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Tech Podcast Network

Photomatix Pro 5: Basic Introduction To Making HDR Images From A Single Photo 

(If you can't see the video, please click here.)

You don't need to take three or more photos to create a HDR image... one will do, and although you won't get the dynamic range of a multiple shot photo, the effects can be very impressive indeed.

In fact there are a lot of situations where trying to merge more than one photo into a HDR is impractical - think sports, portraits and any sort of image where there could be significant movement between on bracketed shot and the next.

So please take a look at the video to see how you can use Photomatix to create HDR photos from just one capture.

Thanks, Rob.


Become Part Of The Brabham Racing Team Legend @BrabhamOfficial

Photography is a journey. From snapshots to great shots - from pic's for the family album to photographs on the pages of glossy magazines. Whether your passion is wildlife, fashion, urban or portrait photography, if you want to achieve your goals you need a vision - and there's no better example of that than Sir Jack Brabham.

The only Formula One Driver ever to win a Championship in a car that he built and drove himself (in 1966), this was Jack Brabhams third title and the culmination of a journey that had started twenty years earlier on the oval dirt-tracks of Australia's Midget Car Racing community.

Sir Jacks achievements show us that with a little skill, a little knowledge, a lot of passion and a mountain of hard work we can make our visions a reality, whether it means becoming one of the best racing drivers in the world, or a sought after photographer in the best publications.

The Brabham name is coming back, and we can all be a part of it.

How do you fancy having exclusive behind the scenes access to Team Data, Race-Day Preperation and Information?

How would you like to have a say in the direction the team takes, the decisions they make and the goals they have?

How would you like to learn how to become a racing driver and how to get the best out of a racing car?

How much would you like to learn how to become a motorsports engineer, and to get training and insights into this most sought after career?

By supporting Project Brabham you have have access to the above, and what true motorsports enthuiast wouldn't want the chance to get in on the ground-level of the re-birth of a legend.

Please check out Project Brabham on Indiegogo and support the team however you can.

Thanks, Rob.


Jack Brabham 1966 F1 World Champion (credit LAT-Photographic


Canon Pixma MG5550 Photo Printer Review (5 ink, Wireless, 3 in 1) 

(If you can't see the video, please click here.)

So we’ve had the same Epson inkjet printer for the last five years, and although its done its service, lately you couldn’t get a decent document print out of it. With Oliver doing his exam’s and needing to print out lots of course work, it was time to get a new printer, and this was of course my opportunity to get something decent to print out my photographs.


Suzanne said I had a budget of under £100, but this had to include any special photographic printer paper I wanted to get at the same time. 


I was pretty much set on a Canon printer - during my time at Jessops we sold them, I had tested a few and I was always very impressed with the results - the prints compared with the wet prints from our big photo printers, but at the time the cost of paper and inks put me off so I didn’t buy one.


I guess what’s changed is the fact that Ols needs a printer for his course work, and we’re a little better off, and I’ve accepted the fact that if I want to become a better photographer I have to print my work. It's so important to create hard copies of what I do and I’ve come to terms with the extra cost that this involved, and in fact I’m embracing it.


I wanted to choose a printer that got half decent review for image quality, had at least four different cartridges for the different coloured inks, and most important, was in stock at our local Argos, PC world or Curries!


I trawled through what was available from Canon in those stores, then looked at the reviews on Amazon, and chose the Pixma MG5550, a wireless 3 in 1, that prints, scans, copies, has three colour cartridges and two blacks, and I got it for £80. I got some plain paper and a pack of Canon A4 photo paper and 6x4 printer paper, then rushed home to set it up. 


As you can see from the video, the MG5550 is a big unit, but being wireless you can set it up anywhere that’s covered by your Wireless Router. I've got to say that  it was very easy to set up. Just follow the instructions to put the cartridges in, and setting it up on our Virgin wireless router was super simple - just press a button on the router then on the printer and it was set up. I just then went round and installed the software on each computer in the house, and we were ready to go. 


I’ve got to say that wireless printing blows my mind. We used to have a printer that needed to be directly atached to one pc, and if someone else wanted to use it you had to email over the document then print it, which was a pain, but the fact that we can all share this printer from all the three laptops in our household is so easy and brilliant.
First thing I’ll say is that the print quality, I think, is excellent. A4 prints look great, the contrast, colour and sharpness is right up there, and 5x7’s look great too. The prints you see in the video are on quality photo paper using Canon ink, and I’m very happy indeed.


