Wednesday, November 13, 2019

My experience with the new Apple 16" MacBook Pro which was announced today!

Just minutes ago, Apple announced the new MacBook Pro with a 16" Retina display. I have been testing this new laptop computer (locked behind closed doors) for the last couple of weeks and am excited to share my findings with all of you.
Before I go into the details of what I found, I want to just tell you why I am so excited about this new computer. I am now 8 months from the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, and as many of you know, my workflow is critical during that month. I am always looking for the equipment that can give me the best performance and increase my efficiency. With that in mind, let me tell you about the new 16" MacBook Pro.

When I first took the new MacBook Pro out of the box, it appeared to be the same size as the older 15" version. It wasn't until I put it side-by-side with the older model that I detected the slight increase in length and width.

I put the older 15" MacBook Pro on top of the new 16" MacBook Pro so that you can see the difference.

This close-up shot will give you a better idea of the slight size increase. The good news is that the newer 16" MacBook Pro fits into all of my camera bags (which were designed to hold a 15" laptop) without any issues. Honestly, if I did not have the older 15" model to compare it to, I would have thought that the 16" MacBook Pro was the same size as the previous model.

The real excitement came when I opened the new 16" model for the first time and saw the larger display. Apple was able to design this computer with a slimmer border around the display, therefore providing a larger display in a case that is not much bigger than the previous 15" model. The new display is capable of showing more colors and at a 3792x1920 resolution. That translates to 6 million pixels.

This new screen is going to make a big difference for me when I am at the Olympics or traveling abroad. But let's get to that a little later.

Just to put this in perspective, I used to travel with a 17" MacBook Pro back in the old days. and I really liked the bigger screen for culling and retouching. But I had to stop using that computer since it was just too big, heavy and bulky,  Even though there is no comparison between the two for raw power and capabilities. I dusted off that old 17" laptop (circa 2010) to show you the size difference of the old beast and today's new offering. The older 17" computer weighed a hefty 6.6 pounds, whereas this new model with a 16" display weighs in at around 4 pounds.

Now I get the larger screen, an abundance of performance, all in a small and beautiful package.

I should also mention that the setup of the new MacBook Pro was seamless, mainly due to the iCloud synchronization. After entering my iCloud account information, the new laptop was immediately populated with my contacts, calendar events, Apple Pay information and more. I also installed Adobe Creative Cloud and Photo Mechanic to test my everyday workflow.

Let talk about the performance of this new 16" MacBook Pro. Apple was able to redesign the cooling system inside case to provide 28% more effectiveness. This new cooling system, along with new memory, allows them to get more power out of the same processors used in the 2019 15" MacBook Pro. I saw this performance increase in my everyday use.

They also upgraded the computer to a faster GPU which provides up to 2 times the graphics performance.

Apple will say that this is the fastest MacBook Pro ever made (as they claim every time they announce a new computer, iPhone or iPad), and it is. But we all expect that in a new system.

Along with the speed improvements, Apple has now increased the memory capacities of the new 16" MacBook Pro. The internal DRAM can be increased to 64GB and the internal SSD can be upgraded to a staggering 8TB. Both of these are helpful to us photographers, because they provide more performance while retouching large files, and more storage for holding all those images. It was common practice for me to remove folders of images off of my 15" MacBook Pro because it only had a 1TB internal SSD.

I did a test to see if the new MacBook Pro was truly faster than my previous model, even though they share the same processor. I took 16 RAW images (taken with the Canon 5D Mark IV) and created a panorama stitch in Adobe Photoshop. Here are the results:

15" MacBook Pro with 16GB RAM - 3 min and 20 seconds
16" MacBook Pro with 64GB RAM - 2 min and 6 seconds

Image from provided by Apple

Apple has also increased the battery capacity of the MacBook Pro from 83.6 watts to 100 watts (the maximum allowed on airplanes), and this is another benefit to me. Even though I have power outlets in most of my travel locations, there are times when I crave longer battery life. This is especially true on long flights. You know...the ones where the power outlets are not working, or not available. At the Olympics, there are many times when I am going from press bus to press bus without the ability to recharge the battery. The more battery the better!

