Thursday, April 25, 2013

RX1 month review

I am a man of few words ;)

Give me a type of photography and the RX1 will cover it

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Coming home, an Apple through the Window

After many years building my own PCs and using Windows 7/64, just over a year ago I made the transition to Apple by buying an iMac. Subsequently I have also purchased for the family a Mac Book Pro, two ipads and an iPhone 5.

The attraction at the time was being bored of windows, seeing something different and the lovely design and build quality of the iMac, not to mention the slick sales compulsion at an Apple store.
Also, significantly, as I am an amateur photographer and use Adobe Lightroom extensively, that gorgeous 27” monitor. Interestingly the price of a good 27” IPS monitor at the time + PC was actually pretty much the same as the iMac.

I overlooked the lowish spec., odd mixture of low powered laptop and desktop components, difficulty of upgrading the components and lack of software based on the spec being "good enough", a moribund PC, the neat all-in-one nature (no box on the floor!), my main games running on OsX and the excitement of the Apple experience.

The glass and metal design of the iMac is really great. Although many Windows All-in-ones are now looking really good, it would be great if some PC monitor companies (hint Dell!) can make some metal and glass monitors.

One year on I have returned to Windows, actually Windows 8, and here's why .....

It was time for an upgrade. Crysis 3, Far Cry 3 and Battlefield 3 demanded it (spooky - they are all at version 3!). Also I wanted faster photo editing.

There are five major reasons I did not go with the new iMac or Mac Pro
1. Price. I priced up a good spec (but below what I wanted) new end 2012 iMac. This came to around £2,100. The graphics card and cpu were laptop versions and far behind the desktop equivalent.
2. Apple is moving to soldered and non-upgradeable components. Not only have they ruined the Retina Macbook Pro’s this way (these are actually Mac Book Airs and even have soldered memory – with a limit of a paltry 16gb) but now have done so with the new iMac. Only the memory is upgradeable (at least).
3. The Mac Pro languishes with old technology and a ridiculous price.
4. Dearth of software, especially games
5. I decided I like Windows more (shock horror!). For many annoyances. Some things in OsX are more intuitive then Windows (e.g. parental controls) but the vast majority of things are more intuitive in Windows IMHO, e.g.:
a. Apple app menu is always at the top of the screen, what a pain, especially on a 27” screen
b. Delete button doesn’t delete files, have to right click to trash
c. Default photo viewer only views single file (in windows you click on any photo and have the option then to flick through the whole folder) and the more comprehensive viewer, iPhoto, is a real bloatware piece of software
d. Incompatibility of QuickTime with so many formats and the difficulty of maintaining plugins. I ended up using VLC
e. No central app setting registry to hack (some people see this as an advantage)
f. Etc.

I decided against building my own PC. Even though I enjoy it, I didn’t have the time with the kids and other commitments these days. Also it appealed to me to have a guarantee for the whole computer. I had instances in the past with building PCs where one component was faulty and it took me days to find it. Saying that I can strongly recommend a self-build if you have time, its great fun, you get the pieces you want and it normally works out around 10% cheaper then a purchased machine.

I ended up with an absolutely dream setup for me:
1. Dell U2713H monitor. This is a 27” AH-IPS screen with a 10bit gamut (10 billion colours), a new “invisible” anti-glare coating and is colour matched from the factory.
2. Dell Alienware Aurora R4. I bought a recondition one from dell. It hasn’t a mark on it, a 12 month guarantee and worked out around 38% cheaper then a new one. Amongst other things it has a Nvidia GTX 680, Socket 2011 cpu, liquid cpu cooler and a case to die for (if you like long but sleek heavy black metal cases with subtle lighting). I have to say this computer does have the ownership enjoyment of, for example, a nice watch or a Leica, due mainly to the case. The case is actually not very tall, but it is long, but pushed under a desk the length is somewhat disguised.
3. Corsair M60 mouse and Steelseries metal mousepad. The mouse is ultra responsive and simply “floats” in combination with this mousemat.
4. Steelseries 6Gv2 keyboard. Surprisingly compact, surprisingly heavy with full mechanical switches. A dream to use.

I can’t describe the joy of using the above quality components. I find it funny how many people build/buy an amazing PC and then stick a cheap keyboard and mouse on it. The two devices which you interact with the most should be of the highest quality. They lend to the entire experience, ergonomics and “handling” (as we photography geeks say!).

How about Windows 8 ? A shock to be honest. Takes a bit of time to get used, but once you do, its really great.

In summary Windows 8 takes out the start button/menu and puts in its place a start screen (codename “Metro”). It has a Windows 7 like screened environment, which at first you think you will use a lot, but now, all I use it for is apps that need it (e.g. control panel) and when I need to have multiple windows open (e.g. file explorer).
To gel with Windows 8 you really need to adapt Metro to what you want. Most people probably only use 4/5 apps on any computer (internet, word processor and a few games). With Metro, the secret is to tag all the apps you use frequently to the front screen, and then you are done. All the other apps can be viewed in the “all apps” screen when required.
The system becomes easier to use and less clicks are required. Obviously the windows key is used more, and without a touch screen it pays to become familiar with shortcuts (particularly Windows+I, Windows+E, Alt-Tab, etc.)
Although Windows 7 drivers do work, most key vendors have Windows 8 drivers now. Some are critical if you are upgrading, for example, the Intel RST Driver (native HDD and SSD driver for intel chipsets) must be upgraded to version 3.5 or above before you upgrade, otherwise most of the upgrade with go through, but Windows 8 will end up hanging for ever on the initial login screen – luckily the installation can be rolled back until almost the last minute).

Apples are lovely designed machines. They have a place in the market, just not mine ....

Its so good to be back. Back to the place where I have the power at a price Apple users can only dream about and pretty much any component can be upgraded whenever I want.
Just remember the steelseries keyboard, mousemat and a good mouse, e.g. Corsair ……. :D

BTW my iPhone 5 via ebay is now a Samsung Galaxy SIII - what joy, a story for another time ....

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Depth of Field (DOF) quick reference for Full Frame (FF) Photographers

Depth of field notes for FF users (using Nikon lenses as an example)

Using thin DOF in certain situations is an important artistic tool for me. Conversely, making sure that DOF is large enough for architecture and landscapes is also important.

Most people's eyes glass over when talking about circle of confusions, hyperfocal distances, etc.

So I have collected here some very rough comparisons to assist with choosing flocal length and aperture mainly for myself, but other folk might find it useful

Firstly, at the maximum aperture of some common prime lens focal length, how much DOF do we have ?
Assumption: Subject distance is 15ft or 4.57m

20mm f2.8      429.00ft       129.00m

28mm f1.8        10.30ft          3.13m

35mm f1.4          4.83ft          1.47m

50mm f1.8          2.93ft           0.89m

50mm f1.4          2.32ft           0.71m

60mm f2.8          3.23ft           0.98m

85mm f1.8          1.00ft           0.30m

85mm f1.4          0.79ft           0.24m

What is the smallest aperture where the far limit for DOF is infinite ?
Assumption: Subject distance is 15ft or 4.57m

20mm        f3.2

24mm        f4.5

28mm        f6.4

35mm        f10

50mm        f19

60mm        f27

85mm        f64

Of course the interesting point is how massively the DOF changes from 28mm to 50mm, effectively from massive to tiny!

I recommend further reading: