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in Product reviews , Wednesday, July 22, 2015

It’s pretty damned hot down here in Canton Ticino. For at least two weeks, afternoon temperatures have been well above 35C, and there hasn’t been a whisper of rain. People are getting tired and irritable - other people, that is, I’m always like that anyway. It’s hardly conducive to being out and about with a camera, but anyway, something prompted me to dig out my Sigma DP2 Merrill, and fortune favoured me with this grab shot.

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This leads me on to a further note on Mylio. I’ve now decided to become a paying customer, and to try to make Mylio work for me. It isn’t perfectly suited to my needs, but it’s closer than pretty much anything else out there.

Mylio, unsurprisingly, does not support Sigma RAW files. It would be totally unreasonable to expect otherwise.  But there is a workaround to this, if you happen to use Iridient Developer as your favoured processor for Sigma X3F files, as I do. Iridient has a neat feature which, when you send it a JPG or a TIFF, allows you to tell it to look for a corresponding RAW file. So, provided I first create JPGs of all my X3F files, which I can batch through Iridient (and it takes quite a while), then Mylio will catalog and display the JPG, and will allow me to send it to Iridient - which then opens the RAW. Problem solved.

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Sigma JPG previews cataloged in Mylio

Unfortunately, this particular image has a bad case of Sigma green/magenta cast disease, which in extreme cases Iridient can’t handle.  So I eventually processed in Sigma Photo Pro instead. And Sigma Photo Pro, which is clearly designed by a part-time high school intern with hostility issues, naturally can’t even open a file directly (you have to use it’s browser) never mind do the JPG-X3F association trick.

Of course, trying to handle Sigma RAW files in Mylio makes me something of an edge case on an edge case, but it is nice that a reasonable workaround exists.

I have now loaded all my RAW, scanned and processed images as far back as 2010 into Mylio, for a total of 40,700 files. It’s coping quite well with this load, so far.  In order to ease the process I’ve completely reorganised my file structures, and now have everything under year headings, as opposed to Original/Finished split across different devices as before. Mylio is happier with this, and it also makes it easier to archive. Actually, I think everything except Aperture, which doesn’t care either way, will be happier with this arrangement.

Unfortunately I’ve discovered that Mylio does not support the RAW format for the Olympus E-1 and E-400, which form the bulk go my pre-2010 work.  So I’ve had to impose a cutoff, and use MediaPro to catalog my earlier archives.

All this administrative work has been a complete pain, especially coming after I had already spent quite some time first trying to do the same thing for PhotoSupreme, and then for CaptureOne.  So I hope I haven’t made a strategic error in going with Mylio. Having finally got a coherent structure in place, with intact key wording, and a revised backup strategy up and running, I really hope I can get back to the actual objective here, enjoying photography.

Posted in category "Product reviews" on Wednesday, July 22, 2015 at 05:53 PM

Sigma Merrill: good in parts

in Photography , Tuesday, October 28, 2014

On a few days wandering around the trails of Grindelwald, under the shadow of the Eiger, I decided to take my Sigma DP2 Merrill out for another outing.  Although it’s a nice camera to use - at least I find it to be - it is ultimately so frustrating that sometimes I’m tempted to just bin it.

In good conditions, which for the Sigma means flat, diffuse light, it is an absolute dream. It produces colours so real they’re surreal, and detail which just goes on and on without getting overwrought or artificial.

But, Lord help me, point it any kind of interesting sky, or indeed snow, and it’s a total lottery.  This, below, for example. Is the sky that colour on your planet ? Does it have gorgeous purple rainbows in the corners ?

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But then again, what camera that size could extract this kind of detail ? The Eiger ridge Mittelegi Hut is clearly visible at 100% zoom. You can even see the light.

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In more subdued light, it really can be quite remarkable…

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...but on the whole, it’s just too unpredictable, and using it has a feel of being different for the sake of being different. The experiment of using it in Antarctica was a disaster, and although probably I’d do a bit better with it now, last weekend’s outing underlined that wintery landscapes can really trip it up badly. The white balance goes so wrong that it is near unrecoverable.

It some surroundings it is great - along with it’s sibling DP3, it has let me produce some very satisfying photos of Venice. But otherwise, it’s too risky to rely on. I doubt I’ll be buying the new Sigma Quattro.

Posted in category "Photography" on Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 09:48 PM

La Boca

in Photography , Monday, November 18, 2013

One problem with digital cameras is that it is all too easy to build up huge volumes of photos that become so overwhelming that you never even look at them*. This is certainly the case from the photographic results of my jaunt at the beginning of this year to Argentina and Antarctica. Although I have more or less completed a reasonable edit of my Antarctica photos, the Argentina ones have been largely untouched.