Now, let me get to some of the less obvious enhancements, but ones that make me really happy!

This is a photo taken of my 2018 MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar. You will notice that the "Esc" key was part of the Touch Bar. Since it was a digital button, it took almost no pressure from my finger to hit "Esc".  This may not have bothered other people, but my finger would consistently hit this button inadvertently and close my preview window in Photo Mechanic, costing me a lot of time in my culling (going through my images to determine which I would keep, discard, or rank) process. I reached out to Apple more than a year ago and asked for a way to fix this issue.

When meeting with Apple to discuss this new 16" MacBook Pro, they told me that they moved the "Esc" key back to a physical button. I was so excited! I can tell you that in some pretty extensive testing, I have yet to inadvertently hit that button. This is a small change with a big outcome.

For the last 4 years, I have had a huge issue with the keyboard design of the MacBook Pro. Not only was it uncomfortable to use, but there were two other issues which gave me heartache. The first is that the way the keyboard was designed, I would consistently hit the wrong keys and have to fix typos. This never happened on my other Mac computers, but was a constant issue with the laptop keyboard. The second issue was the "click clack" noise that emanated around the room whenever I typed. This was highly distracting to people around me.

Apple listened to myself and countless other customers and changed the keyboard on the 16" MacBook Pro to the Magic Keyboard. This new keyboard is not only easier to type on, but so much quieter! 

When Apple got me the new MacBook Pro to test, they told me about the new 6 speaker sound system (with 4 woofers) and much improved sound quality. You might be thinking, how the heck does that benefit a photographer? The truth is, I listen to music on my laptop quite often when I am editing or when I am in hotel rooms around the world. I did a side by side comparison using Spotify on the old MacBook Pro and the new 16" MacBook Pro (switching output devices back and forth) and the sounds difference was beyond noticeable. I expected a small improvement in sound quality, but was treated to a much more dynamic playback. They tell me that the internal microphone has been significantly improved, but I have not tested that yet.

Now...let's talk about how I plan on using the new 16" MacBook Pro at the Olympics in 2020, and why I am so excited about the future.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about the upcoming Canon 1D X Mark III, and the new CFExpress memory cards that it will use. I know I will be using this the new camera at the Olympics, and therefore storing my images the new ProGrade Digital memory cards. And in the previous blog post I stated that I could transfer 54GB of images in only 37 seconds. Well...that was the older 15" MacBook Pro.

I connected a prototype CFExpress card reader from ProGrade Digital to the new 16" MacBook Pro and did some more testing.

In a side-by-side comparison, the new 16" MacBook Pro was able to transfer files 15% faster than the previous model.

As I mentioned earlier, the screen of this new Mac is critical to my workflow, and I envision the new display of the 16" MacBook Pro saving me more time at the next Olympics. Having a 15 minute deadline at the Olympics, and being a one-man show, I need every advantage I can get to deliver the highest quality images in the shortest amount of time.

How would a larger display help me save time? With higher resolution and a larger display, I find it much easier to determine which images have super sharp focus and which ones are a little soft. This was always a challenging task with the 15" display, and now made easier with the larger viewing size.

I used the 16" MacBook Pro to cull through a recent wedding shoot, and found the quality of the display to be fantastic. Having that extra 10 percent of screen real estate and increased resolution really does help.

Staying on the topic of displays, one area in which I have always been satisfied with the Apple laptops, is their ability to be calibrated and hold the calibration for a long period of time. I have many photo tour guests who travel with PC laptops and their calibration is way off, wither from lack of calibration or the screen drifting off calibration over time.

