14 Aug 2007 Barnack Update and Misc Tripe (Podcast 99)
As most of you know, over the last few weeks, in addition to keeping up my day job, I’ve been busy with a server transition. What I’ve been trying not to have to tell you is that I’m also going to a kind of night school at Graduate School doing a Finance course, all this alongside not sleeping all that well because of the oppressive heat here in Tokyo at the moment has meant that I was just too tired to process the photos that I was thinking of talking about today, so I haven’t really been able to prepare for a normal Podcast episode this week. Rather than just skip this week altogether though, I thought I’d share a few things that are on my mind at the moment. The first is not photography related, rather just me being a geek, so I hope I don’t bore you silly. Then I’m going to talk about some recent updates in the Barnack utility that I’ve mentioned a few times in the past.
Isn’t it strange how things always seem to break at the most awkward times. After recording the Podcast last week, I went back to my PC to finish the preparation and upload the audio files for publishing, and would you believe it, my mouse stopped working. It was a wireless mouse and keyboard that connects to the PC via Bluetooth. I’d been using it for a couple of years, and every so often the Bluetooth connection seemed to drop out, but it was often just a Bluetooth problem or the batteries being low. This time though I found that the Bluetooth transmitter had died. Just as I was thinking that this was really strange, that my keyboard was still working, because it’s connected by Bluetooth as well, it dropped out too. So now I had no mouse or keyboard, and remember that I’m right in the middle of transferring files and creating new mail accounts etc for the new server, as well as trying to get the Podcast out. Having spent thirty minutes digging around in my closet for an old PS2 mouse I realised that it was somewhere totally different, so I ended up getting all frustrated while trying to make progress on the computer. A few days later though, as things started to calm down with the new server, I started feeling a little better about this as it was a good chance to rethink my various input methods for my computer.
I thought about just buying a new Bluetooth transmitter, but there was no guarantee that a new transmitter