labs has chosen "to file for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection and is now in the process of restructuring the business," it also says the restructuring "will not affect our customers in any way."

In fact, DxO Labs says the process should take no more than a few weeks to complete. And not only should this news "not affect customers," DxO Labs took the opportunity to confirm that a couple of new products are on the horizon.

According to the statement, DXO Labs plans to release a free update (version 1.2) to its flagship program DxO PhotoLab sometime in June. The update will add improved local correction features and support for seen new cameras ‘including the Canon EOS 2000D and the Sony A7 III.’

In a quick swipe at Adobe, DxO writes that this impending update will serve as:

...an opportunity for us to reiterate our commitment to the 'perpetual license' model (as opposed to a subscription model) that allows our customers to update their products according to their needs, rather than in a constrained manner.

And if that's not enough good news to distract you from the Chapter 11 talk, DxO Labs also confirmed plans to update the Nik Software Collection.

In June, the Nik Software Collection will receive its first update since being bought from Google in December of 2017. The update is said to focus on fixing bugs and to make sure the plug-ins and standalone programs work smoothly on both PC and MacOS computers.

Official Statement:

Greetings,

On March 7, 2018, DxO Labs chose to file for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection and is now in the process of restructuring the business.

We are very confident that this procedure, which should not last for more than a few more weeks, will not affect our customers in any way. In fact, we are pleased to announce the following upcoming product releases:

  • In June, we will release a free update (version 1.2) of our flagship software, DxO PhotoLab. Recently awarded the TIPA 2018 Award for Best Image Processing Software, this latest version of DxO PhotoLab will include improved local correction features, and will add support for 7 cameras, including the Canon EOS 2000D and the Sony A7 III. This release will also be an opportunity for us to reiterate our commitment to the “perpetual license” model (as opposed to a subscription model) that allows our customers to update their products according to their needs, rather than in a constrained manner.
  • In June, we will release the new version of the Nik Software Collection, which DxO acquired from Google at the end of 2017. Much awaited by the Nik software community, this first “by DxO” version focuses on fixing bugs that up until now could disrupt the user experience, as well as on ensuring full compatibility with the latest Mac OS and PC platforms.

Thank you for your understanding and confidence,

The DxO Team

Categories: News

Instagram currently testing slow-motion video and mute features

DP Review News - Mon, 30/04/2018 - 15:11
Credit: Luke van Zyl

Instagram may be getting a few new features in the near future. As originally reported by The Verge, Twitter user Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) managed to dig up a few interface changes that suggest new functionality is on the way.

Wong, a computer science major at UMass Dartmouth, came across the unreleased features by digging through the code in the Android version of the Instagram app. The two most significant features to be revealed are a new mute function, and the ability to shoot slow-motion video directly inside Instagram, shown below in screenshots from Wong’s Twitter.

NEW: Instagram is finally working on a mute button for profiles!

h/t @wongmjane pic.twitter.com/TLB4ON3AQ6

— Matt Navarra (@MattNavarra) April 27, 2018

The mute function would presumably work in the same way Twitter’s own mute button: effectively removing all content from a profile without the need to unfollow them. No need to unfollow that annoying friend who you want to keep up with, but whose photos you're patently sick of.

Great way to save friendships and your sanity at the same time.

NEW Instagram is testing a 'Slow-Mo' feature for Stories

h/t @wongmjane pic.twitter.com/Pmr6RyETbt

— Matt Navarra (@MattNavarra) April 27, 2018

The slow-mo mode appears to be available only within the Stories section of Instagram, but it’s definitely possible we'll see it as an integrated option within the standard video capture section as well. It’s unknown whether or not this would work with all devices or only on mobile devices that natively support slow-mo video capture.

In a statement to The Verge, an Instagram spokesperson said the company didn't "have anything to share on this right now." Not a confirmation, sure, but not a flat denial either—something Instagram has done when rumored features get out of hand.

These new features might never see the light of day, but it’s not unlike Instagram to randomly test new features with random users before making them public.

Categories: News

Nikon manager confirms: New mirrorless system coming by spring 2019

DP Review News - Mon, 30/04/2018 - 15:01
Screen capture: Nikon Eye

In an interview with Japanese TV-channel NHK, a Nikon manager has confirmed the company's new mirrorless camera system will be on the market by spring 2019. This is the first time we have given an approximate launch date after Nikon officially confirmed it was developing a new system back in July 2017.

