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Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps
  
 
Fred Miranda
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps
I have installed Sky HDR and Smooth Reflections on both of my cameras (A7RII and RX1RII). They replace GND and ND filters and output a single RAW file as result.

Sky HDR: This app replaces Gradual ND filters.
Basically it lets you set one exposure for the "land" and another for the "sky". A graduated ND filter (similar to what Lightroom offers) allows you to position the transition zone (up/down/rotate) and how hard/soft the transition is.
You can also choose different WB, ISO, Exp. comp. and aperture for land and sky.

An unique feature of the app is letting you set different apertures for land and sky. So, you may choose f/22 for the sky and f/8 for the land with a possibility of better sun stars combined in one RAW file. (Yes, you read this right. RAW!)
This works even with the RX1RII but you can't use the aperture ring. To set aperture you must use Av mode and use the rear dial instead.
With legacy lenses and even the Loxia line, the aperture ring works but you can't see one aperture for the land and another for the sky. Bummer.

Once you are set, the camera will take 2 pictures (a self-timer is included) and merge in camera. After merging, you still have a choice to tweak the results further before saving the RAW file.


Smooth Reflection: This app replaces ND filters.
Basically the technique used on the app stacks all images using mean blending. Astrophotographers have been using this concept for years to combine multiple photos of dim objects in the night sky to reduce the noise. That is one of the benefits.

Instead of using the app, you could do it in Photoshop:

Open each of the images in your stack as layers.
Align them (Edit → Auto-Align Layers…). Auto should work fine here.
Select all of the layers and turn them into a Smart Object (Convert to Smart Object).
Now apply the Mean Stack mode (Layer → Smart Objects → Stack Mode → Mean).

The issue here is that you may need 32 images to mimic a 5-stop ND filter and even more for more blurring. Mimicking a big stop is almost unpractical.
So, storing all these exposures in camera, bringing them to LR, exporting to Photoshop and running the above steps is very time consuming. That is where the app starts to sound interesting. It combines the images in-camera and the results are very similar. All you end up with is ONE RAW file. The downside is that the app does not align the images so you MUST have a very sturdy tripod and stable floor.

From my calculations here are the number of images needed to match the equiv. ND filters:
  1. 1 stop (2 shots)
  2. 2 stops (4 shots)
  3. 3 stops (8 shots)
  4. 4 stops (16 shots)
  5. 5 stops (32 shots)
  6. 6 stops (64 shots)
  7. 7 stops (128 shots)
  8. 8 stops (256 shots)

If you play with the app, avoid using any presets. Go straight to "custom", press menu and choose "Smoothing". There you will be able to select the number of shots you need. Also make sure to set the file to "RAW".

Another benefit from this technique is a significant improvement of signal to noise ratio.
If you "mean" average 4 photos, you'll have 1/2 the noise (technically S/N, signal to noise ratio). 100 photos will be 1/10 the noise. (Imagine how clean your final image will be).

I will post examples from both apps on this thread. Post yours as well!

_______

BTW: For those using the App to complement their filters here is a quick table:

Starting with a 3-stop filter:
  1. 4 stops (2 shots)
  2. 5 stops (4 shots)
  3. 6 stops (8 shots)
  4. 7 stops (16 shots)
  5. 8 stops (32 shots)

Starting with a 6-stop filter:
  1. 7 stops (2 shots)
  2. 8 stops (4 shots)
  3. 9 stops (8 shots)
  4. 10 stops (16 shots)
  5. 11 stops (32 shots)



Dec 18, 2015 at 11:58 PM
Jman13
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


So it actually saves as RAW? I'll have to check it out then.


Dec 19, 2015 at 12:40 AM
pizdets17
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


If it's not the usual JPEG like from other apps this is pretty sweet


Dec 19, 2015 at 12:43 AM
TheEmrys
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


The RAW makes this a game changer for me. Here Sony, take even more of my money ....


Dec 19, 2015 at 12:52 AM
wenkanzhu
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


Will it compatible with flash? Interested in using it to shoot portraits under starlight...


Dec 19, 2015 at 01:26 AM
AGeoJO
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


I keep on getting an error message stating "cannot switch camera to download mode". I use the USB cable supplied by Sony and I successfully upgraded the firmware just today with it. I set the USB connection to MTP and the USB LUN Setting to single, just like I am supposed to do but still getting that error message. I restarted my Mac, just in case to no avail. That sucks....


Dec 19, 2015 at 01:44 AM
Fred Miranda
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


AGeoJO wrote:
I keep on getting an error message stating "cannot switch camera to download mode". I use the USB cable supplied by Sony and I successfully upgraded the firmware just today with it. I set the USB connection to MTP and the USB LUN Setting to single, just like I am supposed to do but still getting that error message. I restarted my Mac, just in case to no avail. That sucks....


I would download the app straight from the camera instead.



Dec 19, 2015 at 01:45 AM
Fred Miranda
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


wenkanzhu wrote:
Will it compatible with flash? Interested in using it to shoot portraits under starlight...


