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Wherein we opine on more or less anything that strikes our fancy.

 

Eyes, Updated

The article, Cataract Intraocular Lenses, introduced below in "The Eyes Have It . . . Or Not!", discussed intraocular lens implants (IOL) as a treatment for cataracts based on my own mixed personal experience.  Before cataract surgery the eye needing surgery was 20/70, with or without optical correction.  In other words, nothing more could be done without an IOL implant. 

Briefly, there are several IOL types: simple, astigmatism correcting and multi-focal.  I initially chose multi-focal but could never get a sharp image with it.  Additionally, colors were less vivid than before, an unusual and unexpected outcome.  After consultation, I went to a specialist for a replacment, this time choosing the simplest alternative.

Initial results were encouraging, but progress was slow.  Vision remained blurred, this time with an intruding ghost image offset from the main subject.  Colors remained disappointingly muted, as if seen through haze or fog.  While Internet by no means replaces sound medical diagnosis and advice, a search nevertheless turned up the possibility that the ghost image resulted from astigmatism, a defect that both eyes possessed before surgery on the worst one.  In fact, without glasses, the other eye also exhibits ghost images as well.

Having no choice, I waited for my three week post surgery exam before panicing.  The result was better than expected.  Everyone is familiar with the standard alphabet chart, a row of letters rendered in decreasing size until one can no longer make out the letters.  This time, I was given the pinhole test.  In this test, one eye is covered as ususal, but rather than the eye to be tested being completely open, the tested eye is blocked with an insert that has a scattering of pinholes.  The theory is that the pinholes restrict the incoming light rays to a small part of the eye's lens, thus minimizing the effect of any aberations.

To my surprise, the test chart letters were sharp and clear, rather than blurry blobs, down to a 20/20 vision level!  The doctor laughed and said, "Your vision is perfect, you just need new glasses.  Needless to say, this was excellent news.

He was not optimistic about the loss of color contrast.  As a photographer this didn't sit well.  So, I turned to Internet again and found a possible explanation from the Americn Adademy of Opthamology, namely that the posterior capsule (membrane behind the implant) can become hazy from cell growth.  This is treatable with YAG laser polishing, a simple in-office procedure, and one that is often needed to remove post surgery scarring anyway.

So now we await new glasses and laser polishing in a much more optimistic frame of mind!

 

Keyword Catastrophe

Subject:  Organizing and finding stuff in a large image collection.

(Reader alert:  In this post, the curmudgeon strikes again. There is no real catastrophe here, just gripes -- i.e. nothing to see, move along. . . )

Photographers often use digital asset management software (DAM) to organize their image collections.  Typically such software stores stuff where it wants and gives the user a set of tools to access it.  Being one who wants to know what actually goes into the sausage, I prefer to manage my own file system, thank you very much.  For those who care about such things, our file structure is described in How We Process Images > Organizing Images.

All well and good -- but. . .

Collections get bigger and bigger over time.  Faced with trying to find that special image that one remembers but cannot quite recall where it is stored, DAM starts to make sense.  Naively, I thought that keywords might be the answer.  As a user of Capture One Pro, it seemed natural to assume that keywords would do what I wanted.  So, being a top down thinker, I set out to create a comprehensive set of keywords that would do the trick.  This included keyword collections for various subjects such as Travel, People & Places, Birds, Animals, Flowers, etc., each library containing dozens of keywords  This process was made easier by using Copy Path to extract text IDs of various folders containing subject and session organizing structures.  The subjects were then imported into Capture One's keyword library tool using CO's very handy text import feature.

Great so far. . .  Or so I thought.

That's when the angst began.  All went well until I tried to search for keyworded images across multiple folders.  To my dismay, this simply doesn't work.  As was once said of Oakland, "There's no there, there."  Which calls into question just what use Capture One's keywords are.

An Internet search turned up a raft of similar complaints.  There was a presumably constructive recommendation to try CO's Smart Albums.  But, a quick examination of this feature revealed that in order to accomplish what I wanted I would have to create a Smart Album for every keyword in my keyword libraries, numbering in the scores.  This on top of keywording every image in my collection, which I would have to do in any case.  Being of sound mind (there's that sausage thing again), I gave up, and I'm now scanning each CO update to see if and when the requisite capability is finally added.

