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Silverfast v8.8. Don’t touch it.

The nightmare after Xmas

in Silverfast , Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Please take the following article with a LARGE grain of salt. It’s mostly rubbish. Having calmed down, and after receiving a very hurt email from Lasersoft, I wrote this.


Around 3 or 4 years ago, when Silverfast was at version 6.5, it was urgently in need of a complete rebuild, not only to replace the antiquated and extremely convoluted user interface, but also to make it compatible with modern operating systems.  Rather than grasp this nettle, Lasersoft, to all external appearances, fiddled about, adding fake Mac Intel “support”, and various new features which added precisely zero value, but which they charged for.

Finally, they released Siverfast v8, the rebuild we needed, and while it had a bit of a rocky start, there were swift iterations, and quite soon it became reliable and dependable. Various incremental features were added, culminating in v8.5, which I wrote about when it was released. Not only was v8.5 actually useful, but it was free.  Several incremental improvements to the Job Manager followed.

Now, we have v8.8. Also free. And a total, unmitigated disaster. We seem to have gone back to the bad old days (no, I have no idea where 8.6 & 8.7 went, but 8.8 should have gone there too). We have a new iteration of the algorithmic dust & scratch removal, for scanners not equipped with an infrared channel, called “SRDx”. It has an “x” in it so it must be fabulous. Well, maybe it is. It looks less unusable than the old SRD, but that wasn’t hard to achieve. As for the results, I don’t know, but since I only have IR-channel scanners, I don’t need it.  However, what it also brings to the table is that it has apparently totally screwed up the IR version, iSRD, in Silverfast HDR.  Clicking on “SRDi” (the only was to invoke xSRD) selects xSRD by default.  There is no really obvious was to switch to SRDi, expect by clicking on a tab, but that doesn’t tell me if both are invoked or just one. Also, the 1:1 or HQ preview modes just show a black screen, or sometimes a 1:1 unprocessed view.  All real-time corrections such as curves stop working, and attempting to process an image leads to a “quiet” failure at somewhere near the start of the SRD phase.

In summary, Silverfast Archive Suite, at a stroke, becomes unusable.

They have “fixed” the appealing DNG bug from the last version, in that HDR can now correctly interpret DNGs saved by AI Studio v8.8, but not and previous versions.

This is simply not acceptable for a software suite which costs €999.

So what else does v8.8 bring us ? Apparently the SDRx thing can be used on “Digital Camera Images”.  Sorry, Mr Zahorsky, you tried that with Siverfast DC.  It won’t work. Nobody in their right mind would use Silverfast to spot-correct digital camera images.  We also get a “History” feature.  Whatever. All I see here is a sequence of black frames.  I don’t need “History”.  It doesn’t work, anyway. And as far as I can tell it isn’t saved in the “HDR” format metadata.

And there’s an option for something called ColorServer, which is not aimed at people like me, but at production environments (do analog film production environments still exist ?) and which looks a whole lot like the old hot folder feature which I seem to recall existed in v6.5.  And it costs extra. What planet are they on, really?

I don’t much like criticising Lasersoft, because the contacts I’ve had with their staff make them seem to be decent, courteous people.  On the other hand, the way they’ve implemented user to user forums (every single post moderated, with long delays) and social media communication is incompetent to the level of comedy.  Two days consulting with a social media expert would bring them more benefit than a hundred “upgrades”.

In parting, here’s my current issues list.  I had intended to send it to Lasersoft, but really, they don’t seem to care. At a corporate level, anyway.

  • if the “Tool set” is supposed to remember / recall a window layout, it doesn’t work very well. For a start, the Tool-related panels (USM, iSRD, etc) get VERY confused.  They seem to show an activated state in the icon but dis-activated in the panel.
  • In 24 bit mode.  The Histogram tool is floated, and stretched. When I click on 48 bit, the Histogram tool dis-activates / disappears.
  • When 1:1, or HQ Mode is selected in iSRD tool, USM tool says “exact preview disabled” - it seems that previews are not shared between tools, even after they’re activated
  • I often use 720dpi output.  In the resolution drop down, an entry, “Custom (720dpi)” has appeared. Very nice - except it doesn’t work. Selecting this has no effect on resolution setting.
  • Histograms cannot remember that I prefer “Separate”.  SF 6.5 had no problem with this as far as I remember
  • Frame resize mode cannot preserve aspect ratio - e.g SHIFT+Drag
  • OpticFilm 120:  On first start up, first scan, the scanner makes a “clunk” noise, then a second, and then nothing.  To get it to work, I have to force-quit SF8, turn off the scanner, turn it on again, restart SF 8, and scan again. Usually it works on the second attempt, but not always.  After this, it will work fine for hours or days, until it is shut down.  I have tried different USB cables, different ports, USB2, USB3, same thing.  This only started with a quire recent update of SF 8 Ai.
  • v8.8.  The new “SRDx”, which apparently is non-IR based, is selected automatically.  Selecting SDRi makes the preview screen go black. It is totally unclear if SDRx or SDRi are coupled, i.e work together, or separate. From the GUI, it does not seem possible to select which one you want (or both). Both get activated (possibly) by clicking on the iSRD button. Eventually, clicking back and forth makes Silverfast crash. Quelle surprise.

