May 042012
 

Adobe has announced an update to its Camera Raw and DNG Converter plug-ins.

ACR 6.7 will be the last update of Camera Raw for Photoshop CS5. Fortunately, most of the cameras that have appeared on my radar in recent months as possible purchases are supported, namely Canon 1DX, Canon 5D Mark III and Olympus E-M5 OM-D. The one notable exception is Fujifilm’s X-Pro1.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

The absence of RAW support effectively brings the curtain down on my interest. Sure, the X-Pro1  comes with Silky Pix to handle RAW images. I would love to meet the marketing executive who came up with the name Silky Pix. It would be better named Silky Pants because its performance is regarded by many photographers as being just that — pants!

What version of ACR will eventually support the X-Pro1 is anyone’s guess. It does mean, however, that for someone like myself, if I were to buy the X-Pro1, I would also have to factor in an extra $199 to upgrade my version of Photoshop.

As much as I genuinely admire the image quality the X-Pro1 produces, I still cannot get past this cameras quirks and foibles.

The absence of the X-Pro1 from ACR 6.7 also coincided with an assessment by British photographer David Taylor-Hughes as to its usefulness as a camera for street photography.

Now if you idea of street photography is a photograph of random strangers doing nothing particular out of the ordinary or the photograph of a homeless person asleep in a doorway then the X-Pro1 will do just fine. But if street photography means capturing a decisive moment or a fleeting expression then, according to Taylor-Hughes, the Fujifilm X-Pro1 isn’t up to the task.

On his blog SoundImagePlus, he concludes:

So, I can’t say that I recommend the Fuji X-Pro 1 for fast reaction photography in a crowded constantly changing environment. Try as I might, I couldn’t get it to do what I wanted, and I tried virtually everything to see if I could get it quicker, but failed.

He commends the image quality of the X-Pro1, as most photographers do, but what use is fabulous image quality if the camera cannot deliver the shot the photographer had in mind?

No doubt photographers will be quick to point out that my assertion is wrong or that Taylor-Hughes needs to hone his skills and it is not the camera’s fault. Whatever!

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

I am grateful to a photographer like Taylor-Hughes for giving an honest assessment and one based on personal experience.

Don’t get me wrong you will see street photography shots taken with the X-Pro1 and they really do come alive because of the image quality, particularly at a high ISO. But look at them a little more closely and many of them are capturing a static subject. And for those who do manage to capture a shot with motion, the photographer will rarely disclose how many attempts he had to make before getting the shot.

As Taylor-Hughes states, he did get some successes but also missed out on a lot of shots that other cameras would have taken in their stride and delivered the goods. And it is the inconsistency of the X-Pro1 that may lead to frustration and missed photo opportunities.

Talking of missed opportunites leads me to the M-mount adapter for the Fujifilm X-Pro1. It was the announcement that the X-Pro1 would be compatible with M-mount lenses that really fired my interest in the camera.

But where is it?

Third party manufacturers have got M-mount adapters in the marketplace. Now unless the Fujifilm adaptor offers something above and beyond what the third-party manufactures can offer, they may well have missed the boat. If Fujifilm’s M-mount adapter is only comparable to those of third-party adapters, people are unlikely to ditch the third party-adapters for the Fujifilm version, are they? Although a great many people who buy cameras seem to have more money than sense, so maybe Fujifilm does know what it is doing.

Time will tell.

Dec 092011
 

I took advantage of Adobe’s generous Black Friday deal and upgraded to Photoshop CS5 I was perfectly happy with Photoshop CS3 until I heard about an announcement from Adobe that it was ceasing its upgrade policy when CS6 comes into existence and intends to follow a monthly subscription approach regarding future upgrades.

Moving to CS5 also meant I had to upgrade my Mac OSX.

In terms of delivery, both orders were placed on the same day, Adobe trounced Apple. I opted for ground shipping to keep costs down and the CS5 upgrade arrived four days before the Mac OSX. Apple’s effort was not helped by the United States Postal Service who contrived to deliver it initially to the wrong address. Technically, Adobe’s winning margin was only three days.

It took most of Wednesday to install the OSX. The upgrade of the OSX was straightforward enough, it was updating the myriad of other applications on my Mac Pro, notably music software, which took time.

Yesterday, it was the turn of CS5. Again it took most of the day, largely due to adjusting preferences and the like, particularly getting the appearance of Adobe Bridge CS5to resemble the CS3 version.

The emphasis these days seems to be to make Bridge resemble a lightbox or virtual contact sheet from which to make selections of the best images.

I shoot with manual lenses and it is important for me to select not only the best shots but also those that are spot on in terms of focus. To this end, I much prefer the file strip of RAW images running down the right-hand side of the Bridge window.

The new features in Photoshop CS5 are impressive. The technology employed is simply amazing and I doff my cap to the computer wizards who create this software.

Straightening a horizon takes seconds as opposed to the old method of messing about with a crop box and aligning it to the horizon.

Content aware fill is an amazing tool and will result in tidier images from me in the future.

Today, I tried my usual workflow and was proceeding apace until I hit my one major disappointment. The original version of Silver Efex Pro will not work in Photoshop CS5 if the more efficient 64-bit architecture of latter is used, which it is by default

In order to use Silver Efex Pro, I would have to go back to 32-bit architecture. A bit of research on Google found a way, rather convoluted and time consuming, to still use the older version of Silver Efex Pro. It entails quitting CS5, clicking on the folder and selecting Info. This action brings up a dialogue box where 32-bit can be selected. Sure enough, Silver Efex Pro duly appeared but when the processing was done I needed to repeat those initial steps to get back to 64-bit.

The only work around I can think of is to process all my images from a shoot as colour files and then have a session on the computer where I convert them all to B&W images in Silver Efex Pro.

