Short film created in Unreal Engine showcases a photorealistic world

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A short film that premiered at GDC highlights the photorealism potential of Unreal Engine, and it would be easy to assume Rebirth is a live-action short given how life-like it looks. The video depicts an atmospheric environment full of craggy rocks, hills and fog, along with an imposing, industrial structure. We then see a futuristic car speeding across the landscape towards the building.

Quixel captured more than 1,000 scans in Iceland to help it create the gorgeous short, so the team didn’t have to create assets itself. Games, visual effects and architectural visualization artists worked on the project to highlight the capabilities of Unreal across a number of industries. The team used Unreal 4.21, the current version of the engine, for the short — version 4.22 is expected to arrive in the next couple of weeks.

"With UE 4.21 at the heart of the real-time pipeline, Quixel’s artists were able to iterate on the go, eliminating the need for previsualization or post-production," Unreal creator Epic Games wrote in a blog post. "The team also built a physical camera rig that was able to capture movements in-engine using virtual reality, adding an enhanced dimension of realism to the short. All post-processing and color grading was completed directly within Unreal."

Source: Epic Games

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Industry veteran Jade Raymond is in charge of turning Google into a major video game publisher — and that has huge ramifications (GOOG, GOOGL)

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Jade Raymond Stadia

  • On Tuesday, Google announced Stadia, a new video game streaming service that could usher in a new era of cloud-based gaming. 
  • Jade Raymond, who Google recently hired as a vice president, will be leading the in-house teams creating games specifically for Stadia. 
  • With Raymond, Google has a seasoned industry veteran at the helm — and also makes a powerful statement in an industry with a well-earned reputation as being toxic to women. 

In Tuesday, Google announced its huge new push into gaming: a streaming service called Stadia, which it promises will bring high-quality games to just about any device. 

And in the last minutes of its hour-long keynote came its final big reveal: Jade Raymond, a long-time industry veteran, will be leading Stadia Games and Entertainment — a division that will create games and other experiences specifically for the service. 

News that Google had hired Raymond came out last week, though no one knew then what exactly she’d be doing for the search giant. She’ll be working with Google VP Phil Harrison, who has stints with PlayStation and Xbox under his belt.

Raymond is an industry veteran best known for helping to create and shepherd the blockbuster "Assassin’s Creed" series, having worked at publisher Ubisoft for much of her career. But she also worked at EA, where she was overseeing games including the hotly-anticipated "Star Wars: 1313." However, she left EA in October, in the wake of the cancellation of "1313" and the closure of developer Visceral. 

Ultimately, Raymond is more than just a top executive. As Google plants its flag in the video game business, hiring Raymond can be taken as a sign that the search giant is also trying to do its part in making the industry more welcoming to women.

Read: A group of women trying to change the sexist culture of open source software have been harassed online

A big opportunity

As harsh as the whole tech industry has been to women, the video game world might actually be worse. It’s been described as downright toxic to players, game developers, video game journalists, and even female characters in games.

Six years ago, when the blog Feminist Frequency shined a light on toxic attitudes towards women and sexist tropes in the video game industry, the author Anita Sarkeesian, received threats of violence. Today, Sarkeesian says her work helped bring much-needed attention to the subject.

jade raymondThe gaming industry is aware of its reputation but its progress to make gaming less hostile has been slow.

Just this month, Valve, which runs market-leading PC game store (and, now, Stadia competitor) Steam, was pressured into withdrawing support for a new indie title slated to come its service: a game about raping women. After public outcry, Valve said it wouldn’t allow the title to come to the Steam store. 

So the gaming industry needs more high profile, powerful women in top roles that can turn the industry away from its misogynistic ways.

More women running new gaming services could at least translate into better women game characters, fewer sexist tropes in games, and more women entering the game development world. Ultimately, it could very well result in more women playing games — which would mean a big opportunity on which Google could be poised to capitalize.

Read: Oprah: ‘No matter what you think about my life, it’s 10 times better than that’ — and your life can be just as good

Victory not assured

Not that Raymond may not be automatically successful at Google, which has sometimes come under fire for how it treats matters of gender equality.

Earlier this month, Bloomberg reported that founder Larry Page offered a giant golden parachute to its star Android developer when that man was under an internal investigation for sexual-misconduct complaints.