In particular, a set I had at the back of my mind was one from the first few days of the trip, in the touristy La Boca neighbourhood of Buenos Aires. I particular wanted to get around to doing something with these, as they are the first proper set of photos I took with the Sigma DP2 Merrill. Unfortunately, on our way to La Boca, I was relieved of the weight of carrying my shoulder bag around with me. Some lucky Argentinian found him/herself the proud owner of 3 Sigma DP2 batteries and a lens cap, as well as a pair of reading glasses and a rather nice bag. Certainly, the worst loss in practical terms was that of the batteries, which reduced me to something like 40 shots at a time on the one remaining. Obviously buying a battery for a Sigma DP2M was not going to happen in Buenos Aires, try as I might. Or indeed anywhere else in Argentina.  So, it was a bit like having 1 roll of film. Just like the old days.  And just like in the old days, I printed them.

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* Actually it was even worse before digital. The task of “sorting out slides” was enough to put anybody off photography for life.

 

Posted in category "Photography" on Monday, November 18, 2013 at 09:26 PM

Down by the river

in Photography in Ticino , Wednesday, November 06, 2013

The river cutting through the rocks at the village of Lavertezzo, in the Verzasca Valley in Ticino, Switzerland, is one of my favourite places to photograph. It helps that it’s not very far from where I live, too, a fact I sometimes forget to be grateful enough for.  I can pretty much go there whenever I want, if I can be bothered to get off my a**e.

Last week I was in the valley and couldn’t resist a quick session around sundown.  There are two sets here, taken with different cameras. It’s interesting to see the differences. First up, the Sigma DP2 Merrill, with it’s fixed 50mm equivalent lens.

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Lavertezzo - Sigma DP2M

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Lavertezzo - Sigma DP2M

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Lavertezzo - Sigma DP2M

Then, the Olympus E-5 with the 12-60mm (24-120 equivalent) lens.

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Lavertezzo - Olympus E-5 / Zuiko 12-60mm

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Lavertezzo - Olympus E-5 / Zuiko 12-60mm

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Lavertezzo - Olympus E-5 / Zuiko 12-60mm

When I originally got into the Olympus E-System, part of the attraction was the 4:3 image aspect ratio. It was very much a creative choice, and remains that way. It is close to the Medium Format 645 format which I always liked. Using the Sigma with its “35mm” 3:2 ratio is always a bit of shock. It feels quite constrained. This is of course very contrary of me, because the wider aspect ratio of 3:2 is generally considered to be better for landscape, which is probably my basic niche. But it isn’t so good in vertical orientation, which I do quite a lot of, even though I haven’t shown any examples here.

Otherwise, comparing the output of the two cameras is not so easy at these small sizes, but one interesting point is that, opposite to what might be expected, you can get more useable depth of field out of the Sigma. It is quite comfortable at f/11 or even f/16, where f/11 is on the extreme limit for the Olympus, and at f/16 diffraction is very noticeable, even to me who on the whole doesn’t give much of a damn about pixels.

The colour of the Sigma is different. It is more natural - or at least it can be, on a good day, but also somehow thinner, less saturated. Generally you can’t do that much in post-processing to Sigma files until they start looking distinctly odd. But when they’re good, they’re very good indeed. And the detail is just breathtaking. But the Olympus isn’t that far behind, and the files are much more malleable - which is just as well, because generally they need a bit of a boost.

A lot of people bang on (and on) on the inter webs about “IQ” - image quality, not intellectual quotient - far from the latter, indeed. And the Sigma indisputably has better “IQ”. And it can be fun to use, when all its ducks are nicely aligned.  But the Olympus E-5 is always fun to use. It is a wonderful camera to use on a tripod, with the totally orientable screen, coupled with the best Live View implementation on the market allowing it to pretend to be a view camera, and the abundance of dials and buttons making it easy to use in tricky conditions. It’s as equally at home sitting sedately on a tripod here as rolling around in the bottom of a Zodiac in the Antarctic (which the Sigma most definitely was not!). And the fact that it is as tough as old nails is extremely useful in my case. So for me, the usability, responsiveness and enjoyment I get out of the E-5 trumps the unbelievable shots that the Sigma can produce…just.  If Sigma produce an DSLR with Live View one day, with a few of the rough edges of the SD1 smoothed off I might be tempted, since we’re at the end of the road so far as Olympus DSLRs are concerned.  But, whoa, I’d lose my beloved 4:3 ratio. Not sure I could live with that.

But the most important thing, after all, is to just get out there and use this stuff to pursue whatever vision, obsession or interest you have. Photography for me is as much about blocking out the noise and allowing myself to relax and chill out. Obsessing about cameras is totally counter-productive.

For more background on Lavertezzo, see the article I wrote some time back. And if that’s not enough, I’ve got a gallery you might like to browse through.


after the heat
the tourists have gone … well, mostly
the postcard shop is boarded up
a hush has descended over the valley
the snow will not be long to follow
but old man river
he just keeps rollin’ along

 

Posted in category "Photography in Ticino" on Wednesday, November 06, 2013 at 09:38 PM

Alternative Reality (nt)

in Photography , Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Summer… heat… drift… just see what’s around the next bend. Just a little more, then head back to reality.

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Val Morobbia, Ticino. Just some snapshots from lazy lunchtimes. All taken with my Sigma DP2M, which was all boxed up and ready to sell on eBay, but then I though, what the hell.

Posted in category "Photography" on Tuesday, July 09, 2013 at 10:13 PM

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