To continue from the Gitzo tripod review, I posted a few days ago, here are my thoughts on the Sunwayfoto XB-44 ball head and the DLC-50 Knob/Lever Combo Clamp that I use with it.

SunwayfotoSunwayfoto is quite often promoted as a cheaper alternative to more pricey heads, while still providing a comparable quality. And as I didn’t like what Gitzo was offering, and getting the RRS head is crazy pricey in Europe, I decided for this one.


The build quality is really nice. The head is massive and very nicely veighted. I noticed no degradation in the locking mechanisms and all works the same as first day I got it. Even it being a painted metal, I got no scratches on the main body, only few around the corners, where the two slits are.

It’s the same with the Combo Clamp. I did expect more scratches, as it’s painted metal, so I was really pleasantly surprised.



With the lenses I used on it (up to 70-200mm f2.8) I noticed no sagging or any other movement when once locked. When unlocked, the movement is very smooth, due to the size of the ball. It took me a little while to get used to the two knobs system (as the last head I used had no separate panning), but of course its better this way.

I seen many reviews complaining about the clamp hitting the side of the head when rotated by 90 degrees. I have not really experienced this issue, but this is probably dependent on which clamp you use. With the DLC-50 it touches the side of the head only when you point the camera straight up. Still, I don’t think this creates any problems.

The only real issue with the head I had, was with the tension wheel, which is on the main knob. What happened to me was, that by normal use, it would tighten itself over time. Like this, from time to time I was faced with a ball head locked tightly, and I was not able to loosen it at all by hand. So I had to use a coin or something similar, to loosen the tension wheel, so I can use it again. While this is really an annoying problem, it happened to me maybe once a month, so I don’t see it as such a huge problem.

Combo Plate

When I got the XB-44 head, I replaced the default screw knob clamp with the DLC-50. The reason was that I wanted a quick release for it. Looking back, this was a pointless replacement. The problem I found is, that the quick release is just not working as I thought it would.

Wit the ball head, I got a L-bracket, a normal plate and a nodal slide. One would think that if I set the lever clamp in one way while using one of those, I would be able to use any other without having to readjust the knob. This is not the case. So each time when I have to switch, I either have to loosen or tighten the clamp, as the widths are just not the same. The differences are not big, but I would have expected them to be all the same.

Additionally, it’s often quite hard to take out the plate after unlocking the clamp, and I had to loosen the knob anyway. If I would not use the safety screws that go on the bottom side of the plate, I could have just slide it out. But that it would slide it out also when only partially opened. So with these problems, it was actually pointless for me to replace the default knob clamp that was there before, as I had to use the knob often anyway.


Overall I’m quite happy with the head. The quality is great, the main functionality is great, the small problems are annoying, but are not really a deal-breaker.

For most of the last year I have been using the Gitzo GT2542 tripod, and today I thought I share with you my thoughts on this carbon fiber tripod.

Gitzo GT2542 is a 4 section carbon fiber tripod from the Mountanier series. It’s 56 cm in length, with minimum height of 15 cm and maximum height of 139cm with the column down and 167 with the center column up. I chosen this one, as I needed something more sturdy and higher, than the Manfrotto 190XproB that I used for years. One should have a tripod that is so hight, that you can put the camera at your eye level, and this one fit the requirement.


The tripod is very sturdy. It’s of course even better if you are using a lighter camera, like the Sony a7r. The manufacturers declares that the tripod is recommended for up to 200mm lenses (with a maximum of 300mm), and it my use, with the Canon 70-200mm f2.8, I did have few problems with keeping it perfectly stable at 200mm, especially for long exposures. Even weaker wind sometimes resulted in a blurry images. I had no issues with shorter focal lengths.

The leg locking mechanisms are easy to use, but they require a bit of getting used to, if you are changing from a different type, for instance the Manfrotto locks. It’s very easy to just grab all the locks at once (if your hands are bigger :)) and unlock them with one move. Of course since there are 9 locks in total, it takes a few more moves to lock them all in place. I miss that there is no way to tell, just by quickly looking, to tell if the leg is locked or not. Since there are 9 of them, it happened to me, that I missed one, and it’s hard to see which one until your tripod starts dipping under the weight. I actually thought about painting the inner side of the lock mechanisms, with some bright color, too see when they are closed, but haven’t gotten to that yet :)

The opening of tripod legs is a bit tougher, than other tripods I seen, but I actually prefer it that way. Like this, even if the leg is not locked in a position, it usually just stays as it is. You can open the tripod legs so it lays almost completely flat on the ground, with a total height of only 15cm. For that you have to remove the middle column first, as it would be in the way.