And Google has previously hired women executives to lead major businesses, only to have them leave a relatively short time later. Last year, for instance, Diane Green stepped down as CEO of Google Cloud after only about three years in the role — and was replaced by a man, Thomas Kurian, who was hired from Oracle

That said, Raymond is a fantastic choice as one of the main faces for its push into gaming and Google deserves props for hiring her.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Nintendo Switch is the fastest-selling console of the current generation — here’s why Nintendo is dominating video games

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Stadia will make YouTube livestreamers a lot more valuable

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Stadia will make YouTube livestreamers a lot more valuable

On Tuesday, Google unveiled its new video game streaming platform, Google Stadia. The tech behemoth stepping into the fairly new cloud gaming ring is certainly a big deal, but the effects it will have on YouTube’s ecosystem may be just as big.

With the Stadia announcement, Google revealed heavy YouTube integrations with the gaming platform. Cloud gaming services existed long before Google’s gaming platform, but they didn’t have the help of a massively popular video platform — nor did they exist at a time when internet speeds could handle video game streaming.

YouTube users watching a gaming stream will be able to launch right into playing the very game they were viewing thanks to a button which will be embedded on Stadia-based livestreams. While we don’t yet know if users will have to purchase each game a la carte or subscribe to an open library with Stadia, which games get the most play will almost certainly depend on who’s streaming them. Developers already promote games via popular streamers; Stadia could carry that to the next level. 

With such deep YouTube integrations, it’s very possible that Stadia changes the gaming culture there. For example, a feature called Crowd Play will allow fans of a YouTube streamer to jump right into a game and play with the creator they were just watching. Interaction with viewers is such an integral part of livestreaming, so creators could take to this feature very quickly depending on the genre of games they play. Successful creators usually follow stringent streaming schedules to keep their fans happy, so it’s not hard to imagine a future where it becomes the norm to have Crowd Play time distinctly carved out.

Stadia integration with Google Assistant will also have far-reaching effects on YouTube. According to Google, Stadia users will be able to ask Google Assistant for help during a particularly difficult point during a video game. Google Assistant will automatically detect where the player is in the game and serve up the most relevant YouTube video to help out. 

The details on exactly how Google will determine which video to show aren’t yet known. But, again, depending on how it works, we can see developers partnering up with specific streamers to create these video walkthroughs, or perhaps streamers will attempt to game whatever algorithm Google creates to deliver these videos. Either way, YouTube’s gaming creators are about to become much more influential.

It’s clear that Google is turning up the heat on Amazon’s Twitch with its Stadia-YouTube integrations. While video games are, by far, the biggest video niche on YouTube, Twitch is still the most popular place to watch video game streaming. The platform has catered specifically to gamers with its Twitch Partner program. Twitch currently allows viewers to buy games they were watching through the platform with a percentage of the purchase price going to the livestreamer.

However, one issue to consider is YouTube’s own problems. Over the years, the site has been criticized for a multitude of issues, including platforming problematic creators. YouTube is currently trying to fix its recommendation algorithm, which has long been known to send viewers down a rabbit hole filled with conspiracy theories and extremist views almost regardless of what they were looking for in the first place. The site also recently dealt with a major scandal regarding exploitative children’s content and predatory comments. 

And then, separately, we saw with the shooting in New Zealand that livestream moderation is a whole problem of its own. Passively watching videos and streams could be a time suck. Certainly many more hours will be spent on YouTube when actual interactive gameplay will be so heavily integrated. Google needs to be prepared to tackle these issues that would likely be compounded if Stadia is to be a massive success.

Another issue to consider is how any of Stadia’s features could possibly hinder what most livestreamers are after: video views. Game streamers may find that their viewers going off to also play the game they’re playing affects their streaming numbers. For some, it may just not be worth it to promote the games in that way on Stadia.

With such heavy integrations, Google is obviously depending on YouTube to help make Stadia stick around. But if the platform lands the way the company hopes, it may also change the YouTube creator ecosystem.

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The Fourth Industrial Revolution is here

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The advent of electronics had ushered in the third Industrial Design revolution but we are slowly moving beyond the realm of tangible, screen-based interactions to discover multiple new possibilities. These discoveries are the cause for which, the World Economic Forum and many other leading research agencies are deeming the upcoming trends as the fourth Industrial Revolution. In the article below, Paul Hobcraft explains what exactly does this fourth revolution entail and how will it affect the industries and hence, the world around us.

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There are twin forces at work, feeding off each other. We are facing greater disruption and an increasing innovation pace. These are constantly combining, relentlessly adding a new shape to our future. We are actually caught up in a very revolutionary period.

The days of simple product innovation are dwindling. It is through the fourth industrial revolution (also known as Industry 4.0), currently being undertaken, that technology, talent, and new innovation ecosystems are emerging – building greater complexity into our final innovation offerings. Intelligent automation and technology are fuelling this new industrial revolution. And this unprecedented, exponential pace of change is increasingly reliant on collaborative platforms to realize the result: more radical innovations.