After spending a good amount of time with the new MacBook Pro, I was curious how Apple would price this over the 15" model. Or, would they even keep the 15" model in the product lineup. Just one day before the announcement, I asked Apple for some details. They told me that the new 16" MacBook Pro would replace the 15" model and be offered at the same price. The standard models would come with either a 512GB or 1TB SSD and 16GB of RAM. But these can be configurable to 2TB, 4TB and 8TB SSDs and up to 64GB of DRAM.

I have been using the 15" MacBook Pro for many years now, and am VERY excited to make the change to the new 16" model. I am looking at the near future when I am shooting with the Canon 1D X Mark III, using super fast CFExpress cards, a Thunderbolt 3 card reader, this super fast laptop, and editing on this screen.  The future looks really bright!

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If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Three new products that I am really excited about!

This week was a really good one for new photo related products. Two of them I have in my hands and one of the announcements got me excited, even though I have not tried it yet.

First off, I have to tell you about the new Acratech GXP ball-head. I have been using Acratech ball-heads for many years now, but have always wanted one that is bigger and more robust. This is especially true when I mount my Canon 200-400mm lens on my tripod and the shear weight of the lens pushes the limits of the smaller heads. But now Acratech has released the new GXP and it is awesome.

As you can see from this side view (with the GXP on the left), the new head is significantly larger and more robust than the previous GP model.

On this top-down view, you can also see how much larger the new GXP head is compared to the GP. I was surprised to see that this new ball-head is only $30 more than the GP. It is still not inexpensive at $489, but it is totally worth it.

Believe it or not, I use my Canon 200-400mm lens almost every time I photograph a bar mitzvah. This lens lets me shoot from 200mm to 400mm at f/4. This is really helpful in a dark temple. But this means that I am mounting this large lens on the Gitzo Mountaineer tripod (combined with the Acratech head) quite often. Having more support is a great thing!

You can see in this image how much lens this head is supporting. The company says that this new ball head will support up to 50 pounds, which is double the capacity of the GP. I am really excited to have this new GXP ball-head supporting my beast of a lens.

The next new product that I got this week is the new Crucial X8 solid state drive. Crucial has been making internal SSDs for a long time now but never offered an external unit. Now they do!

The X8 comes in capacities of 500GB ($120) and 1TB ($165). I got two of the 1TB units for me to use both at home and on the road.

What makes me most excited about the new Crucial X8 SSDs in the speed and price. These new SSDs are twice as fast as all other SSDs on the market today. Yep, this little thing is twice as fast as the Samsung and SanDisk products and sell for slightly less. Most external SSDs transfer data at approximately 500Mbs, whereas this X8 can move 1GB per second. This is really helpful for people like me who move massive amounts of data from one computer to another. I am going to recommend this SSD to all my photo tour attendees.

I know that this is a small thing, but I love that the Crucial X8 ships with one USB-C cable that has a USB-A adaptor. This makes life really easy for me, since I have a desktop computer with USB-A and a newer MacBook Pro with USB-C.

The third new product that was announced this week is the new DJI Mavic Mini. I do not have one in my hands yet, but expect to get one soon. The minute it was announced, I was on the B&H website to order mine. It is only $399 for the drone, but I chose to get the combo kit with extra batteries, which runs $499.

I have always loved flying my Phantom 4 drone, but don't take it with me very often since it requires  whole other camera bag. Now, with the Mavic Mini, I can put this little drone into one small slot in my main camera bag and travel with a drone any time.

Having a drone this small, that can capture professional quality images and video is very exciting. Now...if I could just find places to fly this without it being illegal. I am looking forward to bringing this little guy with me to India, Costa Rica and anywhere else I can grab aerial imagery.

Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

BREAKING NEWS: Canon announces development of the EOS-1D X Mark III camera

At midnight tonight EST, Canon announced the development of their new flagship DSLR, the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III. When it ships, this will be the new top-of-the-line camera for Canon and the one that I will be using at the next Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Canon has not announced a lot of information about the new camera, other than the fact that they are working hard on it, and that it should be out well before the Olympic Games next summer.

