Geoff Greene was one of the photographers at my lighting workshop a couple of weeks ago where he took a picture of our model Mary sitting on the bar in the back of the room. A couple of lights, not a whole lot of set design as you can tell. Anyway, Geoff sent over his version of the image along with some post-processing comments and I thought it would be interesting to show what two different photographers would do with the same RAW image from the camera. So I had his send it along and here are the results.
So here’s the original exported straight from Lightroom:
Then here’s the version Geoff sent me. High-contrast, high saturation, and very ‘fashion’ to my eye:
And finally, what I would have done with it if it were my picture. Not as drastic, closer to the original, but still trying to pull something more out of the RAW data by highlighting Mary a bit. In comparison, mine looks really boring and conservative.
I’m sure if we gave it to 10 photographers we’d get 10 varying versions of the image. Just goes to show how much post-processing is part of the process. We may have gotten rid of the chemicals, but you’re still not done when you press the shutter release.
So here we are about a month after I first wrote about building a new Hackintosh workstation based upon Intel’s new Ivy Bridge CPU and Z77 chipset. Well the motherboards and CPUs have now been released and I’m ordering the rest of my parts today so I thought I’d give you an update.
Up til now I’ve purcharsed the Fractal Design R3 case, 32GB of Mushkin Black RAM, a 240GB Intel 520 SSD, and a 750W Seasonic Power Supply. And here to the left what that looks like without the important parts. Not all that exciting, but pretty sexy, right? Those are 8 sleds over on the right there for hard drives. Yum. Basically it’s sitting there waiting for the real brains.
I’m not going to go through every detail again, just the stuff that’s changed since the last writing, so go back and check that post out to get up to speed.
CPU - Intel 3770K
As I had planned, I’m ordering the top-of-the-line unlocked CPU so I can do a little overclocking. So far is seems like the reviews are good but not amazing. Mostly due to the fact that it doesn’t seem like people can overclock Ivy Bridge quite as much as the last generation Sandy Bridge. People are not sure exactly as to why. Whether it has to do with the smaller die being a smaller area to try to pull heat from, or the new 3D transistors not being able to dissipate the heat, I’m not sure. The conclusion seems to be that you should clock it as high as possible on stock voltage, but don’t bother trying to push higher by giving it more juice. That said, since you get about a 10% boost in performance at the same clock speed due to improvements they’ve made to the logic, I’m ok if I only get to 4.5GHz (which feels a little crazy just to type). Either way, it’ll be a nice jump up from my 3.2GHz overclocked i7-920.
Motherboard – Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD5H
I know, long name right? Well Gigabyte motherboards have always been a favorite for the Hackintosh community. They’re well-built relatively inexpensive boards which tend to be easier for the nerd-kings to make work with Mac OS. This is their current top-of-the-line model but without the built in bluetooth and wifi which I don’t need. Better power systems that the lesser boards, and with built-in Firewire 400 I need for my external M-audio interface and Intel gigabit ethernet. Also, extra SATA ports for more hard drives and more USB3 connections. The only thing it doesn’t have feature-wise is Thunderbolt. Apparently boards with built in Thunderbolt are coming next month, but I’m impatient, and honestly I don’t know that I need it right now. I use a DVI based display and prefer internal storage as a general rule. And if I need external, USB3 is plenty fast that a single drive can’t saturate it and a hard drive dock costs $30 instead of $300.
Perhaps the best part about the new Gigabyte motherboards is that it seems that they’re compatible with Mac OS power management out of the box. Which means no need for a DSDT file or anything. Sleep and Wake and Speedstep just work. Which is very exciting. That’s the one thing my currently Asus based machine doesn’t do well. I tend to shutdown at night and restart in the morning. It would be nice to be able to reliably put the machine to sleep.