Unfortunately, additional details are still scarce. According to the latest rumors, the new lens mount will be called the Z-mount and come with an external diameter of 49mm and a flange focal distance of 16mm.

Given the Nikon Director of Development publicly stated that any new Nikon mirrorless system would have to be full-frame, there's good reason to assume the new cameras will indeed feature a full-frame sensor, putting Nikon in direct competition with Sony's A7/A9 series of mirrorless full-frame cameras.

Categories: News

Border protest and a floating nuclear plant: Monday's best photos

The Guardian’s picture editors bring you photo highlights from around the world

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Categories: News

Crystal clear: Inside Nikon's Hikari Glass factory

DP Review News - Mon, 30/04/2018 - 14:00
Inside Nikon's Hikari Glass factory

Located about 375 miles north of Tokyo in the Akita Prefecture, the Hikari Glass factory is a special place. Opened back in the 1970s, Hikari Glass has been a wholly owned subsidiary of Nikon since 2004. If you shoot with Nikon lenses, the chances are good that they started life right here - as raw powdered glass.

The Akita Prefecture, home of Hikari Glass, lies around 375 miles north of Tokyo.

Nikon invited us to visit Hikari Glass following the CP+ 2018 show in Yokohama, and along with our friends Dave Etchells and William Brawley of Imaging Resource, we were among the first journalists ever allowed inside the facility. During our visit we saw virtually the entire process of glass-making, from raw powder to finished glass 'blanks', ready for shaping and polishing in Nikon's other facilities.

Click through this slideshow for a detailed look - please note that some areas of certain images are blurred at Nikon's request.

Inside Nikon's Hikari Glass factory

Akita and the surrounding area is blanketed with snow for several months a year. We visited on a relatively mild day, but as you can probably tell from the ice buildup on this building, 'mild' is a relative term.

Our tour guide, Akio Arai is the Corporate Vice President and Production General Manager of the Akita factory and has been with the company for 11 years. At present, almost all of the Hikari factory's output goes to satisfying Nikon's requirements for high-quality glass, but Mr Arai hopes that in future his facility will be in a position to supply even more glass to companies other than Nikon.

Inside Nikon's Hikari Glass factory

This powder contains several different ingredients (the biggest portion being quartz, but the exact mix is secret) which are mixed, melted, and eventually turned into finished glass.

The combining of the raw material happens in batches of around 500kg (~1100 lb) in a pair of very large mixers. The precision achieved in the mixing process is somewhere in the region of 1 part to 50,000. It's vitally important that the mixture is exactly right, because Hikari is aiming for glass with a very specific refractive index.

Inside Nikon's Hikari Glass factory

This tub of powder (roughly the size of a small hotel bathtub) is the raw material for Nikon's famed ED glass, used in a great many of the company's high-performance lenses. Hikari makes 125 different kinds of optical glass, including 20 types of 'specialty glass' for molded lens elements.

Once the powder has been mixed, it is melted. There are two types of melting process, depending on the types of glass. The simpler of the two is called 'direct melting', and the more complex is called 'pre-melting' and 'fine melting'. We watched the latter.

Inside Nikon's Hikari Glass factory

The pre-melting process begins with the raw powder being heated inside a quartz or platinum crucible (depending on the exact type of glass), in a furnace at a temperature of more than 1000 degrees Celsius. The furnaces are on platforms raised several feet above the factory floor. The mixture is added to the crucibles by machines very gradually. If all the powder were dumped in at once, only the surface of the mixture would melt.

With quartz crucibles, some of the quartz inevitably melts into the mixture. This is accounted for in the formula, but since they become thinner over time as the quartz melts, the crucibles have a limited lifespan - in some cases, this can be as short as two days. We weren't allowed to show the crucibles in this article, but the ones we were shown were roughly the size of a small domestic water boiler.

Once the glass is fully melted, a hole is opened into the bottom of the crucible to allow the molten glass to escape into a large tank of water, positioned underneath the furnace at floor level. That's what you can see in the image above.

Inside Nikon's Hikari Glass factory

As the glass continues to drain, eventually the water that it's draining into becomes so hot that it starts to boil.

