Sunday, May 30, 2010

Meltdown! Hard Disk Crash saved by Proper Backup Protocol

Ok … pretty slow blogging week. Been meaning to blog New York City, but blogged the garden while waiting to complete day 1 of NYC. And then it happened … my computer made a strange bussing noise that seemed to not want to stop in the middle of the night, so I took the expedient / stupid route and used canned compressed air to clear out the vents etc. Now, had I sprung for the carbon dioxide spray, all would have been well. But no, I cheaped out and bought a can with propellant in it.

So when I started spraying my machine while it was live (and backing up 30GB of music) I managed to spray quite a lot of frozen air onto various parts. And when you do *that*, you fry stuff.

And I fried my images disk … the disk containing all my NYC images and in fact every image I own.

I did not know that at first … the machine would not boot at all the next day, even though it had completed the copy of the music. So I wondered … maybe the motherboard was fried, since it seemed like the machine could not even see the drives sometimes. Well, in the end, the SATA bus was being screwed up by the presence of this broken disk. No doubt I blew a cap on its board or something. I figured that our by replacing it with my new Western Digital 1TB Caviar Black. Now both disks were visible and the machine rebooted just fine.


Then, I checked my Seagate Freeagent 1TB USB backup drive to see what I might have lost from the last week and only the neighborhood and some baby geese from that day were missing. NYC was there, although all my processing had been lost.

Well … whew again!

Now … that left me wondering … do I burn the new fast drive as an image disk? Or do I take some pain now and replace my Caviar Green drive with the Caviar Black? I have wanted to do that for a while, hence the purchase of DriveImage XML by Runtime Software a few weeks ago, so I went for it. I ran the direct diskcopy overnight and it seemed to work fine. So I disconnected the original drive and tried rebooting. No go.

I farted around with Windows 7 repair facility, which you get to from the install panel after booting into the DVD. Well, Windows 7 knows that I have no master boot record, but it does not quite seem able to find the problem with the missing boot files. Well, duh. So reboot after reboot (it can take 3 times) did nothing for me. So I looked on the Internet and found the perfect instructions for this task. There are several similar posts out there for Vista and Windows 7, so thanks to all who came before me on this.

Three steps worked for me after I copied my C: Windows 7 drive to my new partition.

  1. Make sure the new partition is the first that Windows encounters on boot. I plugged the new disk into port 0 on the SATA bus, so that was taken care of. I happened to also have it as the only drive, so it would have worked anyway … but just in case you are adding a drive and not just replacing.
  2. Make the new parition active. When you go into Windows 7 repair from the setup screen, it has numerous options, the last of which is command line. Go there and type these commands …

    > diskpart
    DISKPART> list disk
    disks shown here
    DISKPART> select disk 0 (or whatever number matches the new boot drive)
    DISKPART> list partition
    partitions shown here
    DISKPART> select partition 1 (or whatever partition is your copied installation of Windows 7)
    DISKPART> activate
    DISKPART> exit

    You could of course verify that your new parition is showing as C: before launching into diskpart …
  3. Now you need to copy the WIndows 7 boot files to this partition. That’s a piece of cake. At the same command prompt, type:

    > bcdboot

    … and follow the instructions.

This worked fine for me. The next reboot behaved exactly as expected.

However, as there are a near infinite set of possible conditions, issues, hardware and configurations, I make no warranty that this will work for you, either expressed or implied. Further, you perform these tasks at your own risk. I take no responsibility for you, your computer, your data, or anything else that you might destry while performing such tasks.

And I am now copying my entire image library over to my second new Caviar Black 1TB … this takes 5 hours for 197GB … and the only reason that I am not sick about all this is that I followed my own advice and backed up the NYC images *immediately* after downloading them to the main disk. So all 1500 images were on that backup. I will, in half an hour, have two copies of everything, and a third copy of much of my work on Carbonite.

Edit: I found a link to one of the original discussions I liked the best. Pretty much what I followed.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

D700 – Neighborhood Flowers

Took a half hour walk at lunch today and it was a bit overcast, so I thought I’d see what was growing in the neighborhood. I didn’t want to go too far onto yards, so this is a smallish selection.

I took the D700 with Tamron 28-75 since I really enjoyed that combo in NYC. The results were alright.

I started on my own yard because I noticed a butterfly in among my Ostrich Ferns. Here, he tries to run away …


He eventually lands and remains stable for a moment on a fern leaf. I am fairly close and I lean in, snapping as I go. These are all crops, of course, since I did not bring the 70-300VR along. Regrets … I’ve had a few … oops, NYC will be posted later on :-)


This is a nice time of year for my front garden. The ferns are very lush.


Some nice Peonys growing in a neighbor’s yard.


Across the street from there is the Bridal Veil Spirea that I’ve wanted to shoot all spring. But I waited too long … still, I shot it for posterity. No longer full bloom, but you can probably imagine what this thing looks like covered in tons of fresh white blooms.


Flowering bushes are always good for a closeup or two …


Some way down the street is a gorgeous Clematis. Since I don;t like walking deep onto yards, and since I was sporting a 70mm lens on a FF sensor, this is a heavy crop :-)


A few doors down is a native Rose bush … looks a little different from my Hansa Rose … there are so many varieties.


And finally, two of my neighbors are into the growing of Poppies. This is from the better of the two crops.


A nice walk and I can’t say enough about the D700. A real joy to use. 

Banned Again from DPReview?

Yes :-)

I was getting along just fine on DPReview until yesterday, when lloydy and painterdude and one other inconsequential person orchestrated a concerted attack on me. I kept my responses as neutral as possible while still being pointed, but alas … you don’t mess with the attack pack. They love that complaint button …

Interestingly, I pressed the complaint button a couple of times myself yesterday … maybe that’s why I got nailed. Only the attack pack is allowed to use that device :-)

VelventAnt received just such a notice a week or two ago and then received a permanent ban a day or two later. I would not be surprised to see the same thing here. And frankly … it might be for the best. DPReview forums seem to be devolving into a bit of a gong show these days … certainly the Fuji Talk Forum, where bullshit passes as information, lies are used to insult and one-liner dismissals like “talk to the hand” hand pass as considered debate. (I’m not kidding about that last one … painterdude busted that out just yesterday :-)
*sigh* … been there and done that.

Forgot to mention this touch ... yesterday, mr. talk to the hand called for a permanent ban for me, although I had done nothing but defend myself. And I predicted in bold that he had just subtly put out the call for a coordinated complaint button attack. That post is deleted now and so am I. I think I might have them sussed :-)

Update: The parade of idiots and fan boys (this is a loooonnnnnggggggg parade) has finally driven one of the top contributors (quality, not quantity) away. Ted (a.k.a. tdkd13) has announced his retirement from the forum. Wow … the place is turning into a desert …

Updates: Ted is back, but *very* subdued. Velvet Any melted down completely later on and when she came back she attacked all her old friends and switched sides. It was embarrassing to watch the pandering, and that still continues. Sad.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

F80EXR and D700 do New York City

Got back last night from a bus tour to NYC with Karen (who led the tour.) A lot of fun, but quite tiring. I will start posting images from the F80EXR (almost 500 shot) and the D700 (almost 1000 shot) in a day or two. The D700 with Tamron 28-75 2.8 and 70-300VR was a remarkable combination. The F80EXR was extremely handy. Great trip.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

D700 – Garden Update for mid-May

Well, it’s time to start updating the progress of the garden. The front garden was quite active during tulip time, but that is over. A few stragglers left, none worth imaging. The Bleeding Hearts are in full bloom, and much bigger than I expected. Very pleased with that. And the massive (12ft x 12ft) Lilac bush I have is losing flowerets now …

I took the Nikon 85mm 1.8 and the Sigma 105mm 2.8 Macro outside for a bit of fun for 10 minutes or so, and found quickly that the 1.8 does not focus close enough to be useful in the garden. I had thought so, but this confirmed it. I may try again at some point with my 77mm Canon 500D attached.

Meanwhile, the 105 had my smaller (67mm I think) 500D attached, and I mostly shot with it on. Hand held, this presents a major challenge, but this was supposed to be a quick shoot, so I stuck with it for fun. The lens focuses to 1:1, which is about a foot away, and at that magnification, you can’t expect sharp results without very high shutter speeds. To get that, I cranked my ISO to 3200 after starting at 160. 3200 is high enough that even the D700 will struggle with to retain fine details in dark areas. But this is an experiment, so I pushed on.