Canon says a 6 x 4 photo takes 45 seconds, I reckon A4 about 4-5 minutes, but this isn’t an issue as I’m in a different part of the house, I’ll start the print, wait a bit, then collect my photo, and it’s worth it for the quality.


Let’s talk price now. I bought a printer to do big prints, thats a4 size and the like, not to do lots of small prints. These figures I’ve worked out are estimates based on Canon’s usage figures for their inks, upscaled from 6x4’s to A4, and I’ve worked out these figures based on Genuine Canon Ink prices on, as of March 2014.


OK, so a 20 pack of Canon a4 glossy 2 photo paper is about £10, so that’s 50p a print to start off, the cheapest I could find the colour cartridges multipack, which includes a black, is £30, and the black for normal prints is ten pounds by itself, so thats £40 for the replacement ink cartridges. You’ll get 30 a4 (which is approximately 8” x 11”) size prints out of the coloured cartridges before you’ve got to replace them. The blacks do last longer, but for simplicities sake lets say then that the cost for ink per A4 print is £1.33, that makes a total cost of approximately £1.80, or US$3 per print for A4 glossy photos.


Now obviously that price comes down as you use the printer because not all the cartridges run out at the same time, and you can buy Canons XL cartridges for more value for money, but you can appreciate that printing big, a4 glossy photos is a serious business. Also remember that an A4 print from an online photo printing service like snapfish or asda is between £1 and £1.50, thats US$1.66 to $2.40, so you’re paying a premium to print at home, but I think that its amazing that you can create prints of this quality this easily all within the comfort of your own home, almost instantly.


When it comes to photo prints I’m more than happy with the quality from the MG5550, it’s great for that, so I’m recommending it already, but lets have a look at a couple of other features.

Copying is easy, just pop document in and select colour or black and white. Fast and simple, no need to use your computer. It is so convenient to have a photocopier to hand, and remember that it's a stand alone unit, no computer needs to be on to do this.

With scanning, the MG5550 makes great scans of photos and documents, but I have found the setup a little tricky. I had great difficulty getting the printer to import into Picasa or Photoshop, it seemed to crash at the final part, but there’s no reason not to use the supplied Canon IJ scan utility, which works fine. You can use the software from any of the computers you’ve installed the software on in your wireless network, just put your document on the scanner, then go to the computer and fire up Canon’s scan utility and it’ll pull the photo or PDF onto your computer. I’m working on how to change which pc the scanner sends the photo to if you start the process form the scanner, but for now I’m happy to do it from the individual laptops. It’d be nice if it had some sort of negative scanner, but I’m sure I can knock something up so I don’t have to dig out my Epson perfection to digitise my 35mm film negs.


The Pixma 5550 has plenty of other advanced features - you can print from mobile devices and the cloud, its got a quiet mode, it can do 2 sided printing, and as I said you can buy XL ink cartridges and value packs of those ink cartridges to save some cash.


I am really glad I got this printer - it’s got me making big photographs again and it’s inspiring me and my photography. Suzanne's been printing out lots of photos and it’s brought our old digital photo albums back to life. Ive never considered a 3 in 1 before, but the convenience of having a stand alone copier is so cool. It would be nice if it was a bit smaller or had separate trays for different types of paper, or be able to keep plain paper in when it's all closed up, but for 80 pounds there has to be a compromise somewhere. ’ll say it again, the photo print quality is great, and if you haven’t already got a printer, you can’t go far wrong with the Canon Pixma 5550.


Thanks, Rob.


Acer Aspire E1-571 Laptop Review - Intel Core i5

(If you can't see the video, please click here.)

I bought my Acer Aspire E1-571 from PC World just before Christmas 2013, and I’m sorry to say that I didn’t do any research. One Sunday afternoon we were out shopping, and Suzanne suggested that I should finally replace my old laptop as an early Christmas present.