Innovators struggle to manage in a new way

Organizations everywhere are facing mounting pressure to transform – to shift from product-centric business models to new models focused on creating and capturing different sources of new value. As a result, innovation is becoming more complex.

At the heart of this transformation is the fourth industrial revolution. Here, manufacturing is fast becoming the digital manufacturing enterprise (DME). The DME is designed to increase response rate and manage in more efficient, connected, and effective ways. There is this growing recognition that everything needs to be connected to bring a different perspective to any global value chain –one of being far more responsive and bringing manufacturing closer to the customer need.

How does your organization feel about our digitally connected world? We are all becoming more connected in the way we work, collaborate, and manage. Organizations are attempting to “fuse” different technologies to manage the existing physical world differently and are preparing themselves for the interplay between the physical and virtual world – one where this “connecting up” is promising to bring us. The ongoing investment in IT infrastructure is drawing in investments. It is changing the nature of where we will look for innovation outcomes in the future.

The fourth industrial revolution is one where we are gaining new knowledge and understanding. It is offering a very different potential for constructing new business models, products, services, and societal solutions. Many manufacturers are still in the early stages of this fourth revolution, but you have this sense of feeling that we are continuing to disrupt everything we know.

Welcome to the 4th industrial revolution

Wherever we turn in the manufacturing world, the technological revolution immerses us. The scale, scope, and complexity are things we’ve certainly never experienced. It is exposing us to exponential technologies. But what does that mean?

We seem caught up in such levels of velocity, scope, and systems impact – it is seemingly exponential, occurring at faster rates of change. Companies are radically overhauling entire systems of production, management, and governance on a constant basis of change. We have unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to various avenues of knowledge. These are being combined with emerging technology in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, material science, and quantum computing. It is creating fresh challenges and opportunities within innovation. Are we equipping ourselves to explore these?

Of course, we have faced industrial revolutions before. But, being caught up in one tends to leave us often conflicted. The first industrial revolution was based on water and steam to mechanize production. The second revolution was the use of electric power that led to the creation of mass production. Then we had the third revolution, where electronics and information technology started to deliver automated production. This fourth one builds on the third. It is the digital revolution where we are witnessing a fusion of technologies that seem to be blurring the lines between those past established borders to open up different meanings and business potential. It is truly exponential.

Confronted in multiple ways

We are looking increasingly to our engineers, designers, and scientists to unlock these new knowledge flows that bring us whole new areas of technological-based innovation. Product innovation is continually giving way to new concepts that have technology built into them. Our innovation has become increasingly complex, connected, and contextual.

Our industry value chains are being radically redesigned to accommodate “connected worlds” being more reliant on “everything” being digital. This is giving us new options for adapting quality to differently defined market needs. We are learning to respond digitally, in more dramatic and dynamic ways, to reflect pricing opportunity on increasingly opportunity marketing, so as we can appeal to wider sets of audiences or push our offerings out to explore different market potentials.

As we continue to design manufacturing to be fully connected-up, we can adjust faster, scale differently, and deliver quantities to varying cycles of demand, closer to the need of the day and more appealing to the customers. Our innovation scope changes with these new dynamics.

Today, we see a different spectrum of choice. We can order personalized clothes online that reflect the latest fashion, seen only days before. Manufacturing and delivery are taking days and not months to be available in-store or delivered to your door. We can design our own shoes. We can build complete vacation packages, designing our travel to meet our specific needs and budget. More and more, we want tailored experiences or solutions that fit our design need, not just “items” sitting on the shelf.

Mass production has given way to tailored design. We can track our orders, and we can engage directly with those that can deliver to our specific needs. Our engagement and growing relationship with customer service, our needs, and the organization’s service and response are all changing. All provide innovation opportunity to exploit.

Manufacturing is in a massive transformation

Manufacturing has progressively formed around cyber-physical product systems (CPPS) that are merging our real and virtual worlds into a seamless one. Software is optimizing every process and task, whether performed by humans or machines. These are ongoing online networks of machines connected in similar ways to our social networks that are linked through technology and digital infrastructures. Everything has become “smart.”

The revolution underway is connecting all the parts: the “internet of things” (IoT), of data, of services, and of people. We are very much still in the middle of this revolution, but it is where innovation will greatly benefit as this connecting-up continues.

We are constantly seeing progress occurring all around us. For example, we’re now more dependent on cloud processing and data storage than ever before. We are recognizing the value of having digital twins to simulate our manufacturing environment. We are designing software solutions specifically to simulate different scenarios, mirroring our real time to test options and optimize different set-ups, to reflect demand.

