Friday, June 27, 2014

On line storage is becoming a commodity . . .

I just read HERE, that Microsoft is increasing the amount of free online storage to 15 gig (same as Google) and charging just $9.99/month for 1 TB of storage and a subscription to MS Office 365, which is the same price as Google, but tosses in their mobile office suite for the effort.

Yes, I know that Google throws in Google docs or apps (or whatever they're calling it now, I can't keep up with names) for everyone, free or subscription.  So that means pretty much means that Google and Microsoft are roughly the same price overall.

But what does that mean to US?  The consumers.  

Well, to me, it clearly means that both online storage AND office automation suites are now commodity products.  They will be sold (or rented) at give away prices.  It means that competing products like WordPerfect and the OpenOffice and LibreOffice will either disappear completely or struggle to find an Online storage company willing to offer them as part of the subscription package, That is, if Corel and the two open source project managers want to go to the expense of rewriting them for online use.  

I'm willing to bet Corel won't, and we will see WordPerfect slip into  the benevolent neglect that Corel assigns most of its products to. They really only seem able to support 2 products at a time, and their new found interest in ASP means that WP is no longer their second favorite product after Paint Shop Pro.

It also means that any online storage company that relies on subscriptions for the lion's share of its income is doomed to either failure or will get sold to some other megacorp, while the stock value still remains high enough to make the majority stock holders wealthy if they sell out.  

Google and Microsoft can afford to sell their online storage and office automation tools at or near cost, knowing they can make up the difference by showing us advertising.  Can DropBox do that?

I love my free 50 gig account, they are doing a bang up job serving my needs and for free as well.  But I don't think I can trust them to store my photos on line, right now.

Online backup of photos still doesn't make sense for most photographers, except as a 'backup to the backup".  It's too slow to upload or download large batches of photos and will remain that way until technology can figure out a way to improve throughput for the same amount of bandwidth.  

So I think people will start to gravitate towards Google and Microsoft for their online storage needs if for no other reason that they will be convenient and they have the strongest likelihood of being around in five years.  Google is convenient for smartphone users and Microsoft is convenient for the still sizable MS Office users and Nokia users.  

There might be room for a third online storage vendor, I suspect it would likely have to cater to either the Apple crowd or maybe the Facebook crowd.  But in two years, there will be a lot of dead online storage companies, and projects littering the personal automation/computing landscape.  

So long ACDSee 365, if I were you, I'd partner up with one of the big two. Maybe you could become a sort of a sales agent for OneDrive, and offer some added value unique to you that would justify a subscription at a price only slightly higher than the OneDrive base subscription.

Now that I think about it, that might be a great way to market online storage.  Market it like CreditCards.  Let companies offer added value, charge a "bit" more, and they can put their name on the product.

I hope we ALL make the right choices!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

It looks like the New "Kodak" m43s cameras aren't going to be vaporware after all!

Digital Photography Review (DPR) has just published a "First Impressions" review of the Kodak PixPro S-1 by JK Imaging.  This is, what I hope, is the first of a line of 'step up' m43s cameras aimed at people who want to "step up" from their inadequate smartphones, and buy a camera of some substance.

I suspect it is difficult for outsiders to understand the appeal of the name "Kodak" in North America among people who aren't professionals or even 'enthusiasts', but who still want a "nice" camera. (Nice defined by THEIR standards, not yours).  

I also suspect this camera will find its way to the North American market as quickly as possible and it is to the benefit of Olympus and Panasonic for it to do so. 

With the Kodak m43s brand established globally, that takes the pressure off Olympus and Panasonic to go to the expense of developing, producing, and marketing the low end introductory cameras that they find difficult to make a profit with. This will allow them to concentrate their resources on the more profitable enthusiast and professional cameras that they seem to be doing so well with.

Olympus and Panasonic, if they are smart, will see this burgeoning camera line as a product that will eventually steer users in their direction.  When it is time to get an even BETTER camera, it's difficult to argue with the logic that the lenses you already have will work with the new camera.

