17 December 2009, Black and White from Bibble5
Last night it started snowing for the first time this winter. And it still is snowing. Almost 40 centimeters by now. For this part of the world that is quite extraordinary. We don't get that much snow and if we do it is hardly ever more than five centimeters melting away before you eyes in a matter of hours. I took my Panasonic Lumix G1 out into the blizzard to get a few shots. I don't think it can be said to be weatherproof, so I was really careful. Changing lenses was out of the question. I stuck to the 7-14 wide angle zoom.
Bibble5 has a function that allows you to apply "presets" to your images, "B&W simple" is one of them. Since the image was almost monochrome anyway, I tried that setting. Also very useful is the similar function called "look profile" on top of the first tab. You can choose between settings like portrait, wedding, product and event. I find the portrait look very useful. One of the complaints I had about previous versions of Bibble was the "red faces". Well, the red faces in portraits are gone if you choose the protrait look. It saves a lot of time.
Panasonic Lumix G1, Lumix G Vario 4.0/7-14mm at 14mm, 1/160sec at f5.6, handheld
12 December 2009, Snow shower and Bibble5
I have been a user of the Bibblepro raw conversion software ever since version 3 in 2004. In the past 8 or 10 months I was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with Bibblepro version 4.10. Bibble Labs has been promising the release of Bibble5 many times in the past one and a half year and has postponed its release just as many times. In the meantime version 4 was no longer maintained, meaning that we got no raw support for new cameras (my Panasonic Lumix G1) in Bibble 4 and on top of that my Linux version started crashing more often by the month. I am running a 64-bit version of Ubuntu Linux on a "home built" desktop machine with a 2.66 Ghz quad core Intel processor and 4Gb of fast DDR2 RAM. Of course in Linux there are a few reasonably good open source RAW converters (RAWtherapee and UFraw) and another one (LightZone) that is not free and looks promising at first sight, but I never really managed to get used to it. My main complaint about LightZone is that it's slow. It's OK but slow. I simply missed the speed of Bibble. Just a few mouseclicks and it almost always looked good instantaneously.
The day before yesterday I downloaded the 5.0/PV3.2 beta version of Bibble5. To my surprise, I had become used to Bibble always crashing on my machine, it works very smoothly with a host of different raw files. Even with files from only recently launched cameras like the Canon S90. No crashes and very, very fast. It doesn't have all the promised features yet and it even misses some of the features that Bibble4 had, but this is a step in the right direction. Here's a screen dump. I can get tiffs and jpegs from raw files in an instant that do not need any further major tweeking. Control over the final result is very precise. Exactly what I need as there is still no Photoshop like 16-bit image editor for Linux. There are versions of Bibble5 for Windows and MAC too, so you might want to try it. The beta is free for existing Bibble4 customers right untill the final version of Bibble5 is launched (whenever that will be! Don't count on March 2010). For others it is also free, but they will only get a trial license for two weeks.
The image below was converted using Bibble5, exported as a jpeg and only resized and slightly sharpened after that. In order for the snow flakes to draw these white lines in your image you need a slow shutterspeed and a tripod (wich I didn't have with me; image stabilisation saved the day).
Snow shower, Loenermark, Veluwe, The Netherlands
Canon G9, 1/6sec at f5.6, handheld
I have updated the cover photo to November. It was shot last year in the Hoge Veluwe National Park on a rainy day with very little light (as dull as dull can be). So I decided to experiment a little. I pressed the shutter and then slowly moved the camera up and down during the one second exposure. The result of this is hard to foresee exactly. Just try, evaluate the result on the camera LCD and try again adjusting the movement of the camera. What I can say is that there is a clear difference between moving the camera already before you press the shutter and moving it after you have pressed the shutter (which is what I did in this case). Follow this link to have a look.
