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Topaz Labs

Topaz Labs, the makers of many Photoshop plugins and photo editing applications, have been on a roll recently. After releasing two AI powered applications, The JPEG to RAW AI and the AI Gigapixels (which both gave very impressive results), they are releasing a new AI powered application today. The Topaz Sharpener AI. And I think you can deduce what it does from the name. I got to it a bit before today’s release, so I will share my thoughts about it with you today.

As usually, Topaz is also offering an introductory price, same as with other of their products. So from today, the 28th February, until the 15th of March, the price is 20USD off. Head over to the Topaz Labs website to check out more. There is also a trial version available.

Topaz Sharpener AI

While the interface of the Topaz Sharpener AI is very similar to their other AI applications, it provides more options this time. You have three processing modes to chose from here. Sharpen, stabilize and focus. Sharpen tries to distinguish between noise and objects and sharpen only what needs to be sharp. Stabilize will try and remove the motion blur in your photos. Lastly, focus will try to sharpen areas that are out of focus. Let’s have a look at each one here.

Topaz Sharpener AI

In all examples, the original is on the left.

Sharpen

Sharpening is something you have to do on every photo. The results here are quite good, if maybe a bit too strong even on the default settings.

Topaz Sharpener AI

It adds a lot of detail and definition. You can see it very nicely here on this mountain area.

Topaz Sharpener AI

Or on this city photo. I would say the whole shot has more of overall clarity and detail.

Topaz Sharpener AI

Strangely, I noticed one problem. The sharpened version sometimes has less detail in the shadows, that the original photo. It’s like the algorithm just missed the area and just filled it with black.

Stabilize

The Stabilizer processing mode should remove motion blur from the photo. As it often happens that something moves in a shot, this can really be helpful. So I gave it a try on some blurry foliage and boats.

Topaz Sharpener AI

On the foliage, it’s a bit all over the place. Some are almost perfectly defined and sharp. Some look like they weren’t changed at all.

Topaz Sharpener AI

Same on the boats. Probably it depends a lot on how much movement there is. Just look at the two red boats here. one one god it got rid of almost all the movement. Not so much on the other one. Still, the result looks better than the source in both cases.

Focus

The Focus processing mode should sharpen out of focus areas. While this is generally not possible, there is a small range around the sharp area, where this should work. For my example here, I tried it with one handheld shot image. While the main subject, the statue, is generally in focus, few areas like the head are a bit out of focus. So let’s have a look what it can do here.

Topaz Sharpener AI

The results on the statues face are quite nice. Overall it’s more in focus and sharper. It created a bit of artifacts, probably from the texture of the statue, but it still looks fine.

Topaz Sharpener AI

Interestingly, this is what it did with a tower in the background of the statue. Compared to how out of focus it was, it really added some impressive detail.

Topaz Sharpener AI

There is one problem though. I’m not sure if the algorithm splits the image into a grid, but there are many spots where you can see strange effect like this one. It started creating detail in the window and stopped. It sharpened part of the wall, and then stopped. This makes for a very uneven result.

Overall, my impression here is a bit mixed. While some of the results are impressive, some problems are not. Still, using this on parts of a photo, not on one as a whole, can result in a better finished image. I mean, using it for instance to stabilize some moving foliage and blending it into the photo and similar.

It’s possible that some of the issues I found were caused by the pre-release version so you can give the final version a try yourself.  Just go here and get the trial version now.

Tripod replacement

For a while now I needed a new tripod. Recently I have been using a quite horrible one I bought last year in Dubai. I bought it just because during my trip there the airline lost my luggage and my Gitzo tripod was gone. And now one of the feet locks broke on it so I needed a new one.

But I learned one thing from having a cheap tripod the last year. I don’t need a pricey one. For what I need, the difference is not that big. I never shoot in very strong winds and I never use very long lenses. And with a wide angle lens, even a cheaper tripod is stable enough. And if it gets lost again, it will not be such a big problem.

INNOREL stuff

So I thought I give a try with a Chinese brand for a change. I have been using a few other things from Chinese manufacturers recently, and the quality was really good (I really like Xiaomi products :)), so I thought I give one a chance. After searching for a bit, I decided on the INNOREL RT85C tripod. The few reviews I could find were very positive and for the price, it was a steal. If it was as described, it would be great.

How much I paid? I did not take only the tripod. The pack I took was the Innorel RT85C tripod + Innorel U44 ball head + Innorel PW50 monopod base/table tripod + Innorel ZH3 Z pan tripod head. I took so many things, as due to the promotions they offered, it was cheaper than just taking the tripod with the head. After all the discounts and bundle promotions, I ended up paying only 224 USD for the lot.