The remainder of the heated glass is drained into the tank, and once everything is cooled down, workers will assess whether or not the crucible in the furnace can be used again, or needs to be retired. In the old days, glass used to be melted in clay crucibles, and for every 2,500 kilos of glass, only about 500 kilos was usable. The modern method is far less wasteful.

A small water jet to the right of the stream of molten glass helps break the stream up into small droplets which cool to form what are called 'frit'.

Inside Nikon's Hikari Glass factory

And here is the frit - they look like little flakes of snow, but that's where the similarity ends. In the pre-melting process, the frit aren't meant to have exactly the exact refractive qualities of the finished glass - it's still basically a raw material. And there's some variation in the flakes of frit, too. Depending on where the glass was positioned inside the crucible, the makeup of each frit might be slightly different (i.e., it might contain more or less quartz, thanks to the melting of the crucibles during the process).

Inside Nikon's Hikari Glass factory

The frit is mixed in these giant machines (it's hard to get a sense of scale, but the fan on the far right is basically just a domestic room fan if that helps). If these look like modified and repurposed cement mixers, that's because they are.

One of the major modifications over a standard cement mixer is inside the drums, which are lined with natural rubber to prevent any metal particles from the mixer contaminating the glass.

Inside Nikon's Hikari Glass factory

Here's a closer view of the rubberized interior of the mixing drum. Any rubber particles that make it into the mix will burn off harmlessly in the next major process - 'fine melting'.

In order to hit exactly the right target refractive index for a particular kind of glass, Hikari prepares two batches of frit, one batch with a refractive index deliberately on one side of the target value, and one with a refractive index on the other. The two batches are then remixed and fine-melted together in just the right way to produce glass with the exact target refractive index value.

The direct melting process skips this pre-melting step, making it less time-consuming. The difficult part is that the glass must have exactly the right refractive index from the get-go, which requires absolute purity of the raw materials, and gives much less margin for fine-tuning.

Inside Nikon's Hikari Glass factory

The fine melting process is one of the two most critical stages in the entire glass-making process, and takes place in platinum crucibles inside very high-tech furnaces. The exact details of the fine melting furnaces (even their external appearance) are highly protected by Hikari Glass, and we weren't allowed to take photographs of them.

That's OK, because to the untrained eye they don't look like much anyway. More interesting is what they produce - long, long bars of glass, called ingots, which roll out from the machines very, very slowly on a very, very long conveyor belt in a process called 'casting'.

Inside Nikon's Hikari Glass factory

A skilled worker marks and precisely breaks the cast ingot at specific intervals. This particular ingot is destined for use in Nikon lenses, while glass for prisms and other purposes are processed in a different building.

Inside Nikon's Hikari Glass factory

Once the ingot has been broken up into bars, each bar undergoes a quick inspection for any obvious major flaws or defects. If there is an apparent defect, these extruded glass bars are either recycled, if possible, or rejected.

Inside Nikon's Hikari Glass factory

The glass bars are further checked for any bubbles or unevenness in an adjoining room. This is most often done visually, using a lightbox. Bubbles show up as bright specs, and 'distortions' (areas of substantially different refractive index) show up as wrinkles in the image projected onto the screen (left).

Inside Nikon's Hikari Glass factory

Here, a worker points out a defect in a demonstration bar of glass.

During the decades that Hikari Glass has been operating, optical technology has changed a lot, and so has the legislation governing substances like lead and arsenic, which used to be commonly used in glass manufacturing. Over the years, Hikari Glass has refined its processes accordingly.

Inside Nikon's Hikari Glass factory

To ascertain the exact refractive qualities of a piece of glass, Hikari Glass technicians turn to machines. To measure refractive index, a small test block of glass is cut, and a special liquid with the expected refractive index is then painted onto the glass. Technicians then load the painted cube of glass into this machine and look for variations in light transmission as light is shone through.

As well as the 'final' glass cast from the fine-melting furnaces, these machines are used to establish the refractive index of test batches of glass made from the frit we saw earlier.

Inside Nikon's Hikari Glass factory

Once they've passed this quality control step, the bars of glass are split into slim rods, using heat. A heating coil warms the bar, and after a predetermined period of time, a small drop of cold water applied to the end of the bar causes it to split neatly in two with a very satisfying "pink" sound.

