photoblogography - Just some stuff about photography

RAW Converter Bonanza

in Olympus E-System , Monday, April 18, 2005

Hot on the heels of the announcement of Photoshop CS2 with its new separate RAW processing features, came the "release candidate" of CaptureOne Pro 3.7, and Olympus Studio 1.3. Studio 1.3 comes with a lot of interesting new features and options, so I thought it would be interesting to try it. I'm not really sure what all the conversion engine options are for. If they have pros & cons for different types of images, why not tell us ? But no, Olympus remains inscrutable on this point. To me it seems more a case of "we can't decide, let the user work it out", or simply traditional old "more options os better", however useless they are. Anywaa, one major improvement over Studio 1.2 is that the histogram works again, so at least it is usable. One MAJOR flaw, but really, really bad news, is that 16-bit TIFFs are still created with no EXIF data. What are they thinking of ? This makes cataloging a real headache, and for that reason alone more or kills Studio stone dead as a professional tool. However, if the quality is there - and many people swear by Studio's quality - it might be worth the pain, at least sometimes. So I decided to run a little test, on an image I took recently of a brown bear at the Goldau wild animal park. Here below is the full image (the Studio version in fact). The photo was taken using the Zuiko 50-200mm zoom, handheld, at ISO 100. fullbear.jpg I processed the image in C1PRO v3.7 and Studio 1.3 using default settings as far as possible, with no sharpening, no exposure compensation, no noise removal. In both cases I output to AdobeRGB. Studio automatically compresses the data, it seems, if you compare the before and after histograms. C1 doesn't, at least not by default, and this accounts for the slightly brighter default result - it is trivial to compensate either way. In fact in both cases outputting to ProPhoto could have advantages, then compressing in Photoshop. In Studio I used the "Advanced High Function" engine (well, why not ?) and left the saturation setting at CS2, sharpening at -3. To be honest the differences to my eyes are negligible. Studio's internal sharpening seems quite good, but in any case leaving sharpening off and using Photokit Sharpener looks better to me. Studio's workflow remains very poor, and even on a Dual 2.5Ghz G5 Mac, it isn't particularly speedy. Studio gets the job done, and produces great quality, but it isn't worth the upgrade from Viewer. C1 gives results which are just as detailed (I really do not see this "plasticky" look some complain about), has far better workflow, gives much more control over the image, and doesn't throw away EXIF data. Bring on Photoshop CS2... studio_1_3_crop.jpg 1:1 crop of Studio 1.3 processed image c1_3_7_crop.jpg 1:1 crop of C1 v3.7 processed image

The Silk Road by Alessandra Meniconzi

in Book Reviews , Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Silk Road is the title of a book recently published by Swiss traveller and photographer Alessandra Meniconzi. I've wanted to post on a review of this for some weeks, but just couldn't find time to do this mini-review will have to do for now.


Bringing together photographs taken during a number of voyages through Western, Central and Eastern Asia, the book retraces the network of routes collectively known as the fabled "Silk Road".

This collection really is something quite out of the ordinary. The photographs of landscapes and people (and The Silk Road is very much about people) are simply radiant. Some good examples of her work from the Himalaya are here. The way in which the light is captured in these photos is difficult to express in words, as so much emotion is conveyed through them. At nearly 250 pages, this is a substantial piece of work. The book is beautifully presented, and a real pleasure to explore. I guess my favourite part is the section on Tajakistan - a practically unheard of Central Asian republic - but there are gems everywhere.

Meniconzi travelled frequently by mountain bike, well off the beaten track, and took the time to become familiar to and with the people of the regions she travelled through. This is no voyeuristic collection, no "click and run" operation, but a work which is full of empathy for the people it represents.

It is telling that she has little time for discussion of the apparatus of photography, revealing only that she uses just a few lenses and a basic camera. Quite a lesson for those of us who are so sure that a better camera and a €10000 lens would make us geniuses.

You can find out more about Alessandra Meniconzi at her web site, as well as information on ordering the book.

I think it is fairly clear that I highly recommend it!

Go to meet thy Maker

in Olympus E-System , Sunday, April 03, 2005

Well my E-1 went on a ride to Olympus Switzerland last Thursday. Hopefully it will return soon, with a new rubber coating for the grip, which as seems to be common with E-1s, was coming loose. I also asked them to look at the card compartment door which is sometimes a bit stiff. I delivered it myself to Olympus in Volketswil. I doubt that the extremely correct Swiss German receptionist will forget me in a hurry, as somehow I slipped and more or less hurled the box at her. Despite my profuse and embarrassed apologies, she was not amused...