The New Flickr (with Ads)

The New Flickr
The new Flickr layout: I think it looks great!

Flickr has revamped its layout and pricing policies, and we take a quick look. Firstly, let’s talk pricing. The old Pro subscription at US$25 a year are gone, and are replaced with the new tiers:

  1. Free, with 1TB of space.
  2. Ad-free, at US$50 a year, with 1TB of space
  3. Doubler, at US$500(!) a year, with 2TB of space

The old limits are gone, and the new limits are as follows:

  1. 200MB per photo
  2. 1GB per video, at up to 1080p
  3. Videos are limited to 3 minutes each (so no posting your version of Lord of the Rings)

As for the ads, I’ve spent half an hour looking for them, but so far, there’s just one: Under the search bar on the main welcome screen. I am sure as the service becomes popular again, there will be more ads. I just hope the new ads do not spoil the current great experience. As the WhatsApp team puts it, ” No one wakes up excited to see more advertising.

Now, why do I say Flickr will be popular again? Because bloody hell, it looks really good. Very very good. Words cannot do it justice, so go take a look at CK’s stream, or your own! It makes me want to take more photos. I guess Marissa Mayer heard the Internet’s call. What do you think, Internet?

CK: As a long time Flickr user, I quite like the new layout. It makes better use of “wasted space” compared to the previous version. Even prior to this, Flickr has also made some tweaks to allow for a larger display of the Flickr photos. The new design is rather Google Plus-y, resulting in Matt Gemmell commenting that it looks like it’s been assimilated by Google Plus.

What I don’t quite like however, is the new pricing structure. Although 1TB is more than enough for most people including myself, I don’t quite like the idea of ads though YS has only seen one so far. I sure hope it’s not overlaid over our photos! And can Yahoo! please tell us why the hell does 2TB cost 10 times more than 1TB of ad-free storage?

UPDATE (23 May 2013): Looks like Flickr has back-tracked on removing the Flickr Pro plans after all the furore, including that of CEO Marissa Mayer declaring that “there’s really no such thing as professional photographers anymore”. As long as you are a Pro account holder as of 20 May 2013 (GMT), then you can continue to enjoy the Flickr Pro benefits at US$50/yr. You can view more details of this over at Flickr’s FAQ page. This will be great news for Flickr Pro users who does not want to fork out US$50-500/yr to remove ads and to get only 1-2TB of storage (as opposed to unlimited).

Meanwhile, Marissa Mayer has also apologised on Twitter for her comment and said that it was taken out of context. Hmm, seems like every big shot who’ve said something bad will always say that they were quoted/taken out of context.

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Constipation Issues Over: Canon Finally Releases EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x

EF 200-400mm L IS USM FSL

Well, it is finally done. That took a long time indeed. When was the last time a “pre-announcement” to actual announcement took such a long time (more than two years)?

Regardless, I am sure Canon fans who can cough up the 12 grand greenbacks for it will be happy with it. It will be a great lens, at the very least, and the built-in 1.4x teleconverter is pretty nifty, really. Available at the end of May.

Still, US$12,000. Ouch!

(Image Credit: Canon Press Image)

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Nikon Launches the 1 Nikkor 32mm f/1.2 Portrait Lens For The Nikon 1 System

1 Nikkor 32mm f/1.2
1 Nikkor 32mm f/1.2

In the world of 35mm full-frame cameras, the 85mm focal length is a favourite among portrait shooters. All the major camera makers like Nikon and Canon both have this focal length in the lens line-up, offering both a f/1.8 and the more expensive f/1.4 and f/1.2 flavours – the latter being very popular with the professionals.

Today, Nikon launched the 1 Nikkor 32mm f/1.2 portrait lens for their Nikon 1 system. This is equivalent to 86mm f/3.2 on full-frame systems, thanks to the 2.7x crop factor of the 1-series cameras. The maximum aperture of f/1.2 makes it the fastest lens for the Nikon 1 System to date.

The lens features a Silent Wave Motor (SWM) for super fast focussing as well as Nano Crystal Coat and Close Range Correction (CRC) for sharp, distortion-free images. A M/A (autofocus with manual override) mode lets you manually focus the lens during AF operation, something that’s not commonly seen on the 1-series lenses.

Priced at a rather ridiculous ambitious US$899.95, the lens will be available from June.

YS: US$900 is going to be stretching it. I imagine a lot of people would rather buy the AF-S 50/1.4 with a competent DSLR like the D5200. Sure, it’s bigger, but this is one point where the trade-off for size is no longer worth it. At least in my opinion.

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Kit Lenses Aren’t All That Bad

I recently came across a piece by Marco Arment, developer of the popular Instapaper app titled “SLRs aren’t worth it if you’ll only use the kit lens“. In the blog post, Marco wrote:

I’d go further and suggest that you shouldn’t buy an SLR if you only ever plan to use its kit lens or an inexpensive zoom lens. Kit lenses and low-end zooms produce blurry, distorted, drab images — they can look decent on blogs or phones, but the flaws become apparent when you see them on big Retina screens or printed at larger sizes.

