Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mysterious file changes

I use rsync and .xmp files to keep multiple copies of the library accessible from Mac/Win.
Recently, I noticed an odd behavior:

  1. some old jpeg files were modified for no apparent reason, and are now slightly smaller (some Kb)
  2. some xmp files were deleted
However, an explanation should be as follows:
  1. changes in jpeg files seem to be limited to exif data; I suppose that Lightroom does not check every image every time it's launched; the jpegs had their metadata upgraded (e.g. Adobe XMP Core version number raised to 5.2)
  2. the deleted xmp files were empty, and in fact reopening the same image in developer module forced Lightroom to redump another (almost identical) file.
Ultimately I guess that the reason for this tidying is that I opened my catalog with the original files online, but without the previews.

Metal prints


"Because the image is infused into the surface and not on it, your images will take on an almost magical luminescence. Metal Prints are available in 4 different surfaces: High Gloss, Satin, and Sheer with a Glossy or Matte finish. You've never seen a more brilliant and impressive print! Colors are vibrant and the luminescence is breathtaking. Detail and resolution are unsurpassed."

Not a POD!

Free lens catalog application for iPhone/iPad

Mirrorless lenses

Thursday, May 26, 2011

To progre$$ or to regre$$, this is a different problem

I think every photographer who likes Sony knows that history is non-linear.
My first Sony, the V1 had an infrared sensor view that allowed the camera to focus in the darkness; then, you could choose to take an infrared (green) picture, or to pop-up automatically the flash and shoot.
This feature was technically free, because (I was explained by a kind engineer) every DSLR sensor can record infrared light, and in fact it's shielded; the infrared view just removes the filter temporarily.
However this feature was removed from cameras mostly because of legal reasons: in rare cases, it allows to take a sort of x-ray picture that sees through cloths, very thin cloths, however a potential concern for privacy.

The classic series of Sony α, the α100, α700 and α900, are said to be closer to the original Minolta design; less electronics and more photography.
Surprisingly, it seems that these cameras are also less prone to some problems, such as attracting dust inside.
I never had an α700, but I still wish one; I had an α550 for some time, which I bought immediately when it was new, and at the time the price of the α700 and the α550 was identical (about 1000 USD). Now the α700 can still be found somewhere, but it is back to its original price level (about 1500).

Lightroom 3.4.1 released

Some day earlier than promised

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

To $$$ or not to $$$, this is the problem!

Last week I met a nice girl on the train. She is a art student and she had a photography course.
Her professor was convinced that you cannot take a picture, unless you have the most expensive camera, the most expensive lens and the most expensive equipment.
This is a common misconception, even if not entirely false. I would rephrase and split as three distinct concepts:

  • At some point, you will feel limited by the technology
  • A more expensive equipment is not necessarily easier to use
  • Within a reasonable price range, more expensive does not always imply "better"
Ken Rockwell is a huge fan of the Tokina 11-16 F/2.8 (yes, it is sold also with a Sony mount)

This lens is 20-30% cheaper than the (indeed excellent) Sigma 10-20 wide angle, and has similar or better performance (just google for "tokina 11-16 vs sigma 10-20")

Sometimes it may be worth to invest in a versatile lens that does everything uniformly well, but nothing excellent, for example the Tamron 18-270

Monday, May 23, 2011

Lightroom presets

This preset is worth downloading, even if it has limited use (most times, it will turn a photo in a uniform black rectangle, if applied blindly)

The same website offers some particularly interesting presets for weddings; these instead can be used for several different purposes; mostly, they enhance light areas, some are a bit drastic, some also soften the image, however the result can be quite pleasant. (the photo below was taken in Milan)

A preset should be intended as an answer to the blank page syndrome: "I don't want to spend much time retouching this photo. Gimme something reeeeally cool that just works", or even "I have no idea of how to improve this particular photo: show me some possibilities, and maybe I will find an inspiration"

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lightroom 3 virtual copies

Lightroom 3 is a truly excellent program; one of the few limitation it has is interoperability mac/windows.
I have my master catalog on a Mac, but I often print from a windows workstation.
The photos and the sidecar files are synchronized, so they are not an issue; the problem is usually the catalog:

  • in the catalog paths are stored natively, so on the mac we have unix-style paths /.../.../.../ and  C:\...\...\ on windows. However annoying, this is not the major problem, because if you have only one root folder when you open a catalog created on a different machine, Lightroom will just tell you that all photos are offline, but you simply point it to wherever the root is and it will update the links.
  • I have two different catalogs: even if I have a copy of the mac-catalog on the pc, I usually avoid opening it directly; I prefer to sync the root folder. But some stuff is stored only in the catalog, in particular virtual copies. If you have two different catalogs, they won't appear. Moreover, the path-resync workaround does not typically fix virtual copies, so even if you open the original catalog, you may not be able to use them.
A good strategy in LR3 is: when you are satisfied with the state of a virtual copy, make a snapshot with a meaningful name. Snapshots are saved in the sidecar XMP file, so they are visible when editing either any copy or the original; you don't need the catalog any more.

Lightroom 3 discounted


Coming soon...

The Best of the best

Potential Bug in Lightroom 3.4

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Hybrid RAID

Digital photography needs a lot of storage.
A typical RAW file is about 1MB per megapixel, or more, so 100 pictures taken with a 16 megapixel camera may need 1.6 GB, which is usually to be multiplied by a constant factor because most programs will cache on the disk every kind of preview.
Adobe Lightroom needs 1 or 2 GB for CameraRaw output, plus it stores all the previews (standard and 1:1).
So it makes sense to have a very large drive for the pictures, and a very fast drive for the cache, but I'd really like to combine them in a single device.

There are some controllers that combine one small SSD drive and one large traditional drive, where the former is just a cache for the second, for example Silverstone HDDBOOST
With Silverstone card, the final capacity of the device is that of the magnetic drive, and the SSD transparently vanishes.

I was hoping that Adaptec Hybrid RAID solution would be a more complete solution, but it is not.
A hybrid RAID is simply a RAID 1 where one of the disks is a SSD; all reads are redirected to the SSD, while writes are replicated on both disks.
But the final size of a hybrid volume is the smaller of the sizes of SSD and the other drive, so it's just standard redundancy.

What is needed is actually Adaptec MaxIQ; this combines any number of traditional drives in whatever RAID and one or more SSDs, but it is also seriously expensive; you need either
  1. a special Q series Adaptec controller and a certified SSD (typically an enterprise-grade, so same performance as a corresponding consumer model, but not exactly cheap)
  2. a standard 2xxx or 5xxx Adaptec controller and Adaptec Max Cache, which is just a modified 32GB Intel X25 (now obsolete), sold at a monster price.

Advanced Camera Cleaning

Nitro Blast Duster

FireFly blower

EWA Marine C35

Walimex 500mm F/6.3

Walimex rebrands Samyang optics and sells them in Switzerland at a reasonable price.
After a very good experience with the Samyang fisheye lens, I recently decided to try another one, disregarding some negative comments I found. Anyway there are not many serious reviews of this lens.

After creating an account, I selected "payment form shipped along the items" (which is common in Switzerland), I placed the order and I immediately got a confirmation message, so it looked like everything went smoothly; after about one week, nothing had happened, I wrote them an email and I was told that my shipping address was unverified (?), so they wouldn't ship.
I simply offered to pay the lens in advance (which they consider equivalent to a verified shipping address...) and I got the package in 2-3 days.

The box contains the lens, a bag and a T2 ring adapter, which you have to tweak with a tiny screwdriver. If you mount the lens as is, it may be arbitrarily rotated with respect to the camera body, so in particular the distance scale meter may point downward.

The lens is a manual reflex tele, it has a mirror inside, so it's very short and wide; it has a limited depth of field, and it's really difficult to take a picture in focus. With a tripod, and lots of patience, you can get some results; without a tripod, it's totally impossible.
However the lens is so cheap, that I consider it a welcome gadget anyway; it's not something that you will carry around for casual use.

Sony used to produce an autofocus 500mm F/8, which is still on sale even if I think it has been discontinued, but it costs 4 times as much as the Walimex.