Our manufacturing plants are becoming far more integrated – virtually integrated. We are building industry 4.0 open standards so increasingly we can connect across manufacturing ecosystems even more, so as to reduce disruption or provide greater flexibility. We are exploring data analytics for learning and predicting, and this is placing a greater emphasis on collaboration, experimentation, exploration, and coordination from all this connecting-up.

Consequences of the 4th industrial revolution

We must reflect on all these direct consequences of the fourth industrial revolution. Where technology has combined with the physical to raise our customer expectations even further, it has given us different product enhancements that fit with our lives, one where we can contribute and collaborate more.

The customer is increasingly at the epicenter of the economy. The products and services are enhanced through the digital capabilities that boost their value and worth. New materials are making our assets more durable and resilient, and data and analytics provide valuable feedback needed to build even better services and performance for the future. All this connecting and reacting is requiring new forms of collaboration, and we are seeing new types of organizations emerging. They are far more dependent on platforms and ecosystems. Innovation is the unlocking mechanism.

We are required to alter our understanding of Innovation due to this 4th revolution

The consequences of the fourth industrial revolution can be seen in the shifts of our emphasis taking place around innovation. We are focusing more on our innovation spend on technological innovation. We are constantly looking at the changes to our existing business models to reflect these changes, and we are integrating our innovation systems to explore entirely new business models.

Source: World Economic Forum

We are connecting innovation more than ever. For example, choosing a blockchain technology requires significant collaboration and technology understanding. We are reliant on so much to generate “our”innovative solutions, far more than in the past. The interactive World Economic Forum map (screenshot shown above) is worth exploring. As you click on the links, you quickly recognize how interconnected our innovation has become. Not just in being able to produce accepted solutions but being having a ‘richer’ choice on where to focus our innovation efforts. Our innovation is becoming reliant on the fourth revolution and how it is all connecting us up, to provide our future growth through greater collaboration.

Doblin’s ‘Ten Types of Innovation’ – more relevant today than in the past

In the past, innovation was traditionally a product offering only – those within one specific domain of influence, as a one company solution. This has been progressively changing. We have been seeing innovation’s potential in exploring different combinations as outlined by Doblin’s “Ten Types of Innovation” view. It is the connecting-up of our operating environment digitally that is building this out even further.

The configuration, offering, and experiences are being pushed further by the growing impact of Industry 4.0. By integrating, exploring cross-disciplinary engineering, exploring the extended value chain, and through greater understanding of product function, customer experiences and managing innovation throughout the total life cycle are giving us a more expansive innovation canvas to work with. The shift in where to place your innovation efforts comes more and more from both horizontal and vertical solutions not previously imagined without this connected world.

Industry 4.0 has required us to advance our core skills and capabilities

We need to appreciate new digital business models and their impact. We are increasingly reliant on digital engineering and science. Our operations are yielding more innovation growth creating potential in end-to-end management, having available a digital factory that can respond, a greater reliance on so many things digital, ones that can lead to radically different innovation opportunities.

In products, there are so many variations of product extension, of how to position them and operate within multiple business models. There is scope to have radically different product development and processes to manage these. These are multiplying by this rate of industrial change.

Equally, the traditional supply chain has a very different potential when factories and operations become highly connected and start operating as Industry 4.0 entities; in the way they can be operated, responsive, in the supply networks and logistical integration opportunities, and in responding through different levels of automated planning and inventory management. All require different management.

As we connect more, customer experiences can hugely benefit. We can target, sell, and market on greater connecting knowledge. We can understand channel choice and connectivity better and provide more tailored pre- and post-sales support to manage the entire lifecycle as we continue to build the connected industry 4.0 environment.

The innovator is being challenged

So, what must we do as innovators? By recognizing and delivering on the fourth industrial revolution, we can start to think outside our classic product innovation boxes. We can shift our often-linear thinking as Industry 4.0 is the revolution that connects all the parts. Recognizing the transforming potential will revolutionize how we manage innovation going forward. It shifts our thinking and the management of innovation dramatically.

Innovation is fundamentally undergoing a radical change. Where is the front-end in all this? Is it simply just in an idea plucked from random connections, or is it found through all the digital connections we are continually making, brought about by the fourth industrial revolution? Are we capitalizing and capturing these as well as we should be? I feel we should explore this further in future posts. What do you think? Would that be valuable to you?


YD’s endeavor is to increase efficiency by connecting employers to their ideal candidates. Yanko Design has curated industrial design followers for the past 15+ years, and we know these are the best match for your company. To recruit now, post a job with us!

The original write up by Paul Hobcraft published on Hype can be found here.