Even with the limited amount of information released, I am VERY excited about the direction Canon is going with this new DSLR. Here are some key points:

* Canon says that the camera will have better focus points and an even better focus system, which is always a benefit to those of us shooting sports and high speed action.

* The new camera will capture up to 16 frames per second with AF tracking, instead of today's 12. Some of you may think that this is unnecessary, but trust me, this speed boost will increase the chances of us sports shooters capturing the peak of action.

* There is a new sensor in this camera, which usually means better image quality. More info to come on that in the near future...

* A new DIGIC processor which will give me better images at high ISO. This is always welcome!

* The buttons on the back of the camera are now backlit. I remember being in a Canon focus group many years ago and they asked if I wanted this feature. At the time, I told them that it was not needed. But...after spending the last 10 years shooting parties and receptions in dark venues, I welcome this addition.

* Finally, the 1D will have WiFi built in. The Canon 5D Mark IV has had this for a long time and it was long overdue.

* This new flagship DSLR will have two CFExpress card slots which is awesome! These are the newest memory cards which can move data much faster than the older CF, SD or CFast cards. This will be hugely helpful for anyone wanting to clear their camera's buffer quickly or under a tight deadline. I wrote a blog post back in July, pleading with Canon to move to these new cards and I am so happy they listened.

Hoping that this camera would include these new cards, I have been testing new CFExpress cards from Pro Grade Digital.

Since I shot a wedding last weekend using my Canon 1D X Mark II (today's earlier post), I had 54GB of Canon RAW images on a CFast card. I timed how long it took to download those images from the CFast card to my internal SSD on my 2018 model MacBook Pro. I then copied the same 54GB of images to the CFExpress card (using a prototype Pro Grade Digital CFExpress reader connected through Thunderbolt 3) and copied them to the same SSD to see how much faster this card is. Here are my results:

Data: Canon RAW and MRAW files
Size: 54GB
Files: 2571

Copied from a Pro Grade Digital CFast card: 2 min and 17 seconds
Copied from a Pro Grade Digital CFExpress card: 37.4 seconds

When I see this data, it just makes me think about how much more efficient I can be at the upcoming Olympics. As many of you know, I have a 15 minute deadline for Team USA, and every second counts!

As I said at the beginning of this blog post, Canon just made the technology announcement, which is different from a product introduction. Now we have to wait for more information, the price and the release date. But I do know this. I will have one of these in my hands to test, and give you the full results when I have them.

Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.

Photographing a wedding - Tips for photographers and those hiring a photographer

This past Saturday I photographed a wedding with my second shooter and we had a blast capturing images for this newly married couple and their families. In May of 2018, I blogged what it was like shooting a wedding by myself, so this time I thought I would give advice to other photographers about shooting a wedding with a second photographer.

There are numerous advantages of photographing a wedding with a second photographer. Some of which are:

* Each photographer can concentrate on their subject
* The second shooter can assist with the grouping and posing
* Both photographers can give creative input
* It is less stress knowing that both photographers are capturing key moments
* You can have fun working with each other

I am going to take you through our day and explain the thought process for what we were capturing. This should be helpful to all those photographers who are just starting out, and wondering what to capture and how to capture really nice images.

First of all, you as a team need to coordinate to make sure you get the key shots of the day. Those are:

* The bride getting ready
* Portraits of the bride and her brides maids as they get ready
* Detail shots of the shoes, rings and other sentimental items
* The groom and groomsmen getting ready
* The bride getting her dress and jewelry on
* Portraits of the bride and bridal party in their dresses
* The wedding ceremony (with the ring exchange, first kiss and big exit)
* Portraits after the ceremony (all family and key friends)
* Reception: Grand entrance
* Reception: First dance
* Reception: Speeches
* Reception: Bouquet toss
* Reception: Garter toss
* Reception: Cake cutting
* Reception: Dancing and partying
* The big exit (if there is one)

(Canon 1D X Mark II, 70-200mm lens at 200mm, ISO 800, F/3.5, 1/200 sec)

Carol (the bride) is one highly organized woman and had scheduled out the day to the minute. She had us arriving at 2:45pm to start taking photos. Evan (my second shooter) and I met for lunch at noon and decided that we should arrive an hour early, so that I could capture images of the ladies getting ready, and Evan could get the detail shots.