Video – Zotac GT440 1GB
So it turns out that my genius plan of using the onboard Intel 4000 video was a fools errand. Both because the performance is pretty ‘eh’ and also that the DVI output on most of the Z77 motherboards are not Dual-Link which means they can’t push the full resolution of my 30″ NEC display. There are adapters that will do it but they cost about $100, which is more than a nice upgraded GPU would be. So in the end I’m ordering a discreet GPU to go with the new machine. I can’t stand the fan on the Gigabyte 5770 I’ve got now, so I’m grabbing the fastest fanless card for under $100 bucks. Which at the moment is the Zotac Nvidia Gt 440 with a gig of RAM. Should be fine for my purposes and dead quiet which is the goal.
The only other place I’ve had thoughts is on the main spinning hard drive storage. I mentioned last time that I was considering finding a RAID-5 card and using 3 drives as my main array. I’ve heard some horror stories and have yet to find an economical solution, so I think what I’m going to do is create a software RAID-0 across a couple of drives and have automated backups run every few hours in the background so I don’t lose everything in case on of the drives goes down. That should give me a pretty immediate doubling of disk performance while loading and saving images. Still cooking on this one. If anyone has any advice, I’m all ears.
I think that’s about it for now. More to come in a few days when I start to build this thing.
I admit it. I love sharing what I know with people. In fact, that’s what most of the writing on this blog is about. But there’s something about teaching people in person which totally trounces writing, so I’m going to do what I’ve been meaning to do for years now.
I’m announcing a series of workshops here in New York City in which I’ll going to explain how I make portraits. One every couple of months is the plan. Since it’s a lot of information, we’re going to start at the beginning with the first workshop with ‘Light’. I’ll talk about controlling available light, how I use speedlights, studio strobes & modifiers, how to get the best out of your subject, lens selection, and more. You’ll have questions, I’ll have answers.
Saturday May 12th is going to be the date, and we’ll work together for 4 hours from 1PM to 5PM in the afternoon. I’ll have an attractive model of some persuasion for you to work with, and we’ll spend some time critiquing each other’s results so that all of us can walk away better photographers.
Total Workshop Fee for ‘Light’: $250 + $50 model fee
If you’re interested and would like to register, all I need right now is a $125 non-refundable deposit to save your spot.
Click below to be taken to the Paypal site to snag a seat for what I hope is going to be a great and knowledge packed afternoon.
Also, since this is the first one, I’m going to limit it to a fairly small number of participants so don’t wait too long to sign-up!
In subsequent workshops I plan to cover conceptual compositing, digital workflow, and retouching.
Don’t panic this is just the beginning. Very exciting!
While I’m writing this sitting on my couch with a Macbook Air, when I really need to get work done I do so at my desktop computer. Old school towers are still great as a photographer’s workstation and there are reasons for that. You can use the best and fastest components, they’re easily upgradable, they can fit more storage, and for me, they’re fun to build.
As many of you who read my blog may already know, I use a Hackintosh as my main desktop. Have so for about a year now. For the uninitiated, a Hackintosh means that I’m running Mac OS X on a computer that’s not built by Apple. Some people install it on Dell and HP machines, but in this case the computer was build by me from parts about 3 years ago. At first the OS X thing was an experiment but I’m going to stick with it.
My current i7-920 machine is still relatively fast, it’s got 24GB of RAM and 6+TB of drives, but it’s now 3 years old and I’ve been itching to upgrade. To that end I’ve started putting together the pieces I need to build my new machine and thought I might document the process. The main catalyst is the upcoming release of the new Intel ‘Ivy Bridge’ chips which should happen in the next few weeks. So while I’ve got most of it planned out, there are still a few grey areas to fill in as I go.
There are a few things about my current machine that I’d like to address in the process of building the new one. First, I can’t stand the noise from the fan on the video card. I’m a pretty serious stickler for quiet computers, and the rest of the fans in my machine were bought with that in mind, but the Gigabyte 5770 ‘Batmobile’ card I’m using spins up far too often. And since I never game and really only use Lightroom, Photoshop, and Chrome with any regularity, I don’t really think I need a fast card, so I’m going to try to go without. Also, while I’ve got plenty of storage which I back-up nightly, I’d really love to speed it all up and simply my drive layout, so I’m looking into running 3 drives in a RAID 5 array as my main storage.