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A Waymo engineer reveals how the self-driving car company develops its robot brains (GOOGL)

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Shilpa Waymo

  • Shilpa Gulati leads Waymo’s Behavior Prediction team.
  • The India-born engineer works on perfecting Waymo’s robot brains.
  • Her inspiration was reading Isaac Asimov’s legendary robot stories when she was 12 years old.


Editor’s note: Business Insider has been talking with Waymo employees from different parts of the company to learn more about their work. What we discovered were some of the coolest jobs at Alphabet, Waymo’s parent company. This is the latest profile in the series. To read the others, click here. For a brief history of Waymo, click here.

It’s a common Silicon Valley story: a young person reads science-fiction novels or watches some movies that feature robots and decides to make futuristic technology their life’s work. 

Cue Stanford, MIT, or CalTech. 

Shilpa Gulati leads the Behavior Prediction Team at Waymo and has worked on NASA projects as well as at Apple and self-driving startup Nuro, and she holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas, Austin. She, too, was inspired by sci-fi, but she wasn’t sitting in an American suburb when inspiration struck.

"I grew up in a small town in India," she said in an interview from Waymo headquarters, at the Alphabet Googleplex in Mountain View, CA.

"The wasn’t much to do but read books in summer," she added. Some of the books she encountered were in Isaac Asimov’s "Robot Series," originally published in the 1950s. Students of both Asimov and robots know that the extensive series contains Asimov’s now-famous "Three Laws of Robotics," which have actually shaped contemporary thinking about machine intelligence as it transitions from fantasy to reality.

Read more: A Waymo employee reveals what it’s like to create the unique voice of self-driving cars

Asimov’s books also featured something that would entrance a 12-year-old Gulati: "positronic brains," as Asimov termed them ("Star Trek" enthusiasts will recognize the reference, updated for the "Next Generation" in the character of the android Mr. Data).

"I didn’t know any such things existed," Gulati said. "That you could build a brain indistinguishable from a human brain!"

Making a career from childhood thrills — and becoming a female engineer against the odds

Waymo Launch

Excitement over a non-human human brain is understandable in a 12-year-old. What’s impressive about Gulati is that she’s maintained that childhood thrill for her work at Waymo. And in many ways, her success has had to draw on that adolescent revelation.

She noted that robotics didn’t provide a clear professional path when she was entering the field, and she also suffered from a lack of female role models in technology when she was growing up. But her parents were extremely supportive, and it helped that her father was a professor of mechanical engineering who let her tag along to professional fairs and joined her for science experiments when she was a kid.

After starting out at an aerospace company, Gulati joined Bosch in the early 2010s. She later moved on to Apple, leading an autonomous-systems team, and then to Nuro. (In 2008 and 2009, she also worked with NASA to develop an autonomous underwater vehicle that could potentially explore Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa. The work took her to the frozen Antarctic.)

"Waymo and Google were always on my mind," she said, recalling her fascination with the Google Car project and its "secret sauce" of self-driving. When a position opened up last June, she had to take it.

"It’s really, really exciting," she said. "The talent is incredible. As a newcomer, I know they’ve been at it for ten years, but it feels like a hundred years of knowledge. It’s like going to Moon — only harder."

Behavior prediction is a challenging area, particularly as Waymo begins to commercialize its service, beginning in the Phoenix area with Waymo One in December of 2018.

Waymo’s autonomous "driver" — a combination of software programming and hardware sensors and radars — has racked up millions of miles in real-world testing and billions in simulations. The driver can operate in a sophisticated rendering of reality. But it can’t predict everything that will happen on the road. 

A modern Mr. Data at the wheel

star trek

That’s where Gulati’s team comes in, crunching data on what they call "relevant agents" — a cyclist, for example, or a pedestrian waiting near a crosswalk. The Waymo driver needs to be able to react safely to subtle relevant-agent cues, undertaking the sort of quick situational evaluation that human’s excel at, but that modern-day positronic brains struggle with as they crank through their algorithms.

Tacking this challenge with her team, Gulati stays well-organized and makes use of Alphabet’s flexible work culture. Each day ends with a review of what was accomplished and a look ahead to the next day’s schedule, a process than Gulati undertakes in the evenings. The following morning, she’s up at 7 AM, enjoys breakfast at 8 AM, and lands at the office around 10 after dropping off her child at school. The official work day wraps at 5 PM.

Consistency is vital because Gulati is serious about aiming for perfection. 

"If I were to look far into future," she said, "self-driving cars don’t have to have flaws. They can learn more from data than a human can. My prediction is that they’ll get better and better."

At the same time, she reminds herself to remain humble, erring on the side of caution and taking a conservative path to a fully autonomous tomorrow.

