Archive for June, 2010

Friday, June 25th 2010

Flickr is *Finally* Being Updated

Flickr have at long last decided to release an upgrade to their users.

The upgrade is currently only visible if you’re logged in to Flickr, but will be rolled out to all visitors in the coming weeks.

There are many improvements, but the ones I like best are a larger default size (up from 500 to 640 pixels) on the photo page and a new light box mode for viewing photos larger.

Screenshot of the new Flickr photo page.

But I can’t help wondering why they didn’t go for at least 720 pixels while they were at it. Or why not – since this is 2010 – a design that adapts the photo size to the browser window, à la Picasa? Perhaps that wouldn’t make it possible for Flickr to apply their magical sharpening that gives all Flickr photos that crisp look.

The new page seems to be designed to fit into a 1024×768 screen. If that is a requirement, then I just wish they’d spend a few more pixels on the photo and a few less on the right hand column.

Are we going to have to wait another 6 years for the next size increase?

At least they made navigation more intuitive with arrows labelled Newer and Older just above the photo. If you’re viewing a set, the buttons are labelled Prev and Next. (I’ve been using Flickr since 2006 and I still haven’t learnt if older photos are to the left or to the right on the photo page.)

The new light box is much better than the old All sizes page. (The All sizes page still exists though, and has been improved too.)

Screenshot of the new Flickr light box.

Basically it is a response to the View large on black link that many users have been adding to their photo description.

This is better though. It has a dark grey background, and buttons to move back and forward through the photos. It also has a play button that gives you a simple slide-show. The old (Flash) slide-show is still available though.

One thing that has nagged me for quite some time is the fact that the 1024 pixel images look soft, especially in comparison to the medium 500/640 pixel size. I’d really like them to apply a little sharpening to the 1024 pixel images too.

To sum up, some great improvements. They’ve really identified Flickr’s weak spots, I just wish they had done even more to fix them.

Tuesday, June 22nd 2010

Family Photo Shoot

The other week I had the privilege of taking some family portraits of my cousin, his girlfriend and their daughter. It was great fun, and since they’re all so photogenic we ended up with loads of good photos. Here are just a few of them.

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Tuesday, June 22nd 2010

Converting to DNG

After having thought about it loosely for ages, I decided to finally convert all my raw (CR2) files into the open DNG (digital negative) file format. But before I did so I sat down and did plenty of internet research to make sure I wasn’t doing something stupid.

If you didn’t know, DNG is Adobe’s attempt to create a universal and openly documented raw image file format. The (perhaps optimistic) idea being that camera makers will start using it instead of their proprietary raw formats (*cough* nikoncanon *splutter*). Whether or not this will ever become true remains to be seen.

Thankfully all photographers that want to can make use of DNG and its benefits regardless of which camera make they have, thanks to Adobe’s free DNG Converter.

Here are the factors that made me convert …

Future proof

Imagine the following scenario. Canon make a few bad decisions on their camera line-up. Nikon make a few really good ones. Nikon gains loads and loads of market share, making Canon a minor player. Canon is bought by Sony or Nikon, who proceed to terminate Canon’s own camera production. (Nikon users: Imagine the opposite.)

That could all happen in say five–ten years in a worst case scenario.

Then, in 2019, it is time to buy a new computer. And with a new computer comes a new operating system. Then, it turns out, there is no software for Windows 10 that reads CR2 files from a Canon EOS 30D. Dead end? Well, probably not, but there would be a lot of hassle for sure.

Actually, even if Canon are still around in 2019 it is quite possible that they won’t release software to cater for the oldest camera models and their raw files.

With DNG files the chance of there not being compatible software is much smaller since the specification is entirely open. (Read it here if you like.) Even if Adobe were to be blasted off the face of the earth, the DNG specification would live on. And someone in the intersection between photography geeks and computer geeks would most certainly write a program that can read DNGs.

Granted, you could argue that as long as Adobe’s DNG Converter is around there is no need to rush. And there isn’t really, but there are a few more pros that made me do the switch now. Read on.