Yes, Flash mode and Flash compensation are supported.




Dec 19, 2015 at 01:45 AM
AGeoJO
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


Fred Miranda wrote:
I would download the app straight from the camera instead.



Thanks, Fred. It woks now but it should work the other way, too. Oh, well.

Sony limits the number of apps you purchased to 10 devices. I have installed the apps on 4 units already now. At the rate Sony is coming out with new cameras, I will have to buy the apps all over again in 2-3 years . They should do it like Apple. They limit it to 5 but when you sell/get rid of some devices, you free up the spot or spots.



Dec 19, 2015 at 02:06 AM
Fred Miranda
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


AGeoJO wrote:
Thanks, Fred. It woks now but it should work the other way, too. Oh, well.

Sony limits the number of apps you purchased to 10 devices. I have installed the apps on 4 units already now. At the rate Sony is coming out with new cameras, I will have to buy the apps all over again in 2-3 years . They should do it like Apple. They limit it to 5 but when you sell/get rid of some devices, you free up the spot or spots.


I could never get it to work from my computer either...Another app you should try is the "Smooth Reflection". It also yields a RAW file.
Sky HDR should be called "GND" and Smoother Reflection "ND".



Dec 19, 2015 at 06:33 AM
 

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Stoffer
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


Raw? Cool, so this is more than just a gimmick?


Dec 19, 2015 at 06:46 AM
Paul Mo
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


TheEmrys wrote:
The RAW makes this a game changer for me. Here Sony, take even more of my money ....


Polariser next, thanks.



Dec 19, 2015 at 08:16 AM
millsart
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


This sounds like a pretty cool and unique feature for sure... well worth trying out at the very least

My questions with it will be 1) if it takes longer to select everything through the interface that it would take me just to take a shot at say -2 EV for the sky and then +3 for the foreground or whatever, which I'm used to doing on the fly, for the purposes of blending later

2) if it saves the two differing exposures in addition to the blended RAW file. I would like to still have the files to blend on my own in post, if it so happens I didn't like the transition zone, or if there was some objects on the horizon that required some manual blending around etc



Dec 19, 2015 at 03:05 PM
kdrk888
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


I just downloaded it and played around with it a bit. It's pretty cool. Yes, I had to fuss around with it a bit initially to learn the process but once you do it a couple times it's pretty easy. With the sensors' DR capability and this app, who needs GND anymore? Of course, this app is for tripod use.

Now Sony, give us a focus stack app.

Merry Christmas to all!

Douglas



Dec 19, 2015 at 03:27 PM
Cometsoft
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


kdrk888 wrote:
I just downloaded it and played around with it a bit. It's pretty cool. Yes, I had to fuss around with it a bit initially to learn the process but once you do it a couple times it's pretty easy. With the sensors' DR capability and this app, who needs GND anymore? Of course, this app is for tripod use.

Now Sony, give us a focus stack app.

Merry Christmas to all!

Douglas


I'm having no luck downloading it, I get in an endless cycle of "verifying connection". I know my connection works because I just upgraded to 3.0 on the A7RII. What OS and browser are you using?




Dec 19, 2015 at 03:53 PM
AGeoJO
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


Fred Miranda wrote:
I could never get it to work from my computer either...Another app you should try is the "Smooth Reflection". It also yields a RAW file.
Sky HDR should be called "GND" and Smoother Reflection "ND".



I bought the Smooth Reflection ND earlier but frankly, I haven't used it . I agree with the naming, Fred.



Dec 19, 2015 at 04:03 PM
AGeoJO
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


Cometsoft wrote:
I'm having no luck downloading it, I get in an endless cycle of "verifying connection". I know my connection works because I just upgraded to 3.0 on the A7RII. What OS and browser are you using?



That's the exact same issue I encountered. So, I followed Fred's suggestion and downloaded the app directly onto the A7r II and it worked. Just a pain to enter the ID and password using the alphanumeric "keyboard" of the camera.



Dec 19, 2015 at 04:06 PM
Cometsoft
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


AGeoJO wrote:
That's the exact same issue I encountered. So, I followed Fred's suggestion and downloaded the app directly onto the A7r II and it worked. Just a pain to enter the ID and password using the alphanumeric "keyboard" of the camera.


Thanks, just did it and that worked. A lot of typing though, had an Apple suggested password which was a real nightmare to enter on camera screen.





Dec 19, 2015 at 04:18 PM
kdrk888
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


Cometsoft wrote:
I'm having no luck downloading it, I get in an endless cycle of "verifying connection". I know my connection works because I just upgraded to 3.0 on the A7RII. What OS and browser are you using?




I used Internet Explorer, Windows 10. Good luck.



Dec 19, 2015 at 04:19 PM
kdrk888
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


Stoffer wrote:
Raw? Cool, so this is more than just a gimmick?


I don't think it's a gimmick. It lets you selectively control exposure of the different sections of the picture and save it in raw, how cool is that?



Dec 19, 2015 at 04:22 PM
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