The tripod and the ball head arrived on Monday, so let’s look at those now.

INNOREL RT85C tripod & U44 ball head - first impressions

INNOREL RT85C tripod

The RT85C is the second biggest tripod offered from Ignore. It’s a 4 section tripod that goes up to 187cm with the ball head attached. On the other side, it can be closed down to only 50cm in length. That all is quite great. One needs a tripod that can go up to the eye level, and this one can do that easily for me. One leg can be detached and used as a monopod. You can even switch the attachment screw from 3/8″ to 1/4″ screw. There were even extra steel nails replacements for the rubber feet. In the package, they also provide a carrying bag and the hex keys needed to for all the screws on it.

INNOREL RT85C tripod & U44 ball head - first impressions

It’s made from carbon and aluminum, with few rubber parts. There is no plastic on the outside, but I presume the leg locks are plastic on the inside. Not sure if that can be done from a different material at all. It’s relatively light at 1.88kg and feels really sturdy. The leg tubes go up to a 32mm diameter, so that also makes it quite massive. The declared max load is a whopping 25kg.

INNOREL RT85C tripod & U44 ball head - first impressions
INNOREL RT85C tripod & U44 ball head - first impressions

After two days, I’m quite impressed. I would not say it’s on the level of the Gitzo I had, but being only 1/4th of the price, it’s not really that far. The height is great. Without the middle column, it’s at my eye level. It’s a bit stiff, but it’s new, so no surprise there. The locking on the legs and the middle column feels solid and the whole tripod stands really sturdy.

INNOREL RT85C tripod & U44 ball head - first impressions

I’m not a huge fan of the spring loaded locks that lock the legs in position. I prefer the pullout style that is on Gitzo and similar brands. Still, they work fine, even if it’s a bit harder to use them. The middle column can be taken out, but I have yet to find a way to attach the ball head when it’s not there. I contacted the manufacturer to ask about that, so waiting for an answer. Also, I don’t really like the style of the hook at the bottom of the middle column. It stands too much to the side. You can remove it, but that you end up with a hole on the bottom.

INNOREL U44 ball head

The ball head that came with this tripod was the U44. It’s a 44 mm ball head and it looks really nice. Completely made from aluminum in black and silver. It has 4 bubble levels on it, which is a bit of an overkill (I always use the in-camera one as you don’t see these in the dark). It has double panoramic rotation, which is great and makes for easier panoramic shots. The release is arca swiss compatible, and I would not take a different one anyway.

INNOREL RT85C tripod & U44 ball head - first impressions
INNOREL RT85C tripod & U44 ball head - first impressions

It feels solid. All rotates nice and firmly, and holds steady once locked down. Still need to try it out with a longer lens, to see if there is any give once there is a weight on it. One has to take care when locking the top panoramic rotation, as the difference between locked and unlocked is quite small.

INNOREL RT85C tripod & U44 ball head - first impressions

Overall, I’m pleasantly surprised. The big question is how well it stands over time, but right now I got much more than I expected for the price. I will be using this tripod from now on, so I will do an update in a month or two, to show how it goes. Also, once I get the rest of the delivery, I will make a post about those too.

Palms, dandelions and the Burj Khalifa

I wanted to post my first impressions of the Innorel 85C tripod that I got yesterday, but I did not manage to finish it, so instead a new photo today. This one is from right under the Burj Khalifa, where there are these cool huge dandelions. The change colors ever minute or so, and just look great. For this photo I used the 12mm Laowa lens. It’s hard to see it here, but I was standing really close to these dandelions. The walkway between the fence and the Dubai fountain is not really that wide there. But with the 12mm lens I was able to capture quite a lot.

This is a blend from three exposures, blended and edited in Photoshop.

Palms, dandelions and the Burj Khalifa

Modern side of Paris

Ok, enough of landscapes, let’s get back into the city. And where better to go than to Paris. So today’s photo is a shot from the modern area around the La Defense. I already took it more than a year ago, as I did not had the chance to go back to Paris last year. But I can’t wait to go back, as before, part’s were still under construction, and I hope it’s finished now :)

This is a three shot vertorama, each shot from a single exposure. Panorama created in Photosho, where I also did all the finishing edits.

Modern side of Paris, France

Summer snow

Let’s stay in the Austrian Alps with one more post. This photo was taken along the path that you have to take when walking from the cable car to the 5 fingers platform high above Hallstatt. I was there in the middle of August, and it was hot. But this area is high enough, that even in the middle of Summer, there still was snow there. And of course I had to take a photo.

this is a blend of three exposures, done in Photoshop. Most of the shot is form one, the sky was darkened from a second and few shadows were brightened from a third exposure.

Summer snow, Hallstatt, Austria
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