Nonetheless, for someone who, as she puts it, has been the only woman on most projects in her life, Gulati feels pride in how far she’s come. She read about robot brains when she was 12, and now she’s creating them.

"I can’t believe I’m living my dream, every single day."

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NOW WATCH: Waymo is now letting ordinary people sign up to test its self-driving cars in Phoenix

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The Best Fujifilm X-Series Kits for Travel Photography

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The post The Best Fujifilm X-Series Kits for Travel Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Matt Murray.

Travel has always been my first love. In 1994 I bought my first camera – a Pentax Zoom 90 WR point and shoot – because I was going to Europe for a two-year working holiday. The only way to share photos with family back then was to have the film developed and post the prints home!

While photography (and technology) has changed remarkably in the last 25 years, what you should look for in a camera for travel photography is much the same: small, light, capable of great results and preferably weather resistant.

I’ve used all sorts of camera brands over the years. However, for me, Fujifilm X-Series cameras and lenses are the perfect travel companions. Whether it’s a trip to the Australian outback, visiting remote Buddhist temples in the Javanese jungle, photographing puffins in the Faroe Islands or capturing traffic trails in Taiwan, my X-Series cameras have always produced stunning results. Here are my recommended Fujifilm X-Series kits for your next big adventure.

Best minimalist kit

Camera: Fujifilm X100F
Lens: Fixed F2 Fujinon lens
Weight: 469 grams

The best minimalist kit choice was easily the stunning Fujifilm X100F. This is the best compact digital camera ever made. Yes, it really is that good!

Many photographers – including diehard users of other brands – use this as their “take everywhere” shooter. The X100F is small and quiet, and the fast f/2 Fujinon lens creates beautiful images. It may be small, but it boasts an impressive array of features including a leaf shutter and built-in neutral density filter.

Like all the cameras I feature in this article, the X100F can shoot RAW alongside Fujifilm’s array of stunning JPG film simulations, that replicate the look of classic films such as Provia and Velvia. Fujifilm cameras produce the best JPGs I’ve seen straight out of the camera.

This choice is a little unusual as it has a fixed lens. That’s right. You can’t take it off and swap it for another lens. If the 23mm focal length (35mm in full-frame terms) isn’t your preferred choice, the system also has wide-angle conversion and telephoto converter lenses. However, these do add extra weight to your kit. One of the few downsides to the X100F is that it’s not weather resistant. But, at least it’s small enough to fit in your pocket during a downpour.

One body plus one lens kit

Camera body: X-T30
Lens: XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS lens
Approximate weight: 693 grams

If you only have space to take one body and one lens on a trip, I would recommend the brand new Fujifilm X-T30 with the XF 18-55mm F/2.8-4 R LM OIS lens. I’ve been using this line of cameras since buying the X-T10 as a second body back up to my X-T1, and I’ve also used the X-T20. The X-T cameras with a “0” after them are lighter, cheaper, non-weather resistant versions of the flagship models, but usually feature much of the same technology. For example, the X-T30 has the same 26.1MP X-Trans 4 CMOS sensor as the X-T3.

Alternatives for the camera body would be the X-T20 and the X-E3. The X-T20 gives you a screen that tilts up and down for overhead and low to the ground shots. Whereas, the X-E3 is the more minimalist choice, and features a joystick that controls where the focus point is in the frame. The X-T30 and the X-T3 have both of these features.

My choice of lens for this kit is the XF 18-55mm F/2.8-4 R LM OIS. Not only is it one of my favorite Fujifilm lenses, but it’s also the lens that I’ve used the most over the last three years.

Often sold with camera bodies, many newcomers to the X-Series remark that the XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS lens is “surprisingly good for a kit lens.” In no way is this lens like the subpar beginner kit lenses produced by other manufacturers. The XF 18-55mm F/2.8-4 R LM OIS is a stunningly sharp lens in its own right and has produced some of my favorite images ever.

It may not be weather resistant, but it does feature OIS (optical image stabilization) to ensure your shots are as sharp as possible at lower shutter speeds. It’s a variable aperture zoom lens, meaning that the maximum aperture changes as you zoom through the range. However, you can still shoot at f/2.8 at the 18mm focal length, and f/4 at the 55mm end. It’s a top lens for landscape, cityscape, and portraits.

Best kit under 1kg

Camera body: X-T30
Lenses: XF 18-55mm F/2.8-4 R LM OIS + XF 35mm f/1.4 R
Approximate weight: 880 grams

My picks for the best kit weighing under 1kg include the same choices as the ‘One body plus one lens’ kit above, with the addition of the XF 35mm f/1.4 R. The first time I used this lens, I was blown away by its sharpness and stunning bokeh. It’s a top lens for portraits, still life subjects and even street shooting.