(Canon 5D Mark III, 100mm macro lens, ISO 800, F/10, 1/320 sec)

Evan collected the rings, shoes and other items so that we could capture those photos outside while I did my job inside the house.

(Canon 1D X Mark II, 70-200mm lens at 160mm, ISO 2000, F/5, 1/160 sec)

I was able to capture photos of the ladies getting ready without stressing about the detail shots or the men getting ready. I knew that Evan was going to head over to the hotel to capture images of the guys as soon as he completed his work at the house.

Having the freedom and extra time to concentrate on the bride, bridesmaids and her family, also gave me a chance to have some fun with them. This portrait of Carol's parents was taken in between the formal photos.

Meanwhile, Evan was at the hotel capturing images of the guys. Evan has second shot for me many times and I have full trust that he will capture high quality images. This trust is really important, since this part of the day was all on him.

We were now about 2 hours before the start of the wedding and it was time for Carol to get her dress on. I captured many images that included their faces, but also zoomed in with the 70-200mm lens to get the detail of her dress.

Throughout the afternoon, Evan and I were staying touch through text messaging. When he was done photographing the guys, he let me know he was heading back to meet me at the house.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 24-70mm lens at 24mm, ISO 2500, F/4, 1/250 sec)

It was Evan's idea to have all the girls lay out Carol's dress, and my idea to grab a chair to take this high shot. Both ideas came together for a really nice photo.

Now that Carol was dressed, we went back outside the house for more portraits.

We were very lucky to have overcast skies, which made for perfect photography conditions.

Evan took this shot of me doing my thing.

(Canon 1D X Mark II, 70-200mm lens at 130mm, ISO 200, F/4.5, 1/200 sec, Canon 600EX-RT at -1)

And here is the shot I was taking at that very moment. (Photographer's note: You will see in Evan's photo that there was a pillar to my left. I made sure to move my groups away from that pillar so that it would not be in the background. My goal was to have as much of the foliage and flowers in the background as possible. I also changed my aperture from f/2.8 to f/4.5 so that everyone would be in focus, front to back.)

While Evan was helping me set up the next group, I turned and saw dad and one of the brides maids watching on. I love the expressions on their faces, as they looked on with so much emotion.

Evan was taking some photos of Carol when I got down low and focused just on her bouquet.

We had completed all of our portraiture, and Evan took off for the venue. I was in my car about to leave as well, when I saw this open window and knew that it would make a good photo of the bride. I turned the car off, unpacked my gear and had Carol peak out of the window for this shot. It was well worth the extra couple of minutes.

Oh - speaking of gear, here is what I used for this wedding:

* Canon 1D X Mark II
* Canon 5D Mark IV
* Canon 70-200mm 2.8 lens
* Canon 24-70mm 2.8 lens
* Canon 16-35mm lens
* Canon 100mm macro lens
* Canon 600EX-RT flashes (6 - mostly at the reception)
* MagMod flash diffusers
* Four Manfrotto light stands
* Lots of Powerex AA rechargeable batteries
* Pro Grade Digital memory cards
* Blackrapid camera straps with the Acratech Swift Clamps
* All packed in a Thinktank rolling bag

Then it was wedding time!

(Canon 1D X Mark II, 70-200mm lens at 200mm, ISO 640, F/4, 1/500 sec)

Evan and I made a simple plan, where I would mostly shoot from the center aisle and he would roam. If I roamed, he was watching and would cover the middle. All of my ceremony shots were taken with the Canon 1D X Mark II and the Canon 70-200mm lens.

Evan was moving around, this time shooting from the side, which gave us a different view of the bride.

I moved to the side for this shot and we switched positions. There was no real communication of the switch, but we have worked together enough to predict these moves.