This bar has just been split into two rods - the bars to the right, in the background are awaiting their turn.

Inside Nikon's Hikari Glass factory

The glass rods are then cut into smaller...

Inside Nikon's Hikari Glass factory

...and smaller cubes, called 'dice' using a circular saw. You'll notice there's no glass dust anywhere to be seen in these images and that's because the 'saw' doesn't have a cutting surface (you could put your hand right on it, without any fear of injury). It works by friction - the spinning disc heats the glass at the point of contact, creating a clean break.

Each cube is slightly bigger than it ultimately needs to be, so that there's scope for its weight to be precisely adjusted in the next stage of the process - grinding.

Inside Nikon's Hikari Glass factory

The cubes of glass are weighed and placed into four categories, according to their approximate target weight. Their weight is then adjusted by grinding stones, in a very noisy machine called a tumbler (pictured above, and there's a video of it in operation, below).

The cubes of glass that are heaviest are added to the tumbler first, followed by the second-heaviest cubes, then the third and finally the fourth. In this way, the cubes of glass that need most weight shaved from them are processed for longer, and they all come out weighing roughly the same.

Inside Nikon's Hikari Glass factory

After hanging out in the tumbler for a while, the cubes look like pieces of beach glass.

A skilled employee then inspects each one by hand and performs any necessary additional grinding to make sure that any small chips are smoothed out, and the weight falls within the desired parameters.

This particular piece has a chip (marked in red), which is big enough that unfortunately it's reached the end of the line and will be rejected.

Inside Nikon's Hikari Glass factory

Several areas of the Hikari factory are dusted with white powder, but it isn't glass dust, it's boron nitride - a heat-resistant compound of boron and nitrogen which is used in several industries, including cosmetics. At the Hikari factory, it's used to stop the cakes of glass from sticking to their casts when they're pressed into shape.

A welcome effect of the roughening of the glass surface in the tumblers is that it makes the boron nitride adhere more effectively.

Inside Nikon's Hikari Glass factory

And now the pressing begins!

The blocks of glass, covered in boron nitride, are placed into their ceramic trays and sent on a conveyer belt through a furnace - which not coincidentally, makes this area one of the warmer sections of the Hikari facility. The aim is to soften the glass, but not quite to melting point.

Inside Nikon's Hikari Glass factory

The very, very hot piece of glass is moved by hand (well, by tongs) and tipped into a heated mold. The molds for lens elements like these are pretty simple, but we're told that it takes much longer to prepare the molds for glass destined for DSLR and binocular prisms.

Inside Nikon's Hikari Glass factory

Once the glass is in the mold, a worker then activates a foot pedal to press the cake of glass into shape. A clock serves as a rough point of reference for the length of time each cake of glass is pressed, but an experienced press operator can also make this call by assessing the hardness of the glass based on how the mold feels in his hands.

Inside Nikon's Hikari Glass factory

After pressing, and cooling, the cakes of glass (which are now in their puck-shaped final form) are collected for inspection.

Inside Nikon's Hikari Glass factory

Each cake of glass is inspected by hands for any obvious defects resulting from pressing.

This large piece of glass is destined for one of Nikon's high-end telephoto lenses, and pieces like this go through extra inspection steps because they're produced in a lower volume.

Inside Nikon's Hikari Glass factory

Last but not least is the annealing process - the second most critical phase in the glass-making process, after fine melting. Like fine melting, the exact details of the annealing process are highly confidential. Essentially, annealing is a precisely-regulated heating and cooling process, which takes place over a long period of time - often several days. The goal is to make the internal density of the glass blanks completely consistent, and to eliminate any remaining bubbles and to adjust the refractive index. Generally speaking, lengthier cooling cycles result in denser glass with a higher refractive index, and shorter cycles produce less dense, higher RI glass.

The specific temperature brackets - and the period of time over which those temperatures are sustained - is critical (and secret) and depends on the exact type of glass. The huge plates of glass used in industrial steppers might spend up to two months in the annealing furnace.

The green chalkboard on the front of this furnace is used by workers to record the 'recipe' for the particular trays of glass blanks that have been loaded in. This furnace isn't being used, which is why there's nothing written on the board (and why we were allowed to take pictures of it).