 

Brand Wars

Some of the most acrimonious debates on Internet photography forums follow from loyalty to a particular product or brand.  This certainly applies to cameras and their associated lenses and accessories.  But it also applies to image processing products as well -- and no doubt other photography gear if one looks closer.  For now, we'll confine discussion to the two aforementioned product lines, cameras and image processing software. 

The bottom line-- perhaps disappointing to trolls and argumentative types -- is that there are many more-than-satisfactory products in each category, and it all comes down to specific use cases, preferences and financial concerns.  Every product and brand has strengths and weaknesses, and what is best for one individual may not be quite so good for another.  Neither is right or wrong.

In the camera world, I moved from Minolta to Canon in 1999 once I could afford to pursue bird photography in a big way.  The attraction then was their unique-at-the-time image stabilized supertelephotos.  Since then, the market has caught up, and as I made the case in Rebuilding My Photo Kit, any of the big three brands, Canon, Nikon or Sony, could be made to work for my particular interests.  In which case, there is no compelling reason to switch -- especially considering the cost of doing so.

In the RAW processing domain, I've tried Photoshop, Lightroom, Canon DPP, Capture One, Rawshooter (IP sold to Adobe), Bibble (now defunct), Affinity and Luminar.  There are certainly additional RAW processors that have a following, although I've not tried them.  Other software includes HDR, panorama stitching and virtual tour products, including Photomatix, AuroraHDR, AutoPano, PanoTour, PTGui and Pano2VR.  Specialty products include Neat Image, Topaz DeNoise AI, Topaz Sharpen AI and Pictures2Exe.  They all did the job at the time, although I've sometimes moved on for better features or greater usability.  Given the relatively minor cost of software compared to camera hardware, cost has rarely been an issue.

But then, such a stance leaves little room for endless Internet brand wars. . .

 

The Eyes Have It. . .Or Not!

Author's disclaimer:  My extended article, Cataract Intraocular Lenses, discusses intraocular lens implants (IOL) as a treatment for cataracts based on my own mixed personal experience.  There are multiple IOL types, brands and technologies.  Once one is confronted with these choices, one is left to best match the choice with one's own preferences and needs.  Individuals have had success -- and problems -- with each and every type.  As for myself, as a photographer and a tennis player,  picking the right IOL turned out to be non-trivial since each type could conceivably be useful for one or more of my personal interests and requirements.

Each individual is different, so my experience is not applicable to everyone, and it should it not be taken as guidance as to what any individual should do.  Anyone considering cataract surgery should consult a qualified ophthalmology surgeon and should make themselves fully acquainted with all aspects of the process and the products -- especially the down side of each choice.

For those short on patience, the bottom line is that my initial choice, of a diffractive optics multi-focal IOL implant (MF), proved unsatisfactory -- for me. Despite the risk involved, I chose to have it removed and replaced with a simple single focus (SF) implant instead, bypassing the more expensive astigmatism correcting (AC) single focus IOL.  I can only say that I wish that the post below, by a practicing ophthalmologist, had been available when I made my initial, fateful decision.  The text, which recommends against current multi-focal technology for many situations, with explanation of why, is self-explanatory, although the entire thread is worth following.

   https://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1688844/4#15724007

 

 Flagship, Row Boat -- What's in a name?!!

The introduction of the Canon R3 brings with it a new form of Internet semantic nonsense -- is the R3 a "flagship" camera or isn't it?  Since the R3 seems to best Canon's acknowledged flagship, the EOS 1DX MkIII, and is priced within a stones throw as well, why isn't the R3 a flagship?  Or even the flagship?  Even Canon acknowledges that in some ways it deserves that moniker, but given where MILC technology is going, they want to do better before attaching the flagship name to a supposed R1.