The middle column can be removed or completely inverted, to place the camera under the tripod. The lock is easy to open and the movement if fine. Same with removing it, but you will need both hands to do so. Forget about doing it one handed or with the camera attached. It’s just to many things to rotate and to hold. You can’t rotate the middle column by 90 degrees as by some tripods. Also of note is, that when you remove the middle column, the tripod is a bit awkward to carry when collapsed, as there is nothing in the middle to keep it in a proper shape.

The leg locks are very easy to open. You just pull them out, and you can move the legs around. The locks lock in three different positions, each time with a very satisfying click sound.


The tripod stood up quite well to my usage. I don’t tend to be very gentle with my tripods, so it acquired quite a few scratches all over. Still, as this material is not painted, you will not see the scratches that much.

A bit disappointing here is the hook on the bottom side of the middle column. As that is a painted metal, and quite soft also, it almost immediately acquired deep scratches and bumps. It also should have a small rubber band around it. This band should protect the tripod legs from hitting the middle column, when you close the tripod. But as it was not glued in the place, mine got lost within the first week of use. So now, I got quite deep scratches from the inside of the legs.

The locking mechanism of the legs and all other moving parts withstood my use wonderfully, all is as it was on the first day. I noticed no degradation, or any of the parts getting loose or anything similar.


Overall, this is a great tripod. It very sturdy, very durable, very easy to use. It’s also very pricey. Compared to my last tripod, it was more than 5 times pricier. It of course is not 5 times better. The difference is much smaller. You can think of it as a Ferrari of tripods. It looks great, it works great, but you don’t really need it. Still, if you use a tripod all the time, and you want that will last you for years, Gitzo will fit that perfectly.

For the exact specifications, please visit the manufacturer website here

Here you have two new high resolution wallpapers, formated exactly for the Surface screen (thats 3:2 aspect at 2736×1824 pixels). As always you can grab them from the Wallpapers page, and of course they will be fine on any other lower resolutions screen :)

You have probably already heard about the new program from Macphun and Trey Ratcliff. Even I already posted about it. And today, I will share with you my thoughts about this new pieced of software. You can get Aurora from the StuckInCustoms store here or from Macphun here.

First of all, Aurora HDR is only available for Mac OS currently. For me that’s a bit of a complication, as I use Windows on all my devices. But so I can take a look at this software, I borrowed a Macbook Pro and tried it on that. It was not the newest model, so it was a bit slower when confronted with 36Mpix files, but it was still usable. But let’s get back to Aurora.

When looking at Aurora, in comparison to other HDR tonemapping software I use or used, I will define it as a middle ground between Photomatix and Photoengine, with a part of Lightroom sprinkled in. What I mean with this, that it’s not as straightforward as Photoengie, but does not overwhelm you with tonemapping options as Photomatix. And on top, it offers many edits that are very familiar from Lightroom.

If you look at Aurora more, you will quite quickly see what the goal is here. It’s to take the most used edits you perform on HDR photos, and instead of having them in multiple applications, they tried to put them all into one program. This may work for your work-flow, or may not. For instance if you have a whole library in Lightroom, it quite easier just to do a mass edits there, before you even start with HDR processing. On other hand, if you are just starting with HDR, and still looking for your work-flow, this may work just fine for you.

In my personal workflow, the tonemapping software is just one step, before I go into Photoshop. I prefer the more gradual control I can get there, to a more limited set that is usually available in tonemapping software. The most important thing for me there, is the quality of the tonemapped image. In this Aurora provide very good results. You can see this easily, just by loading the brackets into the software, and moving the tonemapping slider. If you see a strong HDR effect, light inversion and bright outlines, the algorithm is not the best.


As I mentioned, Aurora offers a wide variety of possible edits. You get quite a long list, with Tonemapping, Tone, Structure, HDR Denoise, Image Radiance, Color, Details, Glow, Top & Bottom Lighting, Tone Curve, Color Filter, Color Toning and Vignette. Some are new, some will be familiar to you if you used other software. But again, as I mentioned, just from the list you can see what everything is put together in one place in Aurora.