It did have a reputation of being slow to focus, but with Fujifilm’s ongoing firmware updates to both lenses and camera bodies, this has greatly improved. I wouldn’t hesitate to use it in any situation. This lens has a fast maximum aperture of f/1.4 that enables you to shoot images handheld at night without raising the ISO too high or lowering the shutter speed too low.

One zoom, two fast primes kit

Camera bodies: X-T30
Lenses: XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS + XF 35 1.4 R + XF 60mm f2.4 R Macro
Approximate weight: 1.095kg

For a lightweight travel kit weighing just over 1kg and featuring two fast prime lenses, add the XF 60mm f/2.4 R Macro to the kit above. This is another option often overlooked by newer lenses on the block, but it offers superb image quality for portraits and macro shots.

Although it’s not a true macro lens (it offers 1:2 magnification rather than the standard 1:1 magnification for a true macro lens), it is an incredibly light option for close up shots. It weighs less than a third of the weight of Fujifilm’s XF 80mm F/2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro lens.

Best weather resistant kit

Camera bodies: X-T3
Lenses: XF 16mm F1.4 R WR, 23f2, XF 50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR.
Approximate weight: 2.6 kg check

The best weather resistant kit features Fujifilm’s newest X-Series flagship camera. The X-T3 has won high praise from users and critics alike since its release in mid-2018. It is an impressive performer, having the fastest autofocus in the X-Series lineup and a continuous shooting rate of up to 20 frames per second. I’ve really enjoyed using this camera alongside my X-T2, which is still an excellent camera.

The newcomer to this kit is the XF 16 f/1.4 WR lens – often praised as the best lens in the X-Series lineup. Weather resistant, the lens is optically stunning, and a solid performer for landscape, cityscape, and low light shots. With a close focusing distance of 15cm, the XF 16 f1.4 WR lens is highly versatile. I’ve loved using it for food photography.

Best travel kit with zoom lenses

Camera bodies: X-T3 and X-T30
Lenses: XF 18-55mm F/2.8-4 R LM OIS and XF 50-140mm F/2.8 R LM OIS WR.
Weight: 1.8kg

This kit gives you the best of both worlds: the light X-T30 with the XF 18-55mm F/2.8-4 R LM OIS lens, and a weather resistant combo of the X-T3 with the stunning XF 50-140mm F/2.8 R LM OIS WR lens.

Weighing in at 995 grams, you might actually question why I would choose this lens as part of a travel kit? I’ve even been laughed at when I’ve suggested this lens for travel. Although it’s heavy, this lens is a must-have in my travel photography kit.

Like an equivalent focal range 70-200mm, the lens has a constant maximum aperture of f/2.8, meaning that you can shoot with a shallow depth of field throughout the zoom range. This is particularly helpful during low light situations, or to achieve shallow depth of field at any time.

This XF 50-140mm F/2.8 R LM OIS WR lens also features OIS (optical image stabilization) and has a pleasing bokeh. I’ve used this lens for landscape, cityscape, and portraits. If I could only pick one lens for travel, I’d have to flip a coin to choose between the two amazing zooms in this kit.

If you have different weight or budget considerations, you could substitute the excellent XF 55-200mm F/3.5-4.8 R LM OIS lens in this kit. I’ve never regretted taking this lens along with me on trips, but if you plan on shooting in low light at the far range of the zoom, you will be shooting at a maximum aperture of f/4.8, which may slow down shutter speeds. Thankfully, this is another lens with OIS (optical image stabilization).

My favorite kit

Camera bodies: X-T3 and X-T2
Lenses: XF 16mm F/1.4 R WR + XF 18-55mm F/2.8-4 R LM OIS + XF 35mm f/1.4 R + XF 50-140mm F/2.8 R LM OIS WR
Approximate weight: 2.9 kg

This is my favorite kit. It may be the heaviest listed in this list, but this is what I would typically take on my travel adventures. It pairs two weather resistant camera bodies with my two favorite zooms and two favorite primes. This kit has a reach from 16-140mm (24-210 in full-frame terms) and covers many shooting situations. The XF 50-140mm F/2.8 R LM OIS WR lens may not be the longest in the X-Series lineup, but it’s still capable of capturing stunning wildlife images.

X-Series options I don’t recommend for travel kits

X-T100

In 2018, Fujifilm released the entry-level X-T100. Although this attractive looking camera looks very much like the rest of the X-Series line-up, its autofocus can’t match the cameras I’ve featured above.

18-135mm lens

The XF18-135mm lens is often on the list of recommended lenses for Fujifilm travel photography. Having owned and used one, it doesn’t make my list. For a slower, all-in-one travel zoom, I don’t think it has enough reach.