Inside Nikon's Hikari Glass factory

After all that, at long last, we have a finished 'blank.' These blanks are packaged and sent off to other Nikon facilities in Japan, China and Thailand for polishing and coating, before finally making their way into NIKKOR lenses.

Inside Nikon's Hikari Glass factory

And that's it! Here, finished blanks of glass are placed into plastic pallets ready for dispatch.

To recap, here are the major stages in the entire process from beginning to end, with links:

  1. Initial mixing of the raw materials to make glass powder LINK
  2. Pre-melting of the glass to make 'frits', which are intentionally created to have either a positive or negative R.I. (direct melting is a simpler process, that we did not observe) LINK
  3. Mixing the frits LINK
  4. Fine melting of the frits (not pictured) to achieve the target refractive index, and extrusion and cutting of the glass ingots into bars LINK
  5. Inspection of the glass for defects LINK
  6. Cutting into blocks into rods and dice LINK
  7. Adjusting the weight of the glass dice in the grinding machine LINK
  8. Heating and pressing the glass dice into molds LINK
  9. Annealing of the resulting blanks, to eliminate distortions in the glass and fine-tune the refractive index LINK
  10. Inspection and measurement of the finished glass blanks

We hope you enjoyed this look inside Nikon's Hikari glass factory. If you're eager to learn even more, our friend Dave Etchells over at Imaging Resource has published an even more detailed account of our visit here.

Categories: News

Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art review – an experimental masterclass

Tate Modern, London
This epic exhibition shows how masters from Man Ray and Mondrian to Maya Rochat transformed reality in their laboratory-like darkrooms and studios

In 1916, when Alvin Langdon Coburn met fellow American Ezra Pound in London, he was already a celebrated photographer, having made his name with striking monochrome portraits of leading literary and artistic figures such as Rodin, WB Yeats and George Bernard Shaw. It was Pound who introduced him to vorticism, the short-lived British avant garde modernist movement created by artist and writer Wyndham Lewis as a reaction to the dominance of landscape and figurative art. Equally frustrated by the representative nature of photography, Langdon Coburn immediately sensed the liberating potential of the vorticist dynamic of geometric shapes and cubist fragmentation.

Related: Shape of light: experiments in photography and abstract art – in pictures

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Categories: News

Time for a revolution: how the art of 1968 caught a world in turmoil

It was the year hippy idealism gave way to riot and struggle – with protests in Paris, tanks in Prague and black power in the US. Guardian writers pick the pivotal works from that tumultuous time

On 19 August 1968, Josef Koudelka returned to Czechoslovakia from Romania, where he had been living among and photographing Romany Gypsies. The following day, Soviet tanks appeared on the streets of Prague. For seven days, the 30-year-old Moravian-born photographer roamed the city with his East German Exakta Varex camera loaded with movie film, the only stock he could find at short notice.

Everything is uncertain except the hand of a passerby curled into a fist – and the hands of a watch

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Categories: News

Myanmar refugees and their new life in Melbourne - in pictures

Refugees from the ethnic minorities of Myanmar have settled in Wyndham, in Melbourne’s west, but beneath the surface of their close-knit community lies isolation and trauma. A small community centre, the Wyndham Community & Education Centre (WCEC), has taken the advice of the elders of the community and now teaches the refugees the history of Australia, both Indigenous and colonised. The intention is to give the refugees a sense of place and help them feel at home

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Categories: News

Rare goats and splash dogs: Sunday's best photos

The Guardian’s picture editors bring you photo highlights from around the world

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Categories: News

Hex Raven DSLR Bag Review

DP Review News - Sun, 29/04/2018 - 14:00
Hex Raven DSLR Bag
$239.95 | HexBrand.com

Finding a backpack that doesn't scream "I'm a camera bag," but can still hold all of my gear while not killing my back has long been a struggle for me. I'm 5'3" and most backpacks that can hold a lot of equipment are impossible for me to carry for any extended period of time. Living in a city, typically when I head out for an assignment close to home I’ll opt to bring less gear so that it will fit into a smaller, understated backpack. But for assignments that require more gear or travel, a smaller bag just won't cut it.