Previews and metadata

DNGs will contain a preview JPEG (tiny, medium or full size) and all the metadata of the original raw file, plus any metadata you want to add such as keywords, titles, captions or develop settings. For anyone using Adobe Lightroom, Bridge or Camera Raw this means that you’ll have one DNG file instead of a CR2/NEF image file and an XMP metadata file next to it.

Also, when you’ve changed the appearance of a photo you can render a new preview JPEG and embed it in the DNG. (In Lightroom: Right click and choose Metadata -> Update DNG Preview & Metadata.) I don’t know how NEFs work, but with CR2 files there is definitely no way of updating the embedded JPEG.

File size

DNG files are often smaller then the camera’s raw file. This is thanks to better compression, but also thanks to the possibility to use a smaller size JPEG than in the original.

I chose the medium JPEG size (1024 pixels I think) and the DNG files are on average 19 percent smaller than the CR2s from my Canon EOS 50D. My thinking here is that I don’t really need a full size preview in the raw file once I have it on the computer. In the camera it’s a different matter – there I need the full size preview to be able to check focus. And even if I do choose to embed a full size JPEG the DNG ends up ~10% smaller.

It will be a while though before I will actually see the benefit of the smaller file size, because right now I’m keeping my CR2 files in parallel with the DNGs. I also have them backed up to our two external drives (one off location) as well as on DVDs. So I have essentially doubled my storage needs.

In a few weeks though I’ll probably feel 100% comfortable with the conversion, and then I’ll delete the CR2s from my working folders and only have the three backup copies.

No negatives?

Considering that DNGs are just that, negatives, there are very few drawbacks. The only one, as I see it, is that I won’t be able to go back and use Canon’s own raw converters Raw Image Task or Digital Photo Professional. This is a rather academic point though, since I have never wanted to use either of them since moving to Lightroom. The only reason I might want to do that in the future would be to see how much better raw image processing has become since I bought my camera. So I might make such a comparison before I actually chuck the CR2 files.

Conclusion

Being a Lightroom user, the DNG format is very useful. I’m not sure if DNG is quite as sweet a deal if you’re using some other raw converter though, and DNG isn’t necessarily for everyone. But for me it definitely is a great step up from the CR2 format. So far I haven’t had any second thoughts at all, and I doubt I will have any later on either.

Thursday, June 10th 2010

More Lightroom 3 Demos

Here are a few more hover comparisons of Lightroom 2 and 3. (Here are some previous ones I made.)

Highlight edges look much better in Lightroom 3.

See how Lightroom 3 deals with the highlights. Somehow it manages to get rid of those unnatural red edges.

Lightroom 3 can deal with chromatic aberration automatically.

Here you can see how version 3 automatically deals with chromatic aberration, based on what it knows about the lens that was used. Here I used my Canon 17-55mm, which is one of the many lenses that have been profiled by Adobe. Also, you’ll notice that Lightroom 3 is much better at showing the fine branches to the right.

Automatic correction of geometric distortion in Lightroom 3.

The automatic lens correction can also deal with geometric distortion. This lets you get rid of that bulging look you often get at the wide end of a zoom lens. Since this affects cropping slightly, I’ve personally left this off by default. I’ll only use it when necessary.

Automatic vignetting correction in Lightroom 3.

LR3 can correct for lens vignetting too, but more often than not I think vignetting adds some natural punch to a photo, including the example above. So I probably won’t use this very often at all.

Wednesday, June 9th 2010

Lightroom 3 and High ISO Images

Hover this image to see what Lightroom 3 can do with a hopelessly noisy ISO 12,800 photo:

High ISO noise reduction in Lightroom 3.

(This is a 100% crop from my Canon EOS 50D.)

And since I can set up defaults based on the image’s ISO setting, I can make it do that automatically.

Tuesday, June 8th 2010

Lightroom 3 is Out!

Sooner than I dared hope, Adobe have released the final version of Lightroom 3. The biggest improvement for me will be the automatic lens correction, which deals with chromatic aberration, vignetting and distortion based on lens profiles. (Although I will probably only get rid of chromatic aberration by default.)

Now I’m going to spend all afternoon playing around with the new features, and I’ll post my thoughts later on.