Here’s the one image I got with the 85mm 1.8 … this is a heavy crop because I could not get very close.


I quickly switched lenses and now I have the ability to shoot at magnifications greater than 1:1 … assuming that the gusty breeze would settle and I could hand hold well enough :-)

The first this you note is the unbelievable bokeh at 2.8 … but shutter speeds are slow at 160 ISO …


  This one was not tack sharp, but is still appealing. Note that the flowerets look sharp because the rest is so diffused … remember that trick.


Same thing with this one … very soft flowerets, but it’s all relative.


A huge Bumble Bee flew in and landed on some flowers above me. I shot a dozen images with the 500D in place, which meant I had to stretch to get close enough. These crops are fairly aggressive, and the noise is pretty dramatic, as these were underexposed. I did what I could to clean the bee shots up, because the detail in their fur is pretty nice.



I like this bee shot the best, as he was buzzing at the time.


Finally, I walked over to the bleeding hearts. The wind made it essentially impossible to grab clear images … this is the best I could do.


Looking back towards the Lilac Bush from the porch, I could catch the top half of the bush with a neighbor’s tree in the background. Shooting at 2.8 blurred the tree out nicely. One thing about shooting with primes. They are sharp :-)


D700 – Nick’s Tattoo

The other night, Nick came home fairly late to show me his new tattoo … a skateboard-centric theme on the inside of his left bicep.

I shot these in a room with rather horrid halogen light and in a bathroom with compact fluorescents … the color correction was nasty enough under the halogens that I went with black and white.

I must say that, after using the D300 for the last two or three shoots, the D700 remains incredible in the hands. What a camera …

DSC_1672_nick_tattoo[1]Nikon D700, 85mm f/1.8D
f/1.8  1/500s,  3200ISO, –1/3EV

DSC_1675_nick_tattoo[1] Nikon D700, 85mm f/1.8D
f/1.8  1/2000s,  3200ISO, –1/3EV

I kind of like the tat …

Sunday, May 16, 2010

HS10 vs D300 – Part 4 – Indoor Details at 1600 ISO

To close this short comparison series, I thought it might be instructive to compare the D300 against the HS10 at 1600 ISO indoors. The HS10 has the BSI CMOS chip from Sony, which is touted as being excellent at high ISO. But let’s see how close it gets to the benchmark of the D300.

I have two images in this comparison. The methodology is to show each image followed the same image with embedded crops to isolate certain details at 100%.

First, I catch my son for a moment while he is ringing up a new lens pen for me. I bought it for this comparison to make sure that the lenses were all clean. He was a bit closer for the D300 shot, which does give it a slight advantage, but there is diddly I can do about that now. Still, same lighting, same distance within a small variance, several shots each and the sharpest taken.








  • No contest on noise and smoothness of jacket. But that was expected.
  • Strange blue channel issue caused by WB adjustment. Seems to show up in the hair crop.
  • Nothing unexpected here.

Then I shot a rather cool display for a camera snorkel mask … neat idea. I liked the texture of the dummy head and the mask. Always enjoy trying to capture the smooth shiny look of plastic.








  • Again, nothing unexpected.


I suppose that this functions as a reminder of why people buy dSLRs over bridge cams. While these HS10 images are perfectly acceptable for snap shot albums etc, you cannot raise ISO this high and retain fine details. And that matters sometimes.

HS10 vs D300 – Part 3

This is the third image I will be showing in this series, the first two included the F70EXR, but for this one I focus only on the cropped dSLR as something to be compared.

Again, this comparison is meant to answer the question: “should I buy the HS10 for its reach, or should I get an all in one lens for my dSLR?”

The latter makes sense if you can reasonably expect to get a decent result from a crop of the dSLR. So far, I think the answer is a resounding MAYBE! Actually, I have no doubts that you can get a decent result from the dSLR with an all in one. Part 1 and part 2 so far show a very close result, with low contrast details much better on the dSLR crops and very fine details a bit better on the HS10 images.

I slightly change the methodology for this image. Instead of normalizing both images to 6mp for 8x10 images, I upsize the dSLR crop to exactly match the HS10 image in size. Thus these crops are real pixel level crops for the HS10. The dSLR remains at the disadvantage in this test for obvious reasons, as I have to interpolate all kinds of new fake pixels to fill the image back out to 10mp.

This image is actually pretty simple … a big old sign with a small sign at the bottom, which is where I grab the crop from.

The HS10 image looks like this:


The D300 original and crop look like this:



Not much to choose at this size … but let’s look at the crops.


Click through to see the large version … and here are a few observations:

  • HS10 has a surprising amount of CA. It is not visible at web sizes though.
  • Letters have thickness with the HS10 that is missing from D300.
  • Small dings on sign a bit more defined with the HS10.
  • The weld bead just above the thick join to which the Cheetah sign is a butted is missing from the HS10 image and clearly visible on the D300 image. The bottom weld bead is also much better defined on the D300 image.
  • The pavement behind and below the sign has texture on the D300 image and none on the HS10 image.
  • The grass has much more real texture on the D300 image.

I would not have thought that the HS10 would see the weld beads as low contrast details. But it clearly does because it eliminated the top one and damaged the bottom one.

This is a case where the low contrast details were simply mangled across the board. A clear voctory for the D300 crop in my opinion.

HS10 vs D300 vs F70EXR – A Test of Reach – Part 2

In part 1 of this series, I outlined the test methodology I use to test reach on the HS10 against the possibility of cropping a typical dSLR sensor and megazoom to match. I even add the F70EXR, a long zoom camera itself, to test whether something like that might suffice for some people.

Round 1 was a vehicle in a garage and the HS10 eked out a narrow victory, albeit with caveats (CA being the main one.) In round 2, we turn to a pretty classic subject: distant foliage. A jumbled set of branches behind which are many leaves.

Since the HS10 does resolve a bit more detail than the 18-200VR after cropping, it should have the advantage. But, at the same time, the HS10 suffers from some edge integrity issues. I didn’t mention them in part 1 because they actually enhanced the sharp look of the brick details. But branches need to retain a rounded look … they are definitely a 3-dimensional element, so anything that causes edge issue is going to make it difficult for the HS10 to maintain the 3D illusion.

The F70EXR, on the other hand, resolves distant detail rather poorly by comparison. At this distance and magnification, it is simply overmatched. But that does not mean that it will suck at web sizes. It may very well do just fine. Let’s see.

Note that I added Topaz Adjust 4 to extract maximum detail from all three. So the potential of your images does rely on some skill with post processing.

So, the first image is of course the baseline against which all others will be compared. The HS10’s shot:


That’s one jumbled image :-)

Now, the D300’s image showing the crop, followed by the crop itself.



You will note the fact that I also needed to rotate the image a bit to get them to match. This puts the D300 at a further disadvantage, since its pixels have already been rather heavily processed by the rotation algorithms. But we press on.

The F70EXR rounds out the test. And its image is surprisingly good at 800px, don;t you think? (Remember to always click thorugh to see the bigger images.)



And finally, what you’ve been waiting for … the crops. Note that this original file is almost 1MB in its original size, so be warned. It is much bigger than 800px on a side, so you may need to click twice, once to load the full image and once to expand to original size in your browser window.



And some observations:

  • The smaller branches do retain their fine appearance. This gives the impression of better detail in some areas.
  • The main trunk up the left side is absolutely more detailed in the dSLR shot, despite its many disadvantages in this test. Here is where the quality of the pixels come to the fore.
  • Similarly, the main branch in behind slashing from the middle of the frame upwards and to the right has a lot of detail in the dSLR image and is essentially smooth in the HS10 image. This is noise reduction rearing its ugly head.
  • As you penetrate deeper into the image, you see places where the leaves are well defined in the HS10 image and then the leaves behind or between are mushed together. The D300 tends to retain more definition between the leaves. They retain more of an individual character, despite the edges been a bit thicker (from the fairly severe upsizing.)
  • The F70EXR retains a surprising amount of fine detail … but the background is completely gone. It is overmatched again. Too few pixels and too much enlargement. Its noise reduction would likely have gone to town on the smaller low contrast details too, and that is plainly evident in the crops.