The design looks different than your typical padded camera backpack

That's why I was immediately intrigued by the Hex Raven DSLR bag – although I had never heard of the company before – as the design looks different than your typical padded camera backpack. The Hex’s square shape and matte black material were particularly appealing to me. It also looked like it could hold a ton of equipment – a very good thing considering I’d be spending a week in Austin, Texas covering SXSW and a short time later a week on the road touring with a band from Brooklyn. I knew that my typical one body, two lens, one speedlight setup just wasn’t going to cut it for these two jobs.

Specifications
  • Exterior: 20 x 12 x 8in / 50 x 30.5 x 20cm
  • Interior: 20 x 12 x 4in / 50 x 30.5 x 10cm
  • Laptop Compartment: 20 x 12 x 3in / 50 x 30.5 x 8cm
  • Weight: 5lbs / 2.3kg
Design & Construction

The Hex Raven DSLR bag's exterior is made of matte black tarpaulin with waterproof zippers. The straps are thick, air-mesh padded. The front of the bag has two compartments. The top one is accessed by undoing the buckles. Beneath the flap is a zippered compartment that is fleece-lined and can hold up to a 17" laptop as well as a small tablet. This section of the Hex is easily accessed, making it convenient to remove these larger items in the rush to get through airport security.

Top front storage

Undoing the bag's buckles reveals a zippered compartment that offers a fleece-lined laptop sleeve and separate space for a tablet.

Lower front storage

There are two lower zippered pockets. The main space offers room to organize and store items you might want quick access to.

There are two zippered areas on the lower front of the bag, which are great for stashing keys, pens, notebooks, spare batteries or memory cards.

On the right side of the bag you’ll find two more small flat zippered pockets, which are fairly easy to access when the thing is on your back – they're great for holding any odds and ends that you might need such as chapstick, business cards, a small wallet or your phone. On the opposite side of the bag there are straps to attach a tripod.

You can attach a tripod to the side of the backpack using the two straps. The opposite side has two very small zippered pockets.

Camera equipment is accessed through the bag’s back panel which is made of EVA foam and air-mesh. The back panel zips along three sides of the bag. The inside features padded partitions that are customizable depending on the amount of gear inside. There are also two zippered back pockets and a velcro pouch on the inside for even more storage options.

This bag features ample storage, has the ability to hold a ton of gear and its construction feels like it can handle life on the road while keeping your camera equipment safe. The zippers on the Hex bag were a little stiff right out of the box, but after a few weeks of use that stiffness has disappeared—I no longer feel like I have to fight with the Hex bag to access my gear.

A zipper on the very top of the Hex bag makes it easy to access your primary camera without having to open the main gear section.

Although the bag was quite flat when it was empty as I filled it up with my equipment to prepare for my trip to Austin I became skeptical—I wasn’t sure whether its bulk would become overwhelming.

In Use

I was thoroughly impressed by the amount of gear I was able to fit into the Hex: two bodies (a Canon 5D IV and a 5D III), four lenses (35mm, 50mm, 24-70mm and a 70-200mm), a speedlight, an LED on camera light, four batteries, two chargers, a point and shoot film camera, portable HD, a laptop, a laptop charger and an iPad. That being said, as I prepared to head to the airport and catch my flight to Austin I wasn’t sure that the monster would actually be able to fit under my seat (fully loaded the Hex was almost as large as my carry on roller bag).

The bag distributed the weight quite nicely

Although the Hex was certainly heavy with all of this gear, the bag distributed the weight quite nicely. Like many photographers, I’m used to feeling an acute amount of shoulder pain while carrying gear around; I didn’t notice this with the Hex bag.

The various storage options within the bag also made it easy to access the pieces of gear I needed, both while going through security and while waiting for my flight – without pulling everything out. Although getting the Hex under the seat in front of me (really my biggest concern in using the bag as a carry on for my flight) was a bit of a struggle, it wasn’t impossible. However, someone with longer legs might find the situation untenable. Here, the amount of individual storage spaces within the bag also made a big difference, as it was easy to grab what I wanted when I wanted it without unpacking the whole thing.

The Hex was great for safely and comfortably transporting and later storing large amounts of valuable camera equipment

Although having a bag with room for so many lenses and a backup body is a plus, realistically the Hex is just too oversized to make sense in the small music venues bands play during SXSW or a cramped photo pit at a larger show—but the Hex was great for safely and comfortably transporting and later storing large amounts of valuable camera equipment while I was traveling.