It looks like an upgrade to Silver Efex Pro 2 is on the cards.

Reading the box in which Silver Efex Pro came did reveal this shortfall. But who reads boxes?

Faced by this setback, I decided to see what Photoshop CS5 offered in terms of B&W conversion and was quite impressed by the results. I had to work on the image a little longer than I would in Silver Efex Pro but the result was pleasing, as can be seen below.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

To compare with Silver Efex Pro, I did switch to 32-bit in CS5. The conversion and adjustments were a lot quicker and I had greater control, particularly in lightening the foreground In Silver Efex Pro.Please help support this site by clicking on the Amazon link on this page if you are shopping for an item.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Putting both images side by side in Bridge CS5 Preview, I found myself liking the Photoshop CS5 version better than the one produced by Silver Efex Pro.

The two images had minimal processing in PhotoshopCS5, as a test exercise I was more interested in the B&W conversion.

I would be interested hear from others as to which version they prefer.

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Dec 032011
 

Dark Entry Creek, St Marys, Georgia. Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

The photograph above serves as an allegory of the early part of my week. I had a sunny disposition but it was under threat from the looming clouds.

The clouds in my case were my Mac Pro dying, a credit card transaction being refused and the temporary loss of my Internet access just as I was about to upload my entries for a photo contest.

My Mac Pro will be five years old next week, with a PC I would be braced for things to start going wrong but not with a Mac. You can imagine my shock, not to say disbelief, when it died. It would begin to power up but then stopped and the screen remained black.

A few procedures aimed at restoring an ailing Mac all failed. The Mac message boards provided no instant solutions, in fact they compounded my concern with mention of logic board failure. Logic boards do not come cheap and it looked as if I was facing a bill in excess of $1,000.

The one ray of sunshine amidst all this gloom was the presence of an authorized Apple repair shop only four miles from my home. I called Mac + PC Tech Pro and was told to bring my Mac in. I figured I would not only be facing a large bill but also the loss of the computer for several days.

The deadline for the photo contest was Wednesday. Sorting through all my photographs for suitable images and getting them ready for submission looked to have been a wasted effort. It probably was a wasted effort in terms of actually winning but that is a totally different issue.

In the middle of the afternoon, Jake at Mac + PC Tech Pro called back to say that testing of my Mac had revealed that the memory boards were shot and one stick of memory had failed. He said he had everything in stock and I could pick my computer up in 30 minutes. The total bill was going to be several hundred dollars but a long way short of the $1,000 I thought it would cost.

Anyone in the Jacksonville area who has a problem with their Mac should contact Mac + PC Tech Pro. You are treated like a customer rather than a number by the helpful staff. I highly recommend the company and the service it provides.

The return of my Mac also meant I would be able to submit my photographs a day before the closing date.

On Tuesday, I found that AOL had decided to change the inbox of my e-mail. They call it a unified inbox. I call it a disaster. My inbox had e-mails going back to 2009. I much preferred the old system of new mail and old mail being kept in separate inboxes.

My first attempt to switch back didn’t work and I contacted the online help service. I was being given instructions on what to do when the phone rang. It was the fraud protection unit of my credit card company, asking about a couple of recent transactions. They kept referring to today (Wednesday) when the transactions had taken place the day before.

I had decided to take up Adobe’s generous Black Friday deal on upgrading Photoshop to CS5 but my credit card company had refused to authorize the transaction. When I pointed out that I had made the transaction and made it in good faith, I was told I would have to reorder from Adobe.

“Just a minute,” I said, “yesterday was the last day of the special discount. You can telephone Adobe and put it straight.”

Moments later, I had Eric from Adobe on the line informing me that they had no record of my order placed on Nov 29.

“Excuse me, Eric,” I said,” but how is it that I have record of the order in My Adobe.” I read out the details including the order number and ended, “If I have a record of the order and you do not, I think something must be dreadfully wrong with your computer system.”

“I am going to transfer you to someone else,” Eric said sheepishly.

I was put through to a sales associate who could not have been more helpful. I got the Black Friday deal discount during which he happened to mention that the billing address on the initial order was an address in Morrisville, North Carolina and different from my shipping address in Jacksonville.

Now I could understand why my credit card company had refused to the let the order go through.

A Google search revealed the Morrisville address was vacant office premises. I contacted my credit card company with this information and also Adobe. The former assured me everything was all right with my account, the latter were not the slightest bit concerned that a bogus address had been attached to my credit card while placing an order.

With that problem sorted, I turned my attention to uploading the competition photographs, a task I had intended to start some two hours earlier.

I clicked the computer mouse and noticed that all my e-mails were grey, gray for American readers. I clicked the mouse again and nothing happened. Glancing across at the modem, I saw that all the lights were out save for the power light. Great! It was beginning to look as if I was destined not to enter this competition. I unplugged all the leads to the modem and waited for a minute, plugged them back in again but the modem remained dead. I tried a second time and got the same result. I had no recourse other than to call AT&T – that paragon of timeliness and efficiency.

I gathered together the information in order to contact AT&T, knowing full well it would be at least a day before anyone could come round to investigate the problem. With that thought in mind, I decided I needed a cup of coffee and a cigarette to calm me down.

With a heavy heart, I climbed the stairs back to my office. I was in a state of disbelief at the events that had befallen me. Then at last, a piece of good fortune struck. From the top of the stairs I could see the modem and all its lights were lit up.

“You shall go to the ball, Cinders!”

I spent the next hour uploading my photographs. I am officially an entrant in the contest. The blue skies came back.

My upgrade to Photoshop CS5 should arrive next week along with a Mac OSX upgrade to Snow Leopard. I hope the learning curve is not a steep one and I can quickly get back into my workflow and make use of the new features the upgrade brings.

I am back on track.

St Marys, Georgia. Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

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