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Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps
  
 
AGeoJO
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p.2 #1 · p.2 #1 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


Awesome! Thank you for the tip, Fred!


Dec 19, 2015 at 04:30 PM
millsart
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p.2 #2 · p.2 #2 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


I've done the median blending technique before and found it works pretty well. Instead of taking a ton of shots though, I'd just blend a few shorter exposures, around 1-2 seconds each, taken either with a 3 stop ND or even a polarizer, and then blend those together, creating a similar result to using a strong ND, but without the color cast issues I'd often get (from IR leakage I guess?)

It also proves a little easier to shoot in the field, as doing 3-4 minute exposures often can result in someone coming into the frame etc (though sometimes if the exposure is long enough and they move quickly they don't even show up)

Certainly cool the number of options we have these days, be it in camera with apps, done in post, or even done with traditional GNDs and ND etc



Dec 19, 2015 at 04:50 PM
Fred Miranda
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p.2 #3 · p.2 #3 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


millsart wrote:
I've done the median blending technique before and found it works pretty well. Instead of taking a ton of shots though, I'd just blend a few shorter exposures, around 1-2 seconds each, taken either with a 3 stop ND or even a polarizer, and then blend those together, creating a similar result to using a strong ND, but without the color cast issues I'd often get (from IR leakage I guess?)

It also proves a little easier to shoot in the field, as doing 3-4 minute exposures often can result in someone coming into the frame etc (though sometimes if the
...Show more

Yes, the benefits are many: Easier to compose and focus in the field, much lower SNR, no color cast, no reduction of IQ and it's free. At least if you do it manually. The app costs about $5 I believe.




Dec 19, 2015 at 04:55 PM
cputeq
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p.2 #4 · p.2 #4 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


Thanks for the information.

Question -- How good is the Sky app on non-totally-split landscapes?

For instance, what if I'm shooting a mountain landscape with uneven horizon?



Dec 19, 2015 at 06:15 PM
millsart
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p.2 #5 · p.2 #5 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


I doubt it will, probably just a straight line transition, just like most digital ND grad filters. That is why I'm really curious if it also saves the full images of the two blended exposures, so I could then blend them myself and mask out things like mountain peaks as needed.

Be cool if it could figure out what is foreground and what is sky, but that is a level of thinking I don't think my camera is up to yet lol



Dec 19, 2015 at 08:00 PM
pizdets17
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p.2 #6 · p.2 #6 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


What about using this for Milky way? Taking a foreground and then the star image and blending?


Dec 19, 2015 at 09:09 PM
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p.2 #7 · p.2 #7 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


pizdets17 wrote:
What about using this for Milky way? Taking a foreground and then the star image and blending?


The problem would be the transition zone. I don't think it would blend very well since it's already hard to do it manually in Photoshop.



Dec 20, 2015 at 02:54 AM
Fred Miranda
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p.2 #8 · p.2 #8 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


Not related to the Sky App.

I took a test shot with the Smooth Reflection app and was impressed by the IQ. I set the camera to take 64 shots (equiv. of using a 6-stop filter). Here is the resulting test image.
(I also posted 1:1 crops showing center, extreme edge and tone transition on the cloud area)




  DSC-RX1RM2    35mm F2.0 lens    35mm    f/11.0    1/6s    100 ISO    +0.7 EV  






Center crop (1:1)






Extreme Edge crop (1:1)






Cloud area (1:1)




Dec 20, 2015 at 03:00 AM
nntnam
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p.2 #9 · p.2 #9 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


Fred,

Can you set the time interval between shots in Smooth Reflection app?



Dec 20, 2015 at 04:05 AM
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p.2 #10 · p.2 #10 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


After reading about it here, I installed the ND app. Amazing. Not only the long exposure emulation (which seems to work really well), but the total absents of noise is incredible. Had used multiple exposures before, to reduce noise, but it is a bit tedious to do it all manual. Here it is all simple and you get a single RAW file. The only thing that surprises me a bit is that it can not be combined with silent shutter. Making a large number of exposures to get a single file does seems a bit heavy on the shutter (I you would use it all the time).
And lets hope the app will one day be combined with uncompressed raw. Not so much to reduce compression artifacts, which I would expect to be reduced by the averaging, but to get 14 bits rather then 13. The noise floor is so low that you could really use 14 bits (even 16, if that was possible).



Dec 20, 2015 at 12:49 PM
 

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pdmphoto
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p.2 #11 · p.2 #11 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


I installed the smooth reflection app. It reminds of the ISO 6-50 on my old Kodak SLR/c. Nice result. Thanks Fred.


Dec 20, 2015 at 01:29 PM
TheEmrys
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p.2 #12 · p.2 #12 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


While I find most of the apps to be silly and gimmicky, Sony really does have some winners. Ineed to go buy some of these. Very cool stuff. I wish that Sony would rename them as "Grad ND filter" and "Variable ND filter."


Dec 20, 2015 at 01:53 PM
Fred Miranda
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p.2 #13 · p.2 #13 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


nntnam wrote:
Fred,

Can you set the time interval between shots in Smooth Reflection app?


There is no interval time control but the minimal internal time seems to be about 1 second between exposures.