So, the landscapers and birders of the world remain better off with the dSLR combination, which should really come as no surprise. Even cropped, there is more available low contrast detail and the 3D effect remains largely intact throughout the image. Of course, you cannot get at all of that detail straight from the camera. You must process to extract it. So of course, if you prefer to shoot and post or shoot and print, the HS10 is still your camera. It does quite well in this test. The detail it squelches is not all that visible in 8x10 prints, so you can do well with the bridge cam.

But if you are on the fence about what to buy, and you want all the other advantages of a dSLR, then don’t fret that the 720mm reach of the HS10 always crushes any dSLR you can buy at a reasonable price, because it doesn't. The modern version of this lens can be had with a refurb D5000 body for about 2.5 times the cost of the HS10. So if you are not heavily budget constrained, and if you think you want to have the higher performance of the D5000, then you can surely consider a combination like this.

It’s all about what *you* want. Obviously, both can do the job at typical print sizes and web sizes.

HS10 vs D300 vs F70EXR – A Test of Reach – Part 1

Alrighty then … much has been made of the HS10’s long reach and there has been much debate about whether that reach can be effectively matched using a modern dSLR and a megazoom like the 18-200VR by Nikon. I happen to have the D300 and the first generation version of this lens, so I thought I’d pop by Henrys and take the HS10 and my kit out for a spin.

So, the particulars of this test:

Stand in one location and shoot something very far away at full zoom on the HS10. Shoot at least 3 images and take the sharpest one (and in all cases, there is always a sharpest one, even with the dSLR … stabilization is a *statistical* thing.)  Then crop the image with the wider field of view to match. Finally, normalize all images to a specific size. I chose a 10” final image to which to normalize, which means 3000 pixels on the long edge. For a 3:2 image from a dSLR, that’s a 6mp image, and for a 3:4 image from a small sensor, that’s a 7.2mp image.

Finally, process all the crops for maximum detail and sharpness. Sorry, but the default settings of these cameras are different enough that comparing just the out of camera images is a total waste of effort. It says nothing of what can be achieved with a little skill.

This methodology gives the HS10 a significant advantage. First, I am reducing it image slightly, which helps alleviate some of its artifacts. Second. I am magnifying the other’s images dramatically. From 300mm to 720mm entails a magnification of 2.4x, which makes every artifact that much more visible. And. of course, for very fine details there are only so many pixels to go around when cropping that substantially. So the HS10 has every opportunity to spank the dSLR in this test.

Part 1 is a based on a shot of a house that is a few hundred feet away from where I was standing. There is a car in a garage and I want to try to read the fine print along the bottom of its license plate. Let’s see how we did.

The HS10 shot this image at 720mm.


The D300 shot this image at 300mm effective.


And from that image, I cropped this image (the section in the yellow surround above.)


And just for fun, I shot the same image with the F70EXR at 270mm.


And cropped this image.


Click through to see any of these at 800px.

Now, at these sizes, the dSLR and HS10 images are about the same. There is no reason to assume that the HS10 is going to produce a better or a worse image than the cropped dSLR at web sizes. Which means that if this sort of image is your target, then buy what you can afford and don;t spend much time worrying about it.

On the other hand, how about when we crop these images at 8x10size? And remember that you are viewing on a medium that expands everything 3 times, so in fact this view is the equivalent of printing at 30” on the long side.

Click through to see the crops, and be warned that they are fairly big.


So … what can we observe from the crops? Bearing in mind that this is like looking at a 30” print from 20” away :-)

  • I can (barely) read the fine print on the Ontario license plate. But bear in mind that I know what it says, and that may help.
  • I cannot quite read the license plate on the dSLR shot, but the letters look a little smoother.
  • The HS10 shows some chromatic aberration around the license plate, the “PATHFINDER” lettering and indeed along the creases of the tailgate.
  • The bricks have better contrast and are slightly sharper. More aggressive processing of the D300 image would probably make that a lot closer, but then the smoothness of the rest of the details would be compromised.
  • The F70 image is surpsingly good when you consider the levels of magnification of a *5* megapixel image. And you can read the license plate with ease … the big letters at least :-)

Note that an actual 8x10 print is 1/3 this magnification so none of the minute difference would be visible. The shots would all look pretty decent, although the F70 image would lack some detail for sure. But if your goal is to see tiny details in 30” prints, then the HS10 wins this round. But the caveat is that you must process away the chromatic aberration at this magnification.

