Friday, October 5, 2012

Hoodman 'Raw Steel' CF Cardreader - USB 3.0 rocks

USB 3.0 is blazing fast but it's not without some faults. Mainly, the with the infancy of the interface, there are quite a few peripherals out there that are labeled USB 3.0 but do not conform to the standard.  I ran it to that recently with my Kingston CF card reader - worked great with Windows 7 but was reduced to a USB 2.0 device with my new box which is running Windows 8. Yes, I know, windows 8 is still a preview and not a final product. But according to the Building Windows 8 blog the USB 3.0 stack in the windows 8 kernel was built from the ground up to the latest standard so I'm taking the position that if something ain't working - it's the device's fault. And to that end, I am happy to find that my latest CF card reader, the Hoodman USB 3.0 Raw Steel UDMA card reader works like a charm with my windows 8 install. Using Sandisk Extreme Pro 32Gb cards I'm getting a rock solid 80Mb/sec transfer rate. Which equates to roughly a little over 3 minutes to download 1000+ (26Gb) of 18Mpixel Raw files (which is a typical football shoot) to the hard disk. While I use to be able to go have a cup of coffee while my images download, now my download is complete before I'm finished grinding the beans.
Another thing I like about the Hoodman is that it is firmware upgradeable, for example Hoodman recently released a firmware update to make the CF reader UDMA 7 compliant. ---I couldn't find any support downloads for the Kingston. So if you looking for a Windows 8 compatible USB 3.0 CF reader - The Hoodman is a good choice

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dream Camera...(revisited)

Back in 2006, I wrote a post which listed all the cameras I've owned  through the years and made a presumptuous conclusion that my days of upgrading were over since I obtained my "Dream Camera", a Canon 1DmkII.  Silly me..
Since then I've had 3 bodies:
Canon 5DmkII - A great image sensor trapped in a slow focusing, mid-grade build quality body.
Canon 5DmkIII - A super image sensor wrapped in a solid body and endowed with the modern AF system of the top of the line 1Dx. An excellent camera that should do more than any photographer short of the sports shooter could ask for.
Canon 1Dx - The top dawg, IQ, high ISO capability and dynamic range that made me choose it, and its premium $$, over the 5D.
My glass collection has also grown to now include: 15mm 2.8 fisheye,14mmF2.8, 24mm 3.5 TS-E II, 17-40F4L,24-105F4LIS,50F1.8, 70-200F2.8LIS II,85F1.2L, 100mmF2.8L Macro, and my baby the 300F2.8L.

So NOW am I done?...hardly. I know better. I can probably say that I'm done with DSLRs at this point as my dream camera now is a one of the new Compact System Cameras. As sensor technology advances, these smaller sensor formats will keep all the advantages of lighter, more compact bodies and lenses without any compromise in image quality. Manufacturers are pretty close to hitting the sweet spot and I'm about to sell my 5DmkIII to move to one of these gems. Leading the pack is the Fuji ex-1 followed by the Sony Nex-6 and with the awesome lenses available for the micro 4/3s systems, those are high on the list as well...

Workflow test: Canon 1Dx

So one of the things I was really looking forward to with my 1Dx was superfast image transfers with it's built in Ethernet port. The 1Dx can be set to connect to a network and upload files to an FTP server either for shooting tethered or for downloading all images after a shoot (which was my interest). I was salivating over the possibility of hooking this up to my gigabit network and sucking a 32Gig shoot down in a few minutes. But as soon as I configured my FTP server and set up the camera to send my first shoot my bubble went bust... a paltry 17MB/sec throughput (slower than my  USB 2.0 reader) Switching to the USB 3.0 port of the camera wasn't much better, averaging just 24MB/sec. So while these interfaces are probably a big improvement for tethered shooting, for larger transfers it looks like the card reader will still reign supreme. Damn shame...

Building a better box for Lightroom...not really

So I finally got tired of putting up with what I thought was an out of date computer system (pre intel 'core i' ) Decided to build a box specifically aimed at speeding up my Lightroom workflow. The latest Ivy Bridge 3770k with 4 hyperthreaded cores overclocked to 4.3Ghz, 32 Gb of ram, 3 SSDs: 1 for the OS, 1 as 'working area' to store the raw files of any shoot actively being worked and 1 SSD dedicated to the Lightroom catalogue database and associated previous. USB3.0 card readers for quick downloading. All running under the control of the svelte Windows 8 operating system.

 This box is fricken hot, but did it do anything for my workflow? Well not really. Improvement was rather disappointing. Importing, and rendering a big shoot is still a  'start and go watch TV' process. Most disappointing is that the image to image load time is still a couple tenths of a second which doesn't sound like much but after shooting a football game at 12 frames a second I want to quickly scan through my shoot to grab the keepers. With this hardware expect (and should get )  INSTANTANEOUS image to image load times. Lightroom is great, but its just a pig so I'm crossing my fingers that they add some GPU acceleration and other speed trick for Lightroom 5.

So I'm calling this new box build a bust for lightroom but as a consolation, I think I'm gonna throw in a NVIDA 660ti and make one rocking gaming box!