While I fully agree with Marco that one should definitely not buy a DSLR if you have no intention of using anything other than the bundled kit lens, I have to disagree with the blanket statement that kit lenses “produce blurry, distorted, drab images”. Not all kit lenses are as bad as he described. Not to start another Nikon vs. Canon war, but from what I’ve heard from their respective users, Canon’s kit lenses are indeed unspectacular. Whether they really produce blurry and distorted images I can’t really comment as I’ve not used them myself.

Continue reading Kit Lenses Aren’t All That Bad

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Olympus Releases PEN E-P5, PEN Lite E-PL6

Olympus E-P5 with M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 14-42mm f/3.5-4.5 Lens
Olympus E-P5 with M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 14-42mm f/3.5-4.5 Lens

After weeks of rumours, Olympus finally launches the much anticipated PEN E-P5. Continuing from their highly successful PEN series of Micro Four Thirds cameras, the E-P5 maintains the retro styling that has now become very popular with camera manufacturers.

The E-P5 is modelled after the 50-year old Olympus PEN F SLR, and the E-P5 is launched to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the legendary ancestor. Like the OM-D E-M5 launched last year, the E-P5 has the same high-end technologies including the same 16-megapixel CMOS sensor, AF system, 5-axis image stabilisation and more. It also has a mechanical shutter capable of speeds up to 1/8000th of a second – the world’s first on a digital compact camera – according to Olympus. This allows photographers to achieve shallow depth of field in bright daylight conditions or when the situation calls for super high shutter speeds.

For photographers who would like to use manual lenses, the E-P5 features focus peaking, highlighting the in-focus areas in either white or black pixels. Like many recent cameras, the E-P5 now has WiFi connectivity built-in. Using the Olympus Image Share 2.0 app, you can use your smartphone as an external display, remote or GPS for the camera.

YS: Ugh, focus peaking! This brings to me one point:The E-P5 (and the G6) are both very nice cameras, and unfortunately, they both carry the problem of having features that the higher-end (and only slightly older – the GH3 is not evey half a year old) model should have but doesn’t. This is a real marketing problem when aiming at enthusiasts – no one likes having to decide between two cameras that are supposedly one bracket apart, but the higher-end model is lacking desirable features the lower-end one does. The consumers deciding on buying such a camera normally freeze up and don’t buy. I have seen this happen enough, so Olympus and Panasonic need to be careful of the message they send out to prospective buyers in this rather small market (DSLR shipments still dwarf that of mirrorless system cameras).

CK: In other news, Olympus also launched the PEN Lite E-PL6 in Japan. This is an update to the E-PL5, adding several features that are on the newly released E-P5 including a shorter shutter lag, intervalometer and time-lapse shooting. It’s also compatible with the VF-4 viewfinder and how feature a dual-axis electronic level.

Like the EP-5, the E-PL6 also has the same 16-megapixel CMOS sensor as the flagship OM-D E-M5, bringing the high quality imaging system to a more mass market level. It also features WiFi connectivity so that you can view or control the camera via the Olympus Image Share app on your smartphone.

Photographers (like YS) who like to complain about the relatively large AF area of the E-M5 will be happy to know that both cameras now have smaller AF areas via the Super Spot AF feature. This allows you to more accurately focus on even extremely small subjects.

YS: This better be present on the E-M6.

CK: The PEN E-P5 will be available in May 2013 for US$999.99 (body only) or US$1,499.99 (with M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 17mm f/1.8 lens and VF-4 electronic viewfinder). The E-PL6 will be available from end of June 2013.

(Image Credit: Olympus Press Images)

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The Mob Wants Their Money: Adobe Switches Over to Creative Cloud, Demands Monthly Payments in Perpetuity

Adobe Creative Cloud Splash Image

Adobe has basically killed Creative Suite and is now positioning their main products as a “software as a service” offering instead. Photoshop users are can get away with paying US$20 a month, but if you want more than that, it will be US$50 a month for the whole suite. For those of us who upgrade every other version, or just stick with whatever we have until it’s time to change cameras (thanks to Adobe tying the ACR plugin to the latest version of Photoshop), this is going to be a lot more expensive. Basically this is the equivalent of upgrading on every cycle, so do your own math. Personally, since the main reason to upgrade Photoshop was to keep up with ACR version, maybe it is time to seek alternatives. Anyone has any ideas? (cue crickets chirping)

CK: Basically this effectively means that Adobe has put in measures to stop you from pirating Photoshop (possibly the most pirated in the Adobe product line.) But I am sure it’ll be circumvented in no time. But on a more serious note, let’s try to do some math. Photoshop CS 6 standalone (used to) have a list price of US$699. That same amount of money gets you 35 months or roughly 3 years of Creative Cloud. By that time, there would be at least 1-2 upgrade versions, so overall it would be more worth it to go this route. Obviously if you don’t upgrade to every version, then your break-even point is 3 years. By then, you probably would have gotten a new camera, and you’ll find that your existing Photoshop’s Adobe Camera Raw no longer supports your camera, and if you want to go the legal route, you’d have to pony up another US$699 if your old version is no longer eligible for an upgrade.

YS: I think a lot of photographers don’t upgrade every version. In fact, if not for ACR, I think many will still be on CS1 or CS2!

(Image Credit: Adobe Press Image)

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