All of which begs the question, what is a flagship?  The common definition is that it is the best compared to its companions.  In navy terms, the flagship is the ship with the embarked admiral, in command of the fleet or task force or whatever, i.e. a multi-ship aggregation.  But, in the end, cameras aren't navy ships, and the what's in a name question applies.  What really matters is capabilities, performance and price.  What is the frame rate?  How many megapixels?  What is the dynamic range?  What features does it have, e.g. GPS, wireless downloads, etc.?  How robust is it?  How big, how heavy?  What customizations are available?  . . .And many more.  These are the things that matter, and not marketing labels.

Arguing over terminology and semantics is pretty much an exercise in futility -- full of sound and fury but much ado about nothing. . .  with apologies to the Bard!

 

Argument from Authority, or The pitfalls of market research

There are those who defend the fact that in recent years Canon has sometimes produced sensors with fewer megapixels than competing brands.  A good example is the recently announced R3 at 24MP.  The claim of the defenders is that Canon is the best selling brand overall and that surely they have done market research that supports their direction.  However, isn't basing an argument for ~20MP sensors on the foundation that the company is the top-selling brand and that it has done market research a bit like the logical fallacy of argument from authority: https://www.logical-fallacy.com/articles/appeal-to-authority/?

Stalin says such-and-such | Stalin is Party Secretary | Therefore such-and-such must be true.

Top-selling Company is releasing this-and-that | Top-selling Company has done market research | Therefore this-and-that must be what the market wants.

Might be true; Canon is indisputably the market leader in sales -- although where it ranks in full frame camera sales, and especially high-end FF cameras of the types likely to be used by professionals, is less well known.  And, Canon, like all manufacturers, is much better positioned to know buyer preferences, whether by sales, market research or user feedback.  Finally, the claim that the target market, heavily weighted toward sports photographers and photojournalists, neither needs nor wants high MP cameras due to constraints on upload time, makes good sense.  Whether this is universally true, and if so whether it will remain true as communication speeds increase, is nevertheless up for debate.

In any case, there are other possibilities as well, not only as to why Canon has chosen its particular product lineup but also why people continue to buy products with what some believe to be inferior specs.  In fact, more than one explanation may be valid -- even for an individual user.

  • The putative target market doesn’t march in lock step; preferences vary, and although ~20MP is the preference for some users others are buying those cameras simply because that’s all that’s been available in conjunction with other desired characteristics, e.g. class leading lens selection, ergonomic preference, robust build quality, excellent technical support, etc.

  • Canon does not yet have the technology to produce a 45-50MP/30fps A1 or Z9 (rumored) equivalent but will do so when the technology is ready.  (One suggested corollary to this possibility is that the R3 is a one-off interim product and will disappear once the real R1 MILC flagship is ready.)

  • The analogy of A9/A9II and A1 applies, and the R3 fits in the A9/A9II space, albeit not necessarily feature-for-feature or price-for-price; there will eventually be an A1/Z9 competitor, see previous point.

  • Many owners already have a huge investment in Canon gear and are reluctant to change or can’t afford the cost.

  • Finally, maybe, just maybe, the existence of the Sony 50MP/30fps A1 and the not fully disclosed Nikon Z9, with 8K video, implying 45MP, and 30fps (more at smaller pixel sizes), might suggest that Canon has made a mistake.  It has happened before; Canon's "market research" claimed that the 1DX didn't need to AF with lenses slower than f5.6, meaning that a 600mm f4 with 2X extender couldn't AF.  After being widely slammed, that deficit was fixed by firmware.

Feel free to add others that appear plausible. Which one or more of these represent reality? And who knows for sure? Not I, certainly. And not, I think, anyone expressing opinion as certainty. Not even those who resort to https://www.logical-fallacy.com/articles/ad-hominem/ and https://www.logical-fallacy.com/articles/name-calling/

It would be interesting to know long term market share of the A1 and Z9 relative to the R3 – although we in Internet land will likely never have accurate data on same.  In fact, while Canon is the best selling brand by total sales, we don't actually have detailed data on their relative position with respect to full frame cameras only, nor to upper tier cameras.  Since the rapidly shrinking market for traditional cameras, whether DSLR or MILC, is headed toward upper end, higher value cameras, that seems to be a very relevant unknown.

 

Aurora HDR orphaned?

