(If you find yourself wondering what the modes under discussion are, refer to the 1DX manual page 69, available for download here.  These exact same features are also available on the 5d mk III.)

I love the single point spot AF modes in Canon’s 5D mk III and 1D X cameras.  If you’re trying to get focus lock on a small point such as a burning candle, and the camera keeps focusing on the background instead of the flame, the spot AF mode can quickly solve this problem.  Another great use is if you’re trying to photograph a face framed by bushes or tree foliage.  In this case the camera often grabs focus on the surrounding leaves, rather than seeing through them to the face behind.  Spot AF can solve your troubles and keep you moving quickly to the next shot.

I liked them so much, in fact, that I started to leave the camera set to this mode all the time.

Then I began noticing a little less consistency when shooting in low light than I’d like, so I gave CPS a ring.  I’ll be going back to the normal single-point (non-spot) AF mode, thankyouverymuch.

The spot mode is great for the specific situations outlined above, but according to the CPS rep I spoke with, I’m also forcing the camera to attempt focus based on 1/4 of the information available in the non-spot single-point mode.  This causes more hunting and less overall accuracy.  According to the rep, the spot AF mode was originally intended for macro photographers who routinely work at incredibly close distances.  Yes, it works great under the conditions I outlined above, but other than that it’s best to give the camera as much info as possible.

This isn’t a full-fledged review of the Photosmith app, because frankly I couldn’t get deep enough to learn as much as I would have liked.  On my iPad 3, it crashes so often as to be useless.

To be fair, Photosmith promises to be many things that I’d love to have.  A way to cull and rate images from LightRoom on my iPad?  Yes please!  I don’t need heavy-duty color correction, just let me select the best from the thousands of images that come out of a day of wedding photography.

There are two pieces to Photosmith.  The app on the iPad is the first piece, and the plugin for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is the other.  Using the Photosmith plugin, Lightroom can export JPG files that are linked to the RAWs in your Lightroom master library.  You can then change the ratings, colors, tags, and rotation of the images in your iPad, and those changes will later sync back to the RAWs in Lightroom.

The process of exporting all that raw material to the iPad is quite time consuming.  If you knew you would be on a flight the next day and can set up the export to run while you sleep that’s fine, but this definitely prevents it from being a grab-n-go solution for large shoots.  If your shoots tend to be smaller, this may not affect you as badly.

Unfortunately the iPad app is unstable.  It crashes constantly, which means that even if you can get around the lengthy import/sync process, it’s still useless.  I invited a potential client to skim through a job on Photosmith the other day, and in the space of four or five minutes it crashed three times.

For these reasons, I have to give the product two thumbs down.

Photosmith-Icon-512px

I don’t know why I didn’t find this before. I’ve often wished for it, but it turns out it’s been there all along.

You know how Lightroom shows you a grid overlay while making rotation corrections to the crop?  You can get it to do the same thing while making manual adjustments in the Lens Corrections panel.

  1. From the Develop Module, open the Lens Corrections panel, then go to the Manual section.
  2. Look for the grey bar at the bottom of the main window.  If you have the filmstrip open, it’s on top of it.  This bar probably shows star ratings, color tags, and zoom controls.
  3. At the far right end of the bar is a simple down arrow/triangle.  Click it.
  4. From the menu, place a check next to “grid overlay.”
  5. A grid overlay control appears next to the zoom slider on the grey bar.  Change “Show Grid” from “Never” to “Auto.”

Now it’s much simpler to line up horizontal and vertical lines!

I discovered this on Lightroom 5.  It likely exists in Lightroom 4, and perhaps even earlier, but I don’t have any way to verify.  Please comment below you’re using other versions and can or can’t find it!

I put in an order for some new CF cards the other day, and while running them through their quality test I noticed something interesting.  While otherwise rated the same, performance between the 32GB and 64GB 400x Transcend CF cards is not identical.

Transcend-64GB-400x-blue-CF-card-copyright-2103-gavin-farrington

This isn’t so strange really.  It’s pretty common for larger capacity flash memory devices to outperform lower capacity units in the same product line.  (This is especially true among SSDs, where 128GB and 256GB models perform much better than 32GB and 64GB models.)  The performance difference did not fit the usual pattern though, so I investigated further.

The short version of this article is this:
The 32GB cards are faster at READING data, but the 64GB cards are faster at WRITING data.  All cards perform reasonably well, so if capacity is your primary concern get the 64GB cards.  If downloading images to your computer quickly is your primary concern, get the 32GB cards.  If performance while burst-shooting (flushing data quickly out of the camera buffer) is your primary concern, get the 64GB cards.

Here’s a chart with the details (click for a full-res version):

Transcend-400x-32gb-&-64gb-CF-card-performance-comparison

32GB Transcend CF cards have better read performance, but poorer write performance than the 64GB models of the same product line.

As you can see, the 32GB cards average 117.5MB/s for downloading to your computer, but with an average write speed of 49.05MB/s, they’ll flush the camera buffer more slowly than their cousins.  The 64GB cards have a slower average read speed of 98.38MB/s, but they’ll flush your camera’s buffer faster with an average write speed of 67.52MB/s.

Bear in mind that if you’re shooting on the Canon 5D mk III and writing the same data to an SD card, worrying about write performance of your CF card is a waste of energy.

Testing Methodology (the nerdy stuff):
I had three copies of the 32GB 400x Transcend CF cards, and three copies of the 64GB 400x Transcend CF cards.  I formatted all the cards in my Canon 5d mk III, then tested them on a full USB3 chain using CrystalDiskMark.  Each card was tested five times with a 1,000MB data set.  The charts represent the average of five tests on each card.  The reader was a Transcend TS-RDF8K USB3 card reader.  The benchmark computer was a hexa-core i7-3930K @ 3.2GHz, 32GB RAM, Asus Rampage IV Gene w/ integrated USB3 running Win 8 Pro x64.

I don’t have as many copies of other brads/models of memory cards, but I’ll put up benchmarks from some other options when I get a moment.

Last night’s major roll-out of the new Adobe Photoshop CC system (the successor to CS6) included a lot of cool features.  One of them is Photoshop’s ability to store application settings to the cloud, and synchronize them across all your computers.  Of particular interest to me was the ability to include your custom actions and synchronize them as well.

When you install Photoshop CC, it should automatically enable this feature.  If you want to view, disable, or customize what gets synchronized, the options are at the very bottom of your Edit menu.  It appears as the email address that your Creative Cloud account is tied to.  Here are a couple screen shots:

The Edit menu will allow you to open the dialog box for granular control over Photoshop CC's new ability to sync settings.

The Edit menu will allow you to open the dialog box for granular control over Photoshop CC’s new ability to sync settings.

You can choose to sync or not sync a variety of settings including actions, tool presets, swatches, and more to the cloud and across devices.

You can choose to sync or not sync a variety of settings including actions, tool presets, swatches, and more to the cloud and across devices.

 

I was excited to see this use of the Creative Cloud system finally appear in an application.  Illustrator also supports syncing in the same way, but I was unable to find the same options in InDesign, Lightroom, or Bridge.  When I questioned the Lightroom product managers about the future of sync capability, I was told that it is “not currently on the roadmap,” which is disappointing news for photographers who juggle workloads at home and on the road.

By: Gavin Farrington

You can also follow me on Twitter @ProTogTech, or Facebook.

Anticipating the upcoming release of Adobe Lightroom 5?  There are some cool new features on the way, many of which I’ve already outlined in my preview of the product for Maximum PC.

Some of the keyboard shortcuts have changed since Lightroom 4.  Here are the common ones that have impacted my workflow:

  • Toggling through screen modes (normal, fullscreen, fullscreen w/o menus) used to simply be the F key under Lightroom 4.  In Lightroom 5 the F key now shows a fullscreen preview of the selected image.  Shift-F is the new shortcut.  If you want to jump straight to fullscreen w/o menus, Ctrl-Shift-F (Cmd-Shift-F on Mac) is the new shortcut.
  • Jump straight to the new Radial Filter Tool: Shift-M.  This works within the Develop module, or right from the Library.
  • Traditional Spot Removal Tool: Lightroom 5 now adds the ability to draw non-circular spot removal areas, an awesome feature to be sure.  Simply click and drag to start painting your non-circular removal area.  In Lightroom 4, clicking and dragging would define the spot (the click,) then define where the fill should be sourced (the drag.)  If you want this same behavior in Lightroom 5, hold down the Ctrl key (Cmd on Mac) and click-drag to set the spot and source in one fluid motion.

This morning I ran into a battery issue with my Canon 5d mark III, and in the interest of being thorough, I wanted to do a full system flush on the camera.  You know the flush I mean – where you pull the battery, card, and even the clock battery, then let the camera sit for 30 minutes to completely “flush” the system.  Think of it as a thorough system reset.

Anyhow, I quickly discovered that the clock battery is not stored in the same location as it is on my older 5d mark II.  A quick Google search turned up plenty of references to performing the process, but nothing that indicated just where the clock battery was located or how to remove it.  Since I was on my own, I decided to go exploring and post images of the process.