22 November 2009, New Cover for November
20 November 2009, Canon S90, raw versus jpeg
After a short deliberation I got myself a Canon S90 (and not the G11 I originally intended to buy). I decided that in terms of size and weight the G11 came too close to my Panasonic G1. I wanted something pocketable. The S90 has the same sensor as the G11, but a 2.0-4.9/28-105mm lens instead of the 2.8-4.8/28-140 of the G11. Canons new 10 megapixel sensor ought to be much better at high isos than the 12 megapixel sensor of the G9 and the almost 15 megapixel sensor of the G10. I have no experience with the G10, but the iso 400 images of the G9 were practically useless.
I had read a lot of confusing reports about this new sensor on the internet. Varying from "not much better than the G10" to "it looks like a DSLR". Well, at iso 400 it certainly does not look like my Nikon D300 at the same speed, but it is much, much better than the G9. In most circumstances at iso 400 it is probably good enough for an A3 print. With the G9 anything larger than 4 x 6 inches was too much really.
Last weekend I took the S90 on a short trip to Münster in Germany. The image below was shot in the Münster Dome. I used the canon S90 at 28mm (equiv.), f2.8 and 1/13 sec, iso 400. The S90 has an optical stabilizer, so images of stationary objects ought to be sharp at such slow shutterspeeds. I took three shots and they were all sharp. It certainly helps that this lens, at least at the wide end, has a very fast aperture of f2. I used f2.8 in this case but I don't think using f2.0 would have had serious implications for image quality.
Organ, Münster Dome, Münster, Germany
Canon S90, 28mm, f2.8, 1/13 sec. iso 400 handheld (IS on)
camera jpeg and jpeg from uncorrected raw (on mouse over)
Speaking about image quality. I shot raw + jpg because I wanted to compare the two. Since the camera is so new, it wasn't easy to find a raw converter for my Ubuntu Linux desktop capable of converting the raw file. I had to download the latest version (0.16) of UFRaw. The documentation said it supported the G11, so I figured it would probably be able to convert the S90 files as well. And it was. I could have used the Canon Software on an old Windows laptop of course, but I wanted to see the raw results without the automatic manipulation Canon has built into its own raw conversion software. The image here was converted with UFRaw. It shows quite a lot of distortion compared to the jpeg from the camera, confirming that Canons jpegs are corrected for distortion in the camera.
Is Canon cheating? Some people may think so. You make a bad (cheap) lens and then correct the image digitally (sacrificing resolution in he process). However, I am not so sure. This is a very small and also very fast lens (f2.0) with a very short focal length (6-22mm). Making such a lens without the distortion would most likely require a very complicated construction (a lot more glass!). I doubt if the camera could be as small as it is with such a lens and I think the lens design would almost certainly degrade the image quality in other respects (less sharpness). So, perhaps it is not a bad idea to make a small, very sharp lens, accepting that it has a lot of distortion that has to be corrected digitally. It may very well be that the sharpness sacrificed by correcting the distortion in software is less than the sharpness sacrificed if you try to correct the lens itself. Assuming that the latter is possible at all in such a small design and against a reasonable price.
You can download full size samples of the image (caution 2,5 MB files! Use a fast connection):
1. camera jpeg
2. jpeg directly from raw (UFRaw)
3. jpeg from raw (UFRaw + corrected, sharpened and moderate chroma noise reduction)
The first one is the camera jpeg, the second one is the uncorrected UFRaw image and the third one was corrected and sharpened in Raw Therapee. The corrected raw image is clearly a little sharper (and noisier, but it's mostly luminance noise in the dark parts), exposure is better balanced (the highlights are not as blown out as the ones in the jpeg) and it has lost less of the original image at the edges. The in camera correction of distortion also seems to cut off quite a lot of the edges of the image, making the lens considerably less wide (about 15%!). Move your mouse over the image above to see just how much you lose of the window on the right side of the image. You should keep in mind that the raw workflow I used was very unusual. The updated version of Raw Therapee will likely do a better job than UFRaw and so will ACR and Apple's Aperture, getting even more quality out of the raw file.