Dec 20, 2015 at 04:12 PM
Fred Miranda
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p.2 #14 · p.2 #14 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


waardij wrote:
After reading about it here, I installed the ND app. Amazing. Not only the long exposure emulation (which seems to work really well), but the total absents of noise is incredible. Had used multiple exposures before, to reduce noise, but it is a bit tedious to do it all manual. Here it is all simple and you get a single RAW file. The only thing that surprises me a bit is that it can not be combined with silent shutter. Making a large number of exposures to get a single file does seems a bit heavy on the shutter (I
...Show more

Before this app, I used to take 8 or 16 shots for a 3-4 stop ND effect. It's very time consuming to average the images in post even with a powerful computer. At 32 shots, It would take me about 15 minutes to get a final output back to Lightroom and it would be a Tiff instead of a RAW.
If you have lenses that can't use filters or simply don't want to carry them around, the Smooth Reflections app is IMO the best app Sony offers.
Do a test with 16 shots and increase increase exposure to +4EV. There is no noise!!! That is because you get ridiculously high SNR with super low ISO equivalents.

There are benefits of doing it manually though. If you get a blurry frame, you can remove it from the averaging. Also, you can test the final output for different number of frames to see what works best for your image. You can also align all the frames before they get averaged. With the app, you can't go back and remove a frame from the sequence. There is also no aligning so you must have a very sturdy tripod and not a lot of wind. I don't find any of this to be an issue though as if you were using a real ND filter, you would have to take the same precautions.

I've read some comments about the app applying noise reduction. That is just not the case. The noise reduction happens from medium averaging and all the detail is preserved (see my samples above). Just divide the ISO by the number of shots to find the equiv. ISO.
I'm not sure how Sony did it. If must do the averaging on the fly and we get a final image right after the last frame. (No waiting for processing)

Also, keep in mind that you can use a 2-3 stop ND filter in conjunction with this app. With a 3-stop filter for example, you get 6-stop equiv. output with only 8 shots. It may seem not to make sense since you are using filter anyways but it's much easier to compose/focus with a 3-stop than with a 6/10-stop filter. There is also much less color cast.

I find this app more useful than the Sky HDR for my needs. That is because if you ETTR your single file or in high contrasty situations bracket ETTR, you will get enough DR for a single shot or better results using the Lightroom HDR option when bracketing. The benefit of the app is setting different apertures for the exposures. That is cool.
Gradual NDs were very useful in the film days but today we have better options.



Dec 20, 2015 at 04:35 PM
retrofocus
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p.2 #15 · p.2 #15 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


Checked it - $9.99 without taxes for the app. I found in most scenes where I formerly on my DSLR had to use a graduated ND filter, I don't need it with the A7R. Too dark foreground scenes can easily pushed a bit in post processing to brighten up.

I am using the Smooth Reflection app sometimes, too.



Dec 20, 2015 at 04:50 PM
mogul
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p.2 #16 · p.2 #16 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


Fred Miranda wrote:
Before this app, I used to take 8 or 16 shots for a 3-4 stop ND effect. It's very time consuming to average the images in post even with a powerful computer. At 32 shots, It would take me about 15 minutes to get a final output back to Lightroom and it would be a Tiff instead of a RAW.
If you have lenses that can't use filters or simply don't want to carry them around, the Smooth Reflections app is IMO the best app Sony offers.
Do a test with 16 shots and increase increase exposure to +4EV. There is
...Show more
Fred, do you think Sony is auto aligning, not just averaging, like it does in twilight mode where the camera will actually grab a clean shot even if the subject is moving (those shots are 6 shot jpeg)?



Dec 20, 2015 at 05:02 PM
Fred Miranda
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p.2 #17 · p.2 #17 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


mogul wrote:
Fred, do you think Sony is auto aligning, not just averaging, like it does in twilight mode where the camera will actually grab a clean shot even if the subject is moving (those shots are 6 shot jpeg)?


Currently it does not align the images.
It could be a good update for this app along with support for 'uncompressed' RAW.



Dec 20, 2015 at 05:37 PM
millsart
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p.2 #18 · p.2 #18 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


Aligning the images seems like it would be pretty processor intensive, so I don't know if I'd expect an update or not for that.

I will say though, with regards to the smooth reflections app, that it can sometimes give a different look to water than a single long exposure, depending on the nature of the water flow.

I don't know if I can dig up some example photos I've done when I bought it, but basically when I've used it without any ND filter, taking a large number of shorter exposures in pretty good light, and comparing those results to using a 9 or 10 stop ND, the results were different.

I don't know if people would really notice if you didn't a/b them side by side, but the apps results had more over-exposed regions. Just wasn't as smooth and silky with lapping waves and such.

Could just be my not using the right setting since there are a few different ones, or maybe not enough exposures....?

Same holds true for doing the averaging blending in post though.

I think at the end of the day its just 3 different techniques with similar yet sometimes different results.

Using a real ND for a proper 4 minute exposure has its pro's and con's, as does taking a hundred shots at a pretty fast shutter speed, or something in between with a weaker ND

Just the same though, if you've got a lens with a bulbous front element that can't even take a filter, these apps are pretty darn awesome as they give you some options you otherwise couldn't do.



Dec 20, 2015 at 06:47 PM
Fred Miranda
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p.2 #19 · p.2 #19 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


millsart wrote:
Could just be my not using the right setting since there are a few different ones, or maybe not enough exposures....?


That's my guess millsart.
I don't use the presets as I prefer controlling exposure and the total number of shots with more precision. If you go by the number of images needed for the equivalent stops (posted here), you should get very similar results. Wait, actually..with medium averaging (App or Photoshop) the resulting image will have much lower noise (higher SNR), zero color cast, no excessive vignetting and potentially better IQ and flare control since we are not adding a plastic in front of our lenses.



Dec 20, 2015 at 07:08 PM
joychris
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p.2 #20 · p.2 #20 · Sky HDR and Smooth Reflection Apps


Fred Miranda wrote:
The Smooth Reflection app replaces a ND filter.
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
...Show more

This is great info. I thought the Smooth Reflection looked like a gimmick, now I'm off to get it and the Sky HDR app.



Dec 20, 2015 at 08:18 PM
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