You can of course skip any editing and just use the provided presets, but than you will miss all the fun of creating your own style.

Let’s look at few. I quite like the default tone-mapping that was applied to the images I tried. For most images I had no need to even tweak the Tonemapping, just the Tone. Here I actually had to tone down the Smart Tone quite a bit, as the default gives a too strong HDR look, compared to what I like. But going down into negative values, corrected this rather quickly. Also, the default made every single image too bright, so that had to be also corrected under tone. Additionaly, same as other tone-maping software, there is quite a lack of contrast in the results, and that has to be added. But what you get here, is already quite a nice tone-mapping result, and a good start to further edits.

Aurora HDR
Aurora HDR

I really liked that under Tone, you can find separate sliders for highlights, midtones, shadows, black and whites. I especially like the midtones slider, which is missing from Lightroom. Having these all right here, makes for much better control about the result. Next you have structure. It looks like a combination of clarity from Lightrom, with Detail extractor and Tonal contrast form Color Efex. It’s an interesting effect, which needs to be used very gently, as it’s very easy to just oversature your photo with detail.

Aurora HDR
Aurora HDR

Another very nice implementation is of the gradient filters. here its called Top & Bottom Lighting, and they added two separate exposures sliders, which makes it very easy to to balance the brightness, if your image is split along a horizon. Other edits you can do, is to de-noise your image or add sharpness, add radiance or glow. It really tries to provide a one software solution to most situations with HDR. Like this it even can be used when you goal is not really a HDR picture, as Aurora allows you just to add a single exposure as input.

Aurora HDR
Aurora HDR

Aurora also supports layers. This work quite similar to adjustment layers in Photoshop. So what you do is, you create a layer, make adjustments on it and then tweak the mask and opacity to where and how much the effect is used. This work very nice, if you have images where different parts need different adjustments. Of course if you need a more pixel based layers, if you do retouching and similar, Phothoshop is a must.


Overall I’m quite impressed with what all Aurora provides and what results it can bring. I still need more time to experiment more, and get used to it, but that will come after a Windows version is released. But for you, if you are using a MacOS computer, you should give it a try.

You can find a trial version on the website.

And to end this review, here you have 4 photos edited only in Aurora (with only some dust spots removed in Photoshop). I can imagine in all doing few more tweaks in Photoshop, or even more directly in Aurora, but in all cases, this is a very good result.

Today, I will show you how I edited this sunset shot taken under the SNP bridge in Bratislava. If you are also curious about the exif data, you can find it in the original post here..

So let’s get started. If you look at the original photos, you see quite a few problems. First, the biggest is the wrong white balance, then overexposed sky, the bridge is too dark, and there are quite a few dust spots and objects that need to be removed.

An autumn sunset
An autumn sunset

I started as always in Lightrom with these 5 exposures. I corrected white balance, removed chromatic aberrations and corrected the perspective a little bit. From there I exported all the files as 16-bit tiffs, and loaded them into Oloneo PhotoEngine. There I adjusted strength, contrast and tweaked white balance a little more.

An autumn sunset
An autumn sunset

With that done, I continued in Photoshop. There I did the following edits (layers numbered from bottom up)
1. Photoengine result.
2. -2EV exposure, to darken the sky a little under the bridge
3. 0EV exposure, to recover the cloud there a little, as I did not like the result from HDR tonemapping
4. Removed all the trash from the grass and the rocks
5. Removed the blurry people from the top of the bridge :)
6. Color Efex pro Polarization filter, to get more color into the sky, and the sunset. I toned it down on the highlights, as it was too strong there.
7. -2EV exposure again, as the previous edit brightened the sky too much
8. added contrast to the sky and the water
9+10. at first I thought they would not bother me, but after a while they did. So on these two layers I removed the cable in the bottom of the photo and the single ray of light going through the bridge.
11. More overall contrast
12. Toned down the warmth of the photo a little, as it was a bit too red for me
13. Brightened the shadows, while also adding contrast to them (aren’t curves great? :)).

An autumn sunset
An autumn sunset

And that’s all I did with this image. To find out more on how I edit, check out the guides and before after categories on this blog, or check out my video tutorial series here:
Master exposure blending

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