If Olympus and Panasonic are smart, they will bend over backwards to help JK Imaging to establish this M43 brand in as many places as possible.  JK Imaging is already producing compact and superzoom cameras for the North American Market, so I doubt it will have much trouble with distribution in North America, but I don't know that much about camera marketing. I could be full of . . . well, opinion based on little fact.

I think this development has benefits for the enthusiast users as well.  Another source of inexpensive lenses is always welcome.  And in time, perhaps they will see the benefit of producing some M43s lenses that Olympus and Panasonic have been reluctant to produce.

UPDATE:  6/24/2014 2:15 PM CST - Just some additional thoughts.  You know that 400 mm manual focus lens is interesting.  While it seems an odd lens to produce for the PixPro S1, if it has half way decent image quality, is could be aimed squarely at the enthusiast market.

Manual focus in the Olympus OMD line, at least, is pretty darned good.  An inexpensive 400 mm manually focused lens wouldn't be a major hardship when used with the higher grade Olympus and Panasonic cameras (and if it has a reasonable image quality).  If priced right, it might be attractive to the person who only occasionally needs an extra long lens.

If this lens is aimed at the enthusiast market, this bodes well for JK Imaging's intentions regarding the serious amateur.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Leaving Areas Of Color In a B&W Photo

This "How To" article uses ACDSee Pro 8 as the software reference but should work with any software that allows you to perform selective masking brushes and invert the selection made with those brushes. All in all, this method is pretty easy.

Select a photo suitable for this technique. I feel the most successful candidate is the sort of photo that already has a 'monotone' feel to it anyway, but also has a smaller area of color that can be enhanced to shock the viewer with color. 

ACDSee Pro Instructions: Highlight the photo and select the "Develop Tab".

Adjust the exposure, contrast, and color balance for just the area that will remain in color. In this case, just the basket. Don't worry too much about the area that will become Black and White, you will have plenty of opportunities to adjust the B&W area later.

Now invoke the masking brush in your software.

ACDSee Pro Instructions: Right below the Sub tabs labeled, "Tune", "Detail", "Geometry", and "Repair", and just above the Histogram, are the three masking tools; the Develop (i.e. masking) Brush, the Linear Gradient mask, and the Radial mask. Select the Develop Brush. A special exposure window will appear just above the Histogram containing the tools the brush can control. These will be the tools you use for the base conversion.

Remember, with ACDSee Pro 8, the left mouse button adds to the masking area, and the right mouse button erases the masking area. The mouse wheel will change the brush size. It takes a little practice, but in time you can get quite skillful in making accurate masking selections.

Using the masking brushes in the "Develop" tab, select the area to remain in color by depressing the left mouse button and dragging it over that area. Don't be afraid to zoom in or out on the photo while you work, and don't be afraid to change the masking brush size.

Note that I have been a little sloppy in my masking technique, there are edges that remain unmasked, and area where the masking area spills over into areas that should become B&W. This is where changing the zoom ratio and brush size can come in handy. 

Once selected you invert the brush strokes that you did for the masking selection. That means it will reverse everything you selected so that what you did NOT select is NOW SELECTED. This gives you the ability to avoid having to use the masking brush on large tedious area that you would normally select.

ACDSee Pro Instructions: Note a little check box next to the feathering slider control, that will invert the brush strokes you did for the masking selection.

Once the selection is inverted, I would advise that you zoom in on the now un-selected area (the area to retain color) and look for any stray brush strokes that might still be there. You won't see many, but sometimes there might be remnants of the feathering that the brush can do for you. Get rid of them.

ACDSee Pro Instructions: If any stray strokes exist, using the right mouse button can erase them.

Now all that remains is to desaturate the color in the photo.

ACDSee Pro Instructions: As long as you remain in the "Develop Brush" area, any change you make will affect only the area that is supposed to be B&W.

At this point, the basic B&W with Color conversion is done. You now have the ability to edit any way you see fit to get the final image that you desire.