I moved back to the center position and asked Evan to get some shots of the parents in the front row.

He did a great job of capturing the emotion!

One of the key shot - the ring exchange.

Another key moment - the first kiss!

I always enjoy capturing images as the newly married couple walk out from the ceremony. There are usually great smiles and sometimes great relief from having completed their big moment.

I was running up the walkway, but Evan was positioned perfectly to capture this shot.

(Canon 1D X Mark II, 70-200mm lens at 130mm, ISO 640, F/4, 1/200 sec, Canon 600EX-RT at -1)

The most stressful part of photographing a wedding is when we are taking the photos after the ceremony. My goal is to do this as quick as possible, ensuring that we have great shots but also not taking so long that the couple is missing too much of their reception.

The fog was rolling in behind our subjects, which made for some great lighting once again.

The groupings are very important. Carol had created a very detailed list of the photos she wanted, and Evan was in charge of herding the cats.

We only had 35 minutes of daylight after the ceremony, so it was imperative that Evan gathered everyone efficiently and I shot quickly.

We had to get a photo of just the bride! After I took this, we decided to have some fun with her veil.

I had Evan take the end of her veil and throw it into the wind as I captured this shot. But, we can see Evan at the left side of the frame.

(Canon 1D X Mark II, 70-200mm lens at 70mm, ISO 1250, F/4, 1/200 sec, Canon 600EX-RT at -1)

This was easy to fix in Adobe Photoshop, by cloning him out of the photo. I also made slight adjustments to the lighting as you can see.

Evan asked the couple to walk up the pathway to get some shots of them walking. As he did this, I was packing up my bag, preparing to head over to the reception.

I looked up from my camera bag and saw this shot, and had to get this perspective as well.

Remember how I said that it was important to have fun? Here is David (the video guy) and Evan joining in on the fun.
(Canon 1D X Mark II, 16-35mm lens at 20mm, ISO 1600, F/4, 1/200 sec, Canon 600EX-RT on camera in ETTL mode and two more remotes in manual mode)

In between taking the portraits and the start of the ceremony, Evan and I jammed over to the club house and set up four light stands with remote flashes to cover the dance floor. I had two on my frequency and he had two on his (so we would not be triggering each other's flashes).

We captured the different speeches...

...which were both hilarious and moving.  This one was captured from my angle.

This one was captured at Evan's angle.

As you can see from this shot, Evan had the better angle for this best man's toast (since he was turned away from me).

The father / daughter dance...

...and the mother / son dance are always a great shot.

I was definitely not expecting this, as Paul Michael picked up his mother at the end of the dance.

(Canon 1D X Mark II, 16-35mm lens at 16mm, ISO 800, F/3.5, 1/200 sec, Canon 600EX-RT on camera in ETTL mode and two more remotes in manual mode)

There are two good positions for the bouquet toss. I took the "over the bride" shot (using the Canon 16-35mm wide lens), while Evan took the "receiving" shot below).

We took a lot of photos of people dancing and having fun, making sure to key in on the bride and groom when they were out on the dance floor.

Just before 11pm, the bride and groom made their exit through a tunnel of sparklers. I decided to shoot without any flash, using just the ambient light from the sparklers and the light from the videographers.

One of their friends had this beautiful old Bentley, and the couple wanted their photo in it. In order to get this shot, I ran back into the venue and grabbed a second flash. I had the groom's father hold the flash by the passenger window (pointing into the back seat), and remotely fired his flash and my on-camera flash to make this happen. I then removed the father in Photoshop.

(Canon 1D X Mark II, 16-35mm lens at 31mm, ISO 2000, F/4, 1/160 sec)

But this was the real exit vehicle. Paul Michael's family is well known in the area for fixing up VW microbuses, so it was only fitting to send them off in one. (As a matter of fact, if you have been reading the blog for the past 6 years, you may remember this crazy blog about them.)

The job of a photographer is to tell the story of the day, and this was the perfect ending shot for us.

Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.