The net result of v8.8 is make me switch to Vuescan.  Well done, Lasersoft.

 

Silent Night

(hopefully)

in General Rants , Thursday, December 24, 2015

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everybody who has visited here over the last year, and provided on- and off-line feedback, positive and less positive, a very happy Christmas, and a happy, safe and rewarding New Year.  I’ll be back soon with lots of riveting tales and uncannily fabulous photography.

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/rant/I’m absolutely Nondenominational, possibly atheist, but I really, really abhor this “happy holidays” nonsense. If somebody the concept of Christmas (the real one, that is) offensive, then I wouldn’t wish them happy anything. /rant>

 

Wandering aimlessly, part 2

still clueless in Venice

in Photography , Wednesday, December 16, 2015

So, Day 2 in Venice.  A nice day, but not exactly breaking any photographic boundaries. I certainly took some photos, but they’re not going to win any prizes. Two positive points though - first, at long last I made it out to the San Pietro and Santa Elena areas. San Pietro especially is well worth a visit. This is a Venice a million miles away from St Mark’s Square and the Rialto.  Of course, most people would find it totally pointless. Not even a selfie-stick salesman in sight. Which is why “most people” don’t go there, and I do.

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the outer edge of Venice, San Pietro island

Second point, visiting Gianni Galassi‘s wonderful exhibition, Elogio della Luce, at the equally wonderful Wilmotte Foundation. His monochrome architectural abstracts look even better in print.

But, unfortunately, a large part of the day I spent comatose due an ongoing throat infection that just will not go away…

 

Back in the Crazy City

photographer’s block

in Photography , Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Once again, I’m back in Venice. I arrived this afternoon after a 4 hour drive dodging trucks and insane Italians (all of whom - the insane ones that is - drive Audis, for some reason). The idea is some seriously needed rest & recuperation, wandering around Venice with a camera. Or five. Well, I did leave a few at home. With me are my brand new Sigma DP0 Quattro and Olympus E-M1, both the result of a recent what-the-hell retail therapy binge.

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A pseudo XPan shot from the DP0 in 21:9 mode

Things have not got off to a good start, really. I spend the late afternoon on a wide wander from Dorsoduro to Piazza Roma, Cannaregio, San Marco and back, generally fairly disconsolate and wishing I hadn’t bothered. I not exactly “in the Zone”. In fact I don’t even know where or what the Zone is. I’m not even getting the buzz of being in Venice.

I came here with a concept I’ve had in mind for a month or so. I’m not going to go into it now, in case somebody steals it, but I think it is a pretty good concept. Of some Artistic Worth, even. The problem is, although I can express the idea verbally, I’ve really no clear idea of how to approach it photographically. So, the pressure of this, added to the counter-attraction of playing with new toys (despite the fact that I really, but really don’t get much thrill out of that any more), and a general mental exhaustion after a fairly tough year, result in total creative block.

Later, after a chance meeting with another photographer (hi Daniele) - Sigmas are really good conversation starters - a later, a small but tasty risotto ai fungi porcinei, and a glass of prosecco, I started to feel a little better, and played around doing some night shots.

Maybe tomorrow will be a little brighter.

Footnote: since the only thing I seem to be able to put my mind to is playing around with gadgets, I suppose I can allow myself one little bit of geekery. Below is a 1:1 sample of the centre part of the image above, at the end of the passageway. Personally I find it pretty impressive…

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The Digital XPan ?

it just could be…

in Sigma , Thursday, December 03, 2015

Well, it’s here. The (maybe, possibly) “Digital XPan”. As I mentioned yesterday, I found that Amazon Germany was selling the Sigma DP0 Viewfinder kit for €780, if I followed an advertising link on an external site.  Going direct to Amazon, it was listed at €1000. Very strange, but I grabbed the opportunity, and they delivered. And it arrived this afternoon, and as soon as I could charge up the battery, I managed to escape from work for 15 minutes and took a couple of test shots, using the 21:9 aspect ratio.

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The camera has a very unusual shape, but I find it quite nice to hold. It’s built like a tank, like the Merrills, but perhaps with a touch more elegance. The manual is totally unnecessary: the controls and menu on the Sigma are second to none, and the QS “Quick Select” button brings up a page which is even improved on the Merrill version.  I accidentally shot at ISO800, which would have been a disaster on the Merrills, but it’s ok here. The Foveon colours are as delicate and realistic as ever.

So, is it an approximation to a digital XPan? My very, very, first impression is that it might just be.

 
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