You’ll need a very small Philips-head screwdriver; something you might use for repairing glasses.  There’s only a single screw to remove, but be very careful not to lose it.

First, open the rubber flaps that protect the connectors on the camera body's left side.

First, open the rubber flaps that protect the connectors on the camera body’s left side.

Use a small Phillips screwdriver to remove the screw securing the battery holder.

Use a small Phillips screwdriver to remove the screw securing the battery holder.

Once the screw is removed, slide the tray out that contains the battery.

Once the screw is removed, slide the tray out that contains the battery.

04_canon-5d-mark-mk-III-3-clock-battery_0749

The tray holds the battery even after it's removed from the camera.

The tray holds the battery even after it’s removed from the camera.

Did this help you out?  Please leave a comment below, and follow my Facebook or Google+ page!

By: Gavin Farrington

Do you use the mRAW or sRAW capture options on your Canon dSLR to save space?  If you do, there’s a chance your good intentions are backfiring.

If you leave your files in the native Canon .cr2 format, there’s nothing to worry about.  But if you’re like me and always convert everything to Adobe’s DNG format, you’re actually increasing the file size.

The reason has to do with the way the data is stored.  Unlike a full RAW file, the sRAW and mRAW files are not true RAW files.  That is, they’re more like a super-powered .tiff file in that the pixels are a full mix of all three color channels.  When you convert this data to DNG, it cannot store it as efficiently as it can store a true RAW, and the file size increases significantly.

Consider this example.  I took one photograph with my Canon 5d mark III set to mRAW.  I then made two copies of that file for three total.  One I left in its native .cr2 format, one I converted to DNG, and the third I converted to lossy DNG.  Here are the resulting file sizes:

CR2 (original file):  21.3MB
Lossless DNG:  31.2MB (46% increase)
Lossy DNG:  3.8MB

As you can see, the increase in file size is significant.  But there’s hope!  Adobe’s Lossy DNG format sees huge gains from the lower resolution file.  I know “lossy” sounds scary, but in my experience the files are robust and retain a very high degree of quality.  Next time you’re out shooting for fun, try it out and see if you can detect the loss of quality in the Lossy DNG files.  Perhaps it’s a good solution for you, and it would mean even more storage gain.

[Notes - DNG Conversion Settings]
All of the above files were created with the DNG converter set to embed a full 1:1 preview.  This was done to create the most fair file size comparison, since the .CR2 file contains a 1:1 preview created by the camera.  If you choose to completely disable the preview, you’ll see even smaller file sizes.

I put Windows 8 on my HP Envy 15 the day Microsoft released it, and for the most part I’ve been happy.  However the control over the brightness of the screen stopped working. I would tap the keys for the brightness control, and the indicator would appear as if it were adjusting the screen, but the screen brightness didn’t actually change.

Well “Adrynalyne” has found the solution, and fully details every step over on his post, “Fix Brightness Control for Windows 8 AMD SG Drivers.”

You can read everything there, but if you’re just looking for a super quick answer, find this registry key:

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Control\Class\{4d36e968-e325-11ce-bfc1-08002be10318}\0001]“FeatureTestControl”=dword:0000f842

Double click “FeatureTestControl” and change the value from “f842″ to “f940″.

Reboot.  Fixed.

My laptop is using HP provided display drivers.  If yours is not, you may want to refer to Adrynalyne’s article for more options.

There are no “take twos” in weddings or journalism.  Even if a shoot could be done over, often it’s at great time, expense, and a hit to your reputation.

Whenever I buy new memory cards, I want to QC them myself.  I suppose I could go out on a photowalk and shoot until my card is full, but that would mean reviewing all of those images back home to verify that nothing is corrupted.  Sounds like a lot of time to me.

Enter Charles Mihail.  What Charles has done is create a free little utility called Check Flash that tests memory cards by writing a known data pattern to the entire card, then reading back that pattern to be sure it matches what was written.  In the process of running its test, it will even give you a handy little performance readout – one for read and one for write speeds.

This gives me great peace-of-mind when going into a job with a brand-new memory card.  Between this, and using the “record to multiple” feature on the Canon 5d mk III and Canon 1D-X, I can be confident everything is stored properly.

Here’s a screen-shot showing the settings I used.

Caution:
Be aware that using this utility fills the entire device with randomized data.  This means that if you overwrite files you need, you WILL NOT BE ABLE TO RECOVER THEM!  I don’t care how fancy your recovery software is, it won’t work.

Note:
It took Check Flash a little over 50 minutes to test a 400x CF card using a USB3 card reader.  Take this into consideration if you buy them a few minutes before  a shoot!