27mm lens

The 27mm F/2.8 pancake lens is sharp, and you can often buy them at a bargain price. It’s a firm favorite amongst many Fujifilm photographers, but it doesn’t make my list as it’s the only lens in the lineup not to have a ring on the lens to change aperture.

 

Conclusion

The Fujifilm X-Series range is perfect for travel photographers for so many reasons.

With an impressive lineup of prime and zoom lenses for all budgets, the X-Series has you covered for a wide range of situations including low light photography and adverse weather conditions. The camera bodies feature retro charm and excellent ergonomics, and no other system can match the beauty of Fujifilm’s straight out of camera JPGs.

Whether it’s a day trip near home or the trip of a lifetime, Fujifilm X-Series is my number one recommendation for travel photography.

Do you use Fujifilm Cameras for your travel photography? Let us know what you use in the comments below.

The post The Best Fujifilm X-Series Kits for Travel Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Matt Murray.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Astrophotography and The Gear Needed to Succeed

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Have you ever wanted to be able to capture stunning pictures of the night sky but weren’t really sure what you needed to do, and didn’t really know what equipment you would need? If so this beginner’s guide to astrophotography is for you. In this guide we will take a look at the basics of astrophotography and will cover things such as camera settings, the 500 rule, how to stack images, and we will take a look at the gear you’ll need to create out of this world Milky Way and night sky images.

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Physicists have discovered that rotating black holes might serve as portals for hyperspace travel

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  • Scientists once thought that traveling into a black hole would kill you.
  • But now, physicists have run computer simulations to show that certain types of black holes — large, rotating ones — could serve as portals for hyperspace travel.
  • Some physicists believe that you’d arrive at a remote part of the Milky Way or perhaps in another galaxy altogether.
  • One of the safest passageways might be the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, called Sagittarius A*.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: Black holes skirt the line between science fiction and science fact. On the one hand, scientists have seen real black holes in action, consuming unsuspecting stars that pass too close. But where reality ends and fiction takes over is at the edge of a black hole — a place called the event horizon, where no spacecraft has ever gone.

So, whatever happens beyond that boundary, inside of a black hole, is anyone’s guess. Scientists agree that if you travel far enough into a black hole, gravity will eventually become so strong that it kills anything in its path. But sci-fi films are more optimistic, depicting black holes as portals through space and time or gateways to other dimensions. And it turns out, some scientists now think the sci-fi buffs may be onto something. Black holes might be suitable for hyperspace travel, after all; it just takes the right kind of black hole.

At the center of every black hole is a point of infinite density, called a singularity. It’s what gives black holes their strong gravitational pull. And for decades, scientists thought singularities were all the same, so anything that passed the event horizon would be destroyed the same way: by being stretched and pulled like an infinitely long piece of spaghetti.

But that all changed in the early 1990s when different research teams in Canada and the US discovered a second singularity called a "mass inflation singularity." It still has a strong gravitational pull, but it would only stretch you by a finite amount, and potentially NOT kill you in the process, meaning, you might survive the trip through a black hole. More specifically, through a large, rotating black hole, which is where these types of singularities exist.

Now, astronomers obviously can’t travel through a black hole yet to test this theory. In fact, the best place to test this is at the supermassive black hole in the center of our home galaxy, the Milky Way, which is 27,000 light years away. Not conveniently close to the least.

Therefore, scientists instead run computer simulations to see what would happen if we did manage to reach an isolated, rotating black hole, and now, for the first time, a team of scientists at UMass Dartmouth and Georgia Gwinnett College has done exactly that.

Lior Burko: "You would feel a slight increase in temperature, but it would not be a dramatic increase. It’s just that you don’t have enough time to respond to the very strong forces. It would just go through you too quickly."

Narrator: He added that passing through a weak singularity is like quickly running your finger through a candle flame that’s 1,000 degrees Celsius. If you hold your finger in the flame long enough, you’ll get burned, but pass your finger through quickly, and you’ll barely feel a thing. Similarly, if you pass through a weak singularity with the right speed and momentum, and at the right time, you may not feel much at all.

As for what happens once you get through to the other side, no one really knows, but Burko has his own ideas. He says one possibility is that we’d arrive at some other remote part of our galaxy, potentially light years away from any planets or stars, but a second, and perhaps more intriguing, possibility is that we’d arrive in a different galaxy altogether. That’s if you even make it that far.

Scientists say more research is needed before we’re anywhere close to successfully traveling through a black hole. But when we are ready, one of the safest passageways might be the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy called Sagittarius A*, and it might just be our ticket out of the Milky Way.

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