Thursday, December 8, 2011

My choice for a photographer's tablet.

So no more than a few days after posting my thoughts on the Kindle fire, here I am giving my initial thoughts on another tablet, the Samsung Slate 7. If you haven't heard of this device, it's a 11.6" tablet powered by a Intel core i5 processor with 4gb of ram and a 128gb SSD running (what?!) Windows7. The display is both touch sensitive and capable of pressure sensitive pen input via wacom technology.

So before I give you my initial thoughts on the device, it'd be useful to know what drew me to this purchase. l wasn't looking for another tablet , the kindle fire is performing that limited use case well. Rather, it was the promise of a full-blown PC capable of running REAL apps like Photoshop, Lightroom, a real browser and doing REAL productive work in a super small form factor that got me interested. But as a photographer, It was the allure of the wacom powered pen input that would allow me to draw right on the screen just like the Cintiq's I've been lusting after for years that actually made me hit the 'buy' button.
So what are my thoughts so far? Let's see.

Pen vs. Touch: Well everything you may have heard about Windows7 being terrible with touch is absolutely true, and while the hardware is very responsive the OS just doesn't know what to do with it. And while Samsung makes an attempt at putting a touch enabled launcher on top of Windows with a couple of touch enabled apps, it's a futile attempt at making this tablet something it's not; which is, anything remotely competitive to the Ipad. All this being said, its pen interface is mature- and it's winning me over. The handwriting recognition , even without training it, is amazingly accurate with my writing style. In fact I wrote this whole post using it and found it much better than pecking at a virtual keyboard. The accuracy & precision of a stylus just can't be matched by one's finger and the added expression enabled with pressure sensitivity is just awesome when using Photoshop or Painter. Steve Jobs may have been right that 'people' don't want to use a stylus, but as a photographer / artist, I've 'seen the light' and couldn't imagine going back to finger painting.

Screen: While not the gorgeous IPS display of the Ipad, the display is bright, vibrant, and has sufficient viewing angles for typical single user close up tasks like writing & painting where you are typically working at a consistent distance and angle to the display. Since this is a Windows box, I can use my Eyeone display to properly calibrate the screen and get some consistent results when editing my photos (+1 for the Windows tablet) The ultra-wide aspect ratio of the screen sort of forces you to use a landscape orientation, which works out perfectly in Photoshop allowing your panels to dock on either side and still allow enough room for an adequate canvas. For some reason the screen rotation is obnoxiously slow sot usually leave it locked. I have to believe this is a software driver issue because there's no way hardware Sensors could be this slow.

Performance: I heard the Core i5-2674 processor was throttled for thermal envelope reasons and may never reach its full Clock rate of 1.6GHz or 2.3GHz in Turbo mode yet the system is very responsive and has enough horsepower to smoothly track the artist brushes in Photoshop without any appreciable lag between pen & stroke. If you put any value in the Microsoft experience index, this system scores a 4.2, but this low score is due to its Aero Performance score, all other values are in the mid 5's, and the SSD scores a blistering 7.5 which may account for the system's sub 30 second boot times. Photoshop start up times are also much quicker than on my SSD equipped desktop.

Conclusions: I was originally skeptical and ready to pack this thing back in the box to send back but as I used it, even with all the touch unfriendly aspects of Windows7,it has really won me over. I truly feel this is a powerful media creation tool, not just another neat gadget as I view the Ipad as - and I'm positive the release of Windows8 will just make things better. I know this thing isn't for most, but when I consider that this has all the power of a laptop packed into a sleek tablet, for me, it's a keeper.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Quick Tip: Minimizing Time in Post

So here's a little situation I found myself in after a shoot at the local high school - all my headshots had visible wrinkles and seams in the background. Looking at the LCD on the back of my camera, I thought I had the background far enough away from the main to be properly underexposed, but after pulling up the images at home I saw that this wasn't the case. They were pretty bad, in the original image to the left, you can see wrinkles in the background and the edge is visible on the left side of the image as well as a seam under the subjects arm.

No biggy right? just clone it out? Well not, if I want to make more than minimum wage on this job. I had to think smart and come up with a way that I could quickly correct the days shoot in the minimum amount of time. The technique I found worked quite well and, more importantly it was fast. Round trip from Lightroom to Photoshop and back was less than 2 minutes - I think the results (right) were believable and I know It would have took me at least 4 times as long if I were to try and clone or paint my way out of this mess. While the main take away from this job could have been 'get it right in camera' I think it really stressed the importance of taking a second look at how you approach a problem in photoshop and consider alternative solutions rather than jump to the first technique you know, cause it could save you a whole bunch of time.

I put a little screencast together showing the technique I used and while the video compression really makes it tough to see the defects in the shadows, you can still get the gist of what I'm doing...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lazyleg Clamp

Close up of the LL Clamp a video by photogeek21 on Flickr.

So here's my 3D printed part in action. It basically makes one of the three legs of my lightstand adjustable so you can use them on uneven ground.

3D printing - prototyping on the cheap

Lazy Leg Clamp, originally uploaded by photogeek21.

I had an idea for a modification to my lightstands to make them have the same adjustability as some of the more expensive models. All I needed was a simple split collar clamp with a mount for the struts of the stand.
In years past I had access to the machine shop at work and could have whipped something like this up in a couple hours but now I'd have to look at paying a machine shop $60-70/hr to make it for me - I might as well just buy new lightstands.
I found a on-line service that takes your solid model and uses a 3d printer to turn it into a real world object. They are typically some sort of thermal plastic which would be fine in my case. So using Google's sketchup, I created the solid model of my idea and sent it off - 10 days later I got my part in the mail, tested it out, and by golly it worked the first time - you'd think I was some kind of engineer or something...
I didn't gage the part to see how accurate it was but my slip fit diameters were good. I thought the whole process was pretty cool and I think you'd be able to make some pretty complicated parts that may not be possible in a machine shop - like a hollow bodied part for example.
Cost is based on volume of the part rather than machine time so depending on the part it could work out to be much cheaper than machining. My part here was $26 which is probably expensive for what it is but I couldn't of had a machine shop make that for me at that price.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Shoot of another sort

My best finish yet at the Western States Single Stack Championship. 31st overall, and 3rd in class.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011 to the rescue

While I think this site has been around for a while, I discovered it only after HOURS of frustration trying to convert a the video files from my 5Dmkii to a format that ANIMOTO could work with. No luck with windows live movie maker or even with the king of open source vid players, VLC. is freemium cloud based service that you upload your vid file, the server will crunch that into just about format you can think of and provide the output for you to download. While granted all that uploading and downloading can take some time and it's not for someone who needs to do a lot of trans-coding but for those situations like the one I found myself in, it's just the thing I needed and did what I needed to do without the need to download and install anything on my computer.