Every company makes choices regarding how they position their products to compete for sales. SKYLUM has evidently chosen to focus Luminar on exotic compositing features such as sky replacement and others under the much overused rubric of “AI”. Meanwhile, what was once the best HDR software on the market, Aurora HDR, languishes without even the simplest update for more recent cameras and RAW file formats. One guesses that corporate financial analysis projected a better return on limited software development resources from the direction Luminar has taken, at the expense of Aurora HDR sales and customer good will.

The fact that Aurora HDR has not been even minimally updated to incorporate more recent camera file formats suggests that the debayering code is not sufficiently modular to be reused between Luminar and Aurora HDR. If this is indeed the case it would behoove SKYLUM to invest development resources in that direction if Aurora HDR is to have a future.

I have no idea whether the exclusive Luminar focus to the exclusion of Aurora HDR is the correct choice from a profitability perspective. However, personally I have no interest in the image manipulations that Luminar current direction seems to suggest. I simply want the best set of tools to produce highly refined images representing the scene I captured, across domains that include nature, wildlife, landscape, sports, architecture and portraiture.

As a multi-decade Capture One user, I have that tool, so the direction chosen for Luminar is irrelevant to me. And now, Capture One has announced that the next version will feature both HDR and panorama stitching capabilities, each of which I use extensively. So, it looks like SKYLUM has delayed long enough to miss a possible Aurora HDR upgrade sale that would have allowed me to process recent camera files.

Well done.

 

Mixed memory card types

The Internet gives short shrift to cameras with mixed card types.  (And that's ignoring the calumny visited on cameras that accept only one card.)  This opprobrium resurfaced with Canon's R3 and the development announced R3, both of which feature a slot for the recently developed CFExpress standard and a second slot for SD/SDXC cards.  However, one pro suggested that perhaps bringing forward a card such as the SD that users already have on hand not only saves cost but also in many cases does not adversely impact end user performance.  He may have a point.

Speaking only for myself, it’s been a long time and many camera models ago since I ran into card and buffer limitations. And, like many I have drawers full of cards of various generations – flash card archeology, if you will. So, the above logic makes sense – even if it is irrelevant to my own preferences, which run to identical card slots and the fastest technology available. Why? Just because.

But, that’s just me, and it’s hardly a requirement – I don’t shoot much BIF, and when I shot pro tennis it was all about timing for the moment of most visual impact: ball incoming, instant of contact, outgoing just off the racquet. Or, the point of peak potential energy in the ball toss for a serve -- as well as the ball just coming off the racquet. High frame rates (and an adequate buffer) were more important than the specifics of the cards in order to better the chances of getting it just right

Regarding frame rates, the higher the better, and I’ll gladly accept the extended culling time from 20 or 30 fps sequences in exchange for more “perfect” compositions.

 

Comments on Commenters and Commentators

Ever opened your favorite photography web site and browsed to the online forums, only to discover that you’ve landed in the middle of a vituperative mud-slinging match? Internet, it seems, is something of a verbal Wild West show.  Specifically Internet photography forums. (But, casual perusal of almost any domain of public discourse is likely to turn up similarities.) Sound familiar? Then visit our “Grumpy Grandpa's Gear Gripes” article.

 

Molly Gibson and Fanny Price

Jane Austen's Fanny Price, the heroine of Mansfield Park, Austen's novel in the Regency genre of morality and conduct for young women (see, for example, Fordyce's Sermons to Young Women), is frequently seen as a milquetoast heroine, not worthy of the accolades bestowed on Jane Austen’s other leading ladies. If only she had a little more gumption! For an example of what Miss Price might have been, one need look no farther than Elizabeth Gaskell’s Molly Gibson, the quiet but determined protagonist of Wives and Daughters. Like Fanny, Molly makes her way through life creating the same respect and reliance on the part of everyone she encounters with her patient understanding, finely-honed judgment and fidelity to those she loves. But, unlike Fanny, Molly is nobody’s pushover.  In that respect, Molly Gibson is perhaps the heroine we all wish Jane Austen had authored.

In fairness to Austen, perhaps Fanny Price's lack of assertiveness was a necessary literary choice in order to render more vivid her inner strength of character in standing up to the temptations surrounding her in Mansfield Park's Bertram household.

 

 


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