I had a budget of about £400, and Suzanne convinced me to just get one then and there rather than messing about looking for weeks and not making a decision. My old laptop had a tendancy to overheat and turn itself off, usually when taking an awful long time to render a video for youtube. We went to a couple of Curries / PC Worlds, got some dodgy advice, and I’ll admit that I was confused with so many similar laptops at the same price,so just went for the one with the fastest processor.
I’m not an expert on laptop reviews, after all I’d been using a laptop running Windows XP, so I guess anything would seem better, but here’s my thoughts after using the Acer E1-571 for a few months.


Tech Stuff:


My e1-571 has 4gb ram, a 750gb hard drive, an i5 processor clocked at 2.6ghz, a 15.6” screen,a built in webcam and microphone. Its got a DVD rewriter, wifi, 6 cell battery that should run for 3.5 hours, a built in sd card reader, 3 usb ports, one hdmi ports, (no bluetooth though) and no touchscreen.


I’m running Windows 8 64 bit out of the box, which has now updated to 8.1 but i think its pretty much unusable unless you install a third party launcher. I use Classic Shell to get back a proper start button and menu, but I can’t disable the side swipes that bring up the metro menus, which is a pain but i can just about live with it.




The screen, at 15.6”, is nice and bright, with not too much glare, and the keyboard’s nice too. The laptop is not too heavy, it doesn’t run too hot and lasts long enough on full charge. The SD card slot is a bit tricky to use, its almost hidden behind the lip and it’s a  struggle to get a card in and out, but it does work nice and fast. The webcam, although advertised as HD, is mediocre at best, so replaced mine with a Logitech C920


In Use:


Caveat - I’ve stripped out a lot of the pre-installed bloatware, installed classic shell, and i’m very strict with what I install. I’ve disabled lots of things from starting, up, so i’ve got to say that I really like windows 8.1 with classic shell - it starts in seconds, from a cold boot to a hibernation, it has only crashed once during an update, and all my favourite programs work fine.


I use - Chrome, (Gmail, Calendar, Tasks), Picasa for photo organising and basic editing, Photoshop  CS3 for heavy editing, Windows Movie Maker for vids, Foxit reader, Audacity, and everything is snappy and smooth. Google Earth doesn’t work very well, or Itunes, but that's no great loss,


I’m not a power user, I don’t play games, but i do edit quite a few photos, which the Acer handles nicely, even moving up from the 3mb Canon 350d to the 7mb Canon 600d dSLR. The most demanding thing i do is render video, and this laptop renders a 1080p 17 min video with movie maker in 15mins, way, way faster than my old xp laptop.


Ok, so here’s some benchmark scores: The Acer gets a window experience score of 4.8.  and a pc mark 8 score of…. 2007. the low Windows experience score is because of the graphics, but I don’t do any gaming, so that isn’t an issue. The E1-571 is fine for watching vids and often I’ll be working on the laptop and have it plugged into our big TV playing Netflix at the same time, in 1080p, and it handles that with no problems at all.




The E1-571 is a solid basic laptop. It doesn't have the bells and whistles of more expensive models, but it does everything i need it to do, which is mainly surfing the web writing posts,, editing photos and rendering videos, reliably and quickly. I’m looking forward to swapping the 4gb for 8gb to see what the performance improvement is, but for now I’m happy. In the last couple of months i’ve produced more video content that I could in the last year with my old laptop, so it has been a very, very good investment.
i've had no problems with the build quality, reliability, display or speed, so I’m pleased with my purchase.


Cheers, Rob.

SCL Photography Podcast 242 - A World In Black And White

What I've been up to over the last couple of weeks, and a new photo assignment...


Subscribe on Itunes. (Will open Itunes, then you need to click on the "subscribe" button.) (Free)

Subscribe with other Podcatchers. (Google Reader, etc) (For Free)

Download / listen to the mp3. (Right-click then "save target as" / "save link as".) (Did I say it was free?)

Download / listen to the LOW BANDWIDTH (small file-size) mp3. (Right-click then "save target as" / "save link as".) (Again, free!)


Please check out

ThinkTankPhoto Retrospective 30 Review.

Visit To HMS Alliance With The 40mm and 50mm.

Crucial Memory Upgrade.

Our Flickr Assignment: "The World In Black And White"

If you'd like to contribute a little something to SCL, please Donate!

Come on over and join the Flickr group.

Cheers, Rob.