April 9, 2019

VSCO is suing PicsArt over reverse-engineered photo filters. Is preset armageddon approaching?

VSCO is suing PicsArt, a photo-sharing platform and editing app, for allegedly ripping off the company’s presets.

VSCO’s business of presets

While VSCO isn’t the only company to offer presets for sale (as well as free ones), they’re undoubtedly the best example of a company that has married community and photo editing. Early in VSCO’s existence, they offered a series of presets based off of classic film emulations that worked in tandem with Lightroom and Photoshop. Since then, VSCO has turned the corner to focus primarily on mobile and with it, a subscription service called VSCO X. VSCO X offers exclusive presets, transformative editing tools, and educational opportunities. To that point, VSCO’s presets are what draw in followers, but they stay for the community. To date, there are 187.5m #vsco and 197.6m #vscocam hashtags on Instagram.

What’s the VSCO and PicsArt beef?

  • VSCO alleges that 17 or more PicsArt employees made accounts on VSCO
  • PicsArt then reverse engineered 19 of VSCO’s presets, and then integrated them into their own platform as PicsArt exclusives under their Gold subscription plan
  • This is in direct violation of VSCO’s terms where users “agree not to sell, license, rent, modify, distribute, copy, reproduce, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, publish, adapt, edit or create derivative works from any VSCO Content.”

Is there actual merit or do they just look really similar?

Actually, there are cold, hard numbers that suggest they’re direct rips:

“VSCO’s color scientists have determined that at least nineteen presets published by PicsArt are effectively identical to VSCO presets that are only available through a VSCO account. Specifically, VSCO determined that those PicsArt filters have a Mean Color Difference (“MCD”) of less than two CIEDE2000 units (in some cases, far less than two units) compared to their VSCO counterparts. An MCD of less than two CIEDE2000 units between filters is imperceptible to the human eye and cannot have been achieved by coincidence or visual or manual approximation. On information and belief, PicsArt could have only achieved this degree of similarity between its filters and those of VSCO by using its employees’ VSCO user accounts to access the VSCO app and reverse engineer VSCO’s presets.”

Why is it a big deal?

The photography influencer community has relied upon alternative revenue streams outside of their actual craft which includes workshops and presets. Some personalities like James Popsys are adamant against presets based on creative principle, but the general sentiment is that many photographers are using preset bases such as VSCO to which they make small tweaks, repackage, and sell them to their followers.

Notable court cases like VSCO bring to light that the gig might be up for repackaged VSCO sellers who are moving the highlight slider ever so slightly and desaturating a photo.

March 10, 2019

The Leica Q2 is an update to one of the best travel cameras around

Leica Q2 Camera Fixed-Lens Travel

The Leica Q was among a niche of high-performing fixed-lens prosumer cameras. Four years after the original release, Leica introduces the Q2. The Q-series shared the competitive landscape with only a handful of other models. These models including the Sony RX-1 and the Fujifilm x100 series, all take a similar approach. These cameras all traded in an interchangeable lens for great optics and small footprints. In essence, this segment made for great everyday/travel companions.

A quick rundown of the specs

  • 47.3 MP full-frame sensor with DC and UHD 4K video recording
  • Leica Summilux 28mm f/1.7 lens (carried over from the Q1)
  • OLED panel with 3.68M dots (a change from the Q1’s LCD)
  • Built-in crop functions to create focal lengths of 35mm, 50mm, and 75mm
  • IP52 dust and water resistance

Price tag aside, why the Q2?

The Leica Q2 comes in at USD $4,995. It’s a unique offering that lacks versatility at times. However, if you’re looking for one of the best cameras in class, the Q2 is hard to beat. The focal crops may not result in a true optical difference but offers a degree of flexibility. The Q1 has been a workhorse travel camera for many. And based on its longevity, the Q2, price aside, is a worthy investment.

Other cameras with fixed lenses and small sizes

Fujifilm x100f (35mm-equivalent 35mm f/2 lens)
+ Significantly cheaper
+ Great lens
+ Smaller than the Q2
+/- Not a full-frame sensor
– Lack of stabilization
– Mediocre battery life

Sony RX1R II (ZEISS Sonnar T* 35mm f/2 lens)
+ Similar full-frame design
+ Cheaper
+/- Most similar to the Q2 across the board
– Challenging controls/handling
– Nearing an update as it was announced on October 14, 2015

If you’re interested in learning more about the Q-series, Craig Mod has an extensive review of the Q1. The essay/review is based on a 6-month test across Japan.

January 24, 2019

After significant backlash, Apple agrees to compensate #shotoniphone winners

Apple’s recent “Shot on iPhone Challenge” promises to use photos from 10 selected photographers for a series of marketing campaigns. The catch? There’s no compensation, or, there wasn’t any compensation

After backlash from creators on Twitter and other social media platforms, Apple quietly updated the announcement for the competition. The new description specifies that the final 10 winning photos will receive a licensing fee for their use on Apple marketing channels.

The idea of artists working for exposure is not a new one, and can benefit the creators in question, but it is a concept that the creative community is trying to combat. Apple have changed the small print of the competition, but for a company that “believes strongly that artists should be compensated for their work,” Apple had the opportunity to redefine the relationship between big brands and creatives.

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