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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Digital Conversion (Part III)

Canon 5D Test Shots - Edited

My brother and I went out and did the traditional Matt Davis/Steep Ravine loop and to shoot some pictures (well, ok, to fill up the 4GB CF card with 140 frames so as to learn the camera's characteristics). Right off the bat, it seems like I need to read the manual again --- while I thought I knew how to turn on movie mode and live view mode, it turned out that I didn't. This despite having already done it once at home! The UIs are definitely more complicated.

We didn't make it out early enough, so the pictures aren't really spectacular, but hey, it's a test series. The 24-105/4L does live up to its billing as a do-everything lens, and stayed on the camera whenever I needed it. I got used to turning IS off on the tripod, only forgetting it for a couple of frames. Getting out the ND grad. filter was great, and I think I have to remember to get it out more often. We got in a few lovely sunset shots at the Marin headlands, tried a macro shot, a bunch of portraits, and fill-flash.

The big shock for me is in the post-processing. Lightroom is slow. So slow that during the import I had time to go take a shower. Then during processing, it seems to suck CPU for no reason whatsoever. In fact, on my machine, it's so unresponsive I couldn't even try the graduated filter tool! I can definitely see how it's new PC time when I get back from Australia and have to process 100GB worth of pictures. Then the export to JPG (so that Picasa can upload it) is also seriously slow, inexplicably chewing up both cores for 3-4 seconds at a time, with a 1.5s interval in which it does nothing. They definitely need to hire a performance engineer to tweak the heck out of this tool (unfortunately, as long as PCs keep getting faster, they have no incentive to do so). And of course, the program crashed during a zoom/unzoom on a file. This is one poorly written program --- unfortunately, Picasa is aimed right at the point and shoot cameras, and it is doubtful that Picasa will grow to match Lightroom's feature set any time soon.

The good thing about the digital workflow is that RAW really does work a lot like a digital negative. (Note that my monitor still isn't color calibrated --- that'll wait until the new PC) I can rescue horribly over-exposed pictures that I would have given up on with slides and thrown out (obviously, it's still much better to shoot perfectly exposed pictures). Cropping also makes impractical compositions work well, and white balance adjustment saves having to carry and use 81B warming filters. (You'll still need a circular polarizer though!) Lightroom even has a graduated filter options, but I couldn't use it because it's so slow. I'll have to try it on my brother's computer tomorrow to see how it goes.

All in all, an excellent learning experience! It's good to get back into serious photography after 5 years away. I'm rusty as heck, but my skills are returning. (And seriously, most of the work is getting up early, staying for sunset, and remembering to use a tripod!)

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