Fo all practical purposes this is a tie. For anyone shooting for the web, this is a tie. But I have other images with a lot more detail in them to check out. See part 2 for the branches test.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

D300 Shoots Saturn – Mark II

As I explained the other day, I like shooting the night sky. And shooting Saturn is my new super fun thing to do. Shooting Saturn with only my 70-300VR is even cooler.

Of course, I started the evening with a bazooka in my hand … or more specifically on my tripod. The D300 with Tamron 1.4x and Kenko 2x teleconverters stacked, and then the 70-300VR zoom. That’s a total of 300mm x 1.5x crop x 1.4x x 2x which equals 1260mm. That’s a long focal length by any standards. Of course, I lose 3 stops of light as well. Nasty :-)

I also managed to remember this time to set the D300 to RAW mode. I’ve been shooting in JPEG for a while now, mainly because I forgot to set it back to RAW after the Globetrotters thing.

So here is the first image:

DSC_3484_1_4x_2x[1]D300, 70-300VR, Tamron 1.4x, Kenko 2x


Now, that’s a little rough looking. I removed the 1.4x and left on the Kenko. I had poor luck with it last time, but then I made my own luck that night.

DSC_3487_2x[1] D300, 70-300VR, Kenko 2x

Now that’s more like it. Wow. So this begs the question … if the image of Saturn is that clean with only one TC on it, then how clean will it be with only the 70-300VR?

DSC_3488_300mm_only[1] D300, 70-300VR

Surprisingly good. But I think the Kenko combo wins this round. Best compromise of clarity and magnification in this round.

Think about it … I have an image in which you can recognize Saturn and was shot with nothing but a simple 300mm consumer zoom lens. How cool is that?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

HS10 versus S100fs versus D5000 – Cropfest (Mushfest?) 2010

*Note* I’ve seen people already lambasting imaging-resource for using the original firmware that ships with the camera for their tests. After all, the blur was removed by that firmware. Now here’s my problem with all the apologists pounding on that point: the issue was specifically isolated to the use of dynamic range processing, not to the use of higher ISO. *It should have no effect on this test.* And note that I shot all of my tests on the V1 firmware. Including my ISO ladder. What’s good for the goose …

I tend to like the images at because they have become quite consistent over the last few years, and because they have the mannequin series, which tends to expose heavy noise reduction better than any other series of images I have seen. The hair on the dummy looks terrific on cams that don;t wipe detail with abandon and horrid on cams that do.

So it was with great anticipation that I went to the site when I read that they had shot some images with the HS10. Of course, it turns out that they did not shoot the mannequin series, so I will have to make do with the bright light still life series. Not bad, though. You can still get a good idea if the cam has the chops.

I used these three images:

HS10 at 1600 ISO
S100fs at 1600ISO
D5000 at 1600ISO

I created a series of crops without touching the images. These are presumably straight from the camera.


Remember to click on the image to open it in a separate tab or window. And you may need to click a second time to open it to 100%.

So what do I see?

  1. The HS10 is blurred and mushy throughout. I am very surprised at its lack of detail.
  2. There is discoloration in crop 1 at the edge of the inner fabric swatch. What’s up with that? This cam may have more serious dynamic range issues than the size of its sensor would predict. Perhaps isolated to the blue channel.
  3. Edge integrity is a problem with the HS10. It’s actually quite good with the S100fs. And the D5000 is close to perfect of course.
  4. Where did all the low contrast detail go in crop 3 (fiddler)? The HS10 has wiped it clean. The S100fs makes a reasonable go of it.

No need to go on … there really is no contest. The S100fs crushes the HS10 for detail retention at this focal length, and the D5000 does the same to the S100fs.

The laws of physics prevail yet one more time …