A few weeks later I was prepping to hit the road for a week with a touring band from Brooklyn. My gear storage needs were more or less the same but because we would be traveling by van, space was limited. My photo gear needed to take up way less space than the band’s gear, but still be easy to access so I could edit as we drove from city to city.

Its shape and style don’t make it immediately clear that it’s a camera bag

Although the Hex was still too bulky to be a good fit for inside the small venues where the band was playing, its non-descript look made me feel okay about leaving it inside the locked van in numerous cities with my back up equipment still inside. Its shape and style don’t make it immediately clear that it’s a camera bag, which I’d like to think makes it a little less of a target.

Bottom Line

The Hex Raven is well designed and feels like it is built to last. The amount of pockets make it easy to organize a large amount of equipment, and they're functional when it comes to finding specific items in a hurry. It’s certainly a little pricey for a camera backpack, but considering the sheer amount of gear that it can accommodate, its durable construction and the classy design, it seems worth the price tag.

I would be interested in checking out a scaled-down version of the Hex for day-to-day use.

Although the bag is too bulky to be good for everyday use, as a travel bag I appreciate its understated design, storage options and the way in which it evenly distributed weight. I would certainly be interested in checking out a scaled-down version of the Hex for day-to-day use.

What We Like:
  • Ample organizational pockets for camera equipment and other odds and end
  • Understated design
  • Doesn’t scream 'camera bag'
  • Padded shoulder straps + good weight distribution
  • Durable construction
  • Good travel bag
What We Don’t Like:
  • High price for a camera backpack
  • Not great for everyday use
  • On the bulky side when fully loaded with gear
Categories: News

In a flash: readers' photos on the theme of quick

For last week’s photography assignment in the Observer New Review we asked you to share your photos on the theme of quick via GuardianWitness. Here’s a selection of our favourites

  • Share your photos on this week’s theme ‘late’ by clicking the button below
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Categories: News

Your pictures: share your photos on the theme of 'late'

Wherever you are in the world, this week we’d like to see your pictures on the theme ‘late’

The next theme for our weekly photography assignment in the Observer New Review is ‘late.’ Share your photos of what late means to you – and tell us about your image in the description box.

The closing date is Wednesday 2 May at 10am. We’ll publish our favourites in The New Review on Sunday 6 May.

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Categories: News

The Carnation Revolution: 5 May 1974

Following the peaceful coup on 25 April, photographer David Newell-Smith travelled to Portugal to document the changes.

The lid is off, and Portugal is still stunned. Even the most jaded democrat must have had moments of feeling, in Lisbon this week, like Wordsworth in revolutionary Paris. Since then of course, revolutions have had a bad press. But when the bartender says: “You are a newspaper man, sir? Here is the news. We are free”, it is hard to suppress a flicker of optimism about this one.

Nothing is certain, however. The events of the past 10 days – the overthrow of a tyrant, the release of political prisoners, the ending of censorship, the return of exiled politicians, the smashing of the secret police – may presage a social revolution of a kind that Portugal has never before experienced. Or they may simply be the brief carnival accompaniments of one more – even if unusually exotic and bloodless – military coup.

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Categories: News

The big picture: Jonas Bendiksen’s sleeping baby

The Norwegian photographer’s image of his baby daughter at home captures a private moment tinged with fear and comedy

Last year, a group of photographers from the Magnum agency were invited to reflect on the idea of “home”, each using the same medium-format camera. One of them, Jonas Bendiksen, a Norwegian photographer, has won international awards for his pictures of people just about as far away from home as can be – from isolated communities in newly independent states of the former Soviet Union to a book of photographs of urban slums around the world.

Turning his camera toward the intimate, Bendiksen used the opportunity to track the arrival of his new baby daughter, Billie, through his wife Anna’s pregnancy to the birth. In publishing the pictures in Magnum’s book Bendiksen, who has a photojournalist’s distrust of the familiar, is apologetic about them. “These are some of the most important pictures I’ll ever take,” he notes. “But not because they are necessarily very interesting for others to see.” You have the sense he needn’t have worried.

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Head On photo festival: Duterte's drug war, love dolls and Guantánamo – in pictures

The Head On photo festival in Sydney features more than 700 photographers’ work in a variety of exhibitions at venues across the city. Here is a selection of some of the images that will be on display

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