So here’s my planned parts list so far:
Top of the line consumer processor. Quad core @ 3.5GHz stock, but it’s unlocked which means it’s begging to be over clocked. I’m going to try to get mine to 4.5GHz with some aftermarket air cooling. I’d love 6 core, but for the work I do I don’t think I’d get enough of an advantage to justify the cost increase.
No idea as of yet since none have really been announced. For some reason, Gigabyte brand motherboards have become the most well supported in the Hackintosh world, so I’m leaning towards those for now. I’d love to have Thunderbolt built in, and there are a few manufacturers who have announced it as a feature. All Thunderbolt controller chips are from Intel right now, so whatever they’re using SHOULD be compatible with OS X without too much work. The new boards will have USB3 anyway which should be plenty fast enough for backups using bare drives in one of those hard drive docks.
One big motherboard question is if I can get away with using a Micro ATX sized board instead of a full size ATX. I don’t need the extra slots, and would love to shrink the size of the case I need in the process. The motherboard is the biggest hole in my plan right now.
Well not none, but my plan it to try and use the new Intel HD4000 graphics which are built into the 3770K CPU as my graphics card. Based upon everything I’ve heard, it should be plenty fast for what I need it for which is almost entirely 2D work. Photoshop CS6 relies on OpenGL much more leveraging the same graphics subsystem as Premiere, but I still think I might be able to get away with this latest on-board graphics. Cost is a great advantage, as is the lack of additional fans to cool another card, which solves one of the problems I have with my current rig.
Worst case scenario, I’ll get a lower-end nVidia passively cooled card like a GT430. Let’s see if we can do without it though, shall we?
32GB DDR3 in 4x 8GB DIMM
I’m planning to put 32GB of RAM in there. An upgrade from the 24GB I’m using now, and a no brainer for Photoshop use especially since RAM is pretty cheap at the moment.
Intel 520 240GB SSD
This one I already bought last week because it was on sale. I went with the new 240GB model Intel 520 SSD. It wasn’t cheap, a bit over $300, but it’s gotten great reviews and it’s crazy fast. My current machine uses an 80GB Intel G2 SSD from a couple of years ago and I’ve had zero problems with it. Which is something I can say of almost every Intel product I’ve ever bought. They do reliability right.
4 or 6GB RAID-5 Array
So I currently use a pair of 2TB Western Digital Green drives which I backup nightly to sparse images on a 3TB Hitachi drive using Superduper! I’ve also got an additional 2TB ‘media’ drive which I use to store music and movies and software downloads and such. I back this one up every once in a while but it’s not vitally important stuff.
What I’d love to do is take 3 of the 2TB WD drives and create a RAID 5 array. This would have the benefits of having just one photo drive I have to keep track of, a big speed boost because of the striping data among the drives and a certain amount of data security due to the redundancy of RAID 5. I’ve looked into a RocketRAID card to do this for me as I want to use hardware RAID, but I haven’t come down to a best fit yet. Advice on this matter is appreciated.
The one downside to a big array like that is that my backups might be a bit more of a pain in the neck as I’ll need another array or a single big 4TB drive to backup to and those aren’t cheap right now. In fact hard drives in general aren’t cheap right now due to the floods in Thailand last year, but they’re getting better.
Power Supply ~$120
Seasonic X750 750W
I’m a fan of Seasonic power supplies. They’re built like tanks, and they’re quiet and they’ve never let me down. I saw a great deal on this power supply last week so I snapped it up. Best part about this model is the fact that at under a 20% load, the fan doesn’t turn on at all. So it’s crazy quiet. It’s also got modular cables, so you only plug in the ones you need. No more extra cables to hide away. Looking forward to trying it out.
Fractal Design Define Mini
If I can pull off the MicroATX motherboard, this is the case I’m going with. If I can’t I’ll get it’s big brother. Either way, I’ve heard great things about it. Resonance dampened panels and rubber dampened sleds for 6 hard drives. More than enough for my plans.
So that’s what I’ve got so far. Hopefully Intel will announce the new chips in a week or two and we can get on with the fun of building this thing out.
Any suggestions or advice on the selections above are appreciated if you want to leave a comment.
More to come…
I’m still in the process of updating this post as I play and have a chance to write my experiences.
So beware, it’s alive!
About an hour ago, Fed-Ex dropped off my new Canon 5D Mark III which I pre-ordered a couple weeks ago from OneCall out in Spokane, WA (They’re not a sponsor, but I’ve found them a great place to buy stuff).
I’ve got my new camera ritual which involves covering all of the Canon markings with tape while the battery is fully charging. And since that’s happening right now, I thought I’d start with the tactile stuff. I have since updated the post with more observations and a few corrections.
First off, the Mark II felt a lot like the original 5D. This new camera does not to me. Others have mentioned this, but I’d like to concur that it feels much closer to a 1D body than old ones ever did. Like a 1D without the portrait grip buttons. Overall it’s a bit heavier, a bit thicker front to back, so that the grip is better for bigger hands like mine. The prism bump is also bigger, to fit the new 100% viewfinder (finally!). I personally want a camera that’s a little bigger in the hands, with a little more heft to keep things steady, so these are all good points in my book. The bigger size also makes it feel like front heavy with big lenses like the f/1.2 primes.
I can’t comment on environmental sealing, but if the feel of the build quality is an indication, I’d assume it’s improved as well. Then again, that was not really a problem for me with the old cameras either.
A few changes on the controls as well. First is that the mode dial requires you to push the center down to turn, thus locking it from changing in your bag or against your side as your carry it over your shoulder. There’s a dedicated still/movie switch instead of relying on the little live-view button as on the old one. Apparently there is a rating button so that you can give star ratings in camera. This sounds great as long as it’s all using the same metadata slot so that they show up starred in Lightroom when I import (Update: The ratings do successfully transfer to Lightroom).
As well as the rating button, there’s a new Zoom button. On the Mark II you used the focus select button and the one next to it to zoom in and out of the current image on the review screen. It involved a lot of tap-tap-tapping of buttons, but I was used to it. Now you press the zoom button with your left hand and roll the dial up by the shutter to zoom in/out. Something new to get used to. And it looks like you can now zoom all the way in to 100%. On the old camera preview was limited to the resolution of the small preview jpeg. The only thing I don’t like about that so far is that when you’re zooming back out it goes past the current full image and all the way out to a thumbnail view of all your images. So you can’t just blindly zip the dial to get back to fit. There should be a setting for that somewhere.
And speaking of controls this is as good a place as any to mention the screen, which is pretty nice. Now wider than the last one and truly 3:2 so that images fill the screen. Looks bright and accurate. Nothing bad to say here, other than to mention how far we’ve come with the screens on the back of cameras. Remember when they were 1.8″ and 320×240? Me too. Wow.
The new viewfinder is bright and big. A bit bigger than the Mark II, and the focusing screen they used is much more matte than in the old camera and a tad darker. This is good news for me because I like to be able to see the lens’ depth of field. We’ll see how it works in practice.
Another interesting thing is that there are no markings in the viewfinder without power. It’s all a EVF kind of thing. I hear there are settings to show/hide the AF points and exposure data from the bottom as well (Update: I can’t find a way to turn the exposure data off, though I’d love to). That all sounds delightful to me. Makes it feel like you’re shooting with an old analog camera. Less visual clutter.
One weird thing I’ve noticed is that if I have no battery in the camera and just manually focus the lens, it’s completely off. Infinity is focused about 6ft away and all the way in is almost macro, and that’s on a lens that normally can’t focus below 24″ or so. I thought something was wrong with the camera (and perhaps there is), so much so that I grabbed the battery off the charger, but the instant I hit the focus button, everything worked fine. Weird and curious.
The Mark III shoots like 14,000 frames per second. Ok, actually only 6, but even that is about double the Mark II. I rarely shoot anything but single shot anyways so this isn’t cool beans to me. However it does me that they had to improve the shutter system a bunch in order for it to move that fast and handle that many actuations. The practical upshot of this for me is that the shutter black-out, which is the time where the viewfinder goes black while the mirror pops up and exposes the sensor, is now almost nonexistent, which is amazing to me. It’s one of the big things I missed moving from the 1Ds to the 5DII, so I’m back in nirvana.
The new shutter also sounds great. I know it’s a fetishy kind of thing, but it matters. Makes the whole package feel more responsive. Like when you put an SSD in your computer for the first time and now every computer without one feels broken.
In addition, Canon has added silent shutter mode. We’re talking very quiet, as in Leica quiet. It adds to the shutter lag a bit, but I think it could be useful if you’ve got to take picture during a performance, interview, or video shoot.
Let’s talk turkey, because all the rest of that isn’t worth a hill of beans unless the images look good. I’m not going to do a side-by-side comparison of the Mark II and III. There are plenty of sites out there who will do that kind of anal testing. For me it’s whether the sensor does a good job of capturing the image I focus onto it, and if the RAW files are malleable. That is, if they can be manipulated well. Shadows pulled up without a lot of noise, blown-out highlights retrieved and that kind of thing.
To that end I went up to Prospect Park around dusk last night and took some artistically terrible pictures with my 35mm/1.4L lens. Their saving grace is that they’re good tests of some of the extremes of what I’m talking about and therefore, perfect for our purposes.
The main workflow problem I’ve encountered is that Lightroom does not yet support the 5D Mark III’s .cr2 RAW files. Seriously camera company people, just start writing them to card as DNG, everyone will be better off. Anyhow, I found a release candidate of the next Adobe Camera Raw plugin and converter, which I used to convert them to DNGs which I then brought into Lightroom. I’m sure this will be fixed with an update within the next few days, but in the meantime, there is a way around it folks and that’s the system I used for the examples below.
By the way, I tried the supplied Canon DPP software before finding the converter and I will spare you how frustrating I found using it. Honestly, if that were the only RAW conversion option, I’d shoot JPEG. OK, enough with the rant, back to the results.
First is a shot of a barren tree silhouetted against the sky. ISO 400 at f/6 1/160th of a second. Again, not a good photograph, but a good test of high-contrast detail. And it’s plenty sharp to me. Minimal processing, I turned on lens and CA corrections in Lightroom, opened up the shadows a bit (which they did nicely) and used default sharpening which is pretty conservative. Sharp all the way to the edges. This is why I shoot with high-end prime lenses by the way. Click here to load the full res image into a new browser window and you can see for yourself.
Here’s what the branches at the very top of the tree look like at 100%. Ya, that’ll do.
Next up is a very high-contrast backlit shot. Again, terrible photograph, but good for our purposes. Also iso 400 with blocked up shadows and blown out highlights. Good test of malleability.
Here’s how it looked on import:
After a bit of opening up shadows and pulling back highlights:
A small chunk of it. A little shadow noise, but that’s without any noise reduction and I did a fair amount of digging in those shadows.
Overall I’m quite pleased. Plan to take it out with me today to take some real pictures. More to come.
There are a few things Canon got SO close on, but missed in the end. They added a ratio crop mode, so that you could for example shoot square or 4×5. However the crop lines don’t show up in the viewfinder, but rather only when you’re using Live View, which rarely if ever interests me. I use an SLR because I like a viewfinder, thank you very much. Nikon has had this for a while and I was excited when I saw it on the spec sheet, but they let me down.
I also wish they had moved the diopter control deeper under the eye cup. I’ve already changed it inadvertently. To the point where I’ve gone and used a bit of gaff under the eye cup to keep it in place. Seems to be a decent if hack solution.
If you’re thinking about ordering one from Amazon. You can use this link and help support the site at the same time.
Canon EOS 5D Mark III 22.3 MP Full Frame CMOS with 1080p Full-HD Video Mode Digital SLR Camera (Body)
Oh and my Mark II is now officially for sale if anyone in New York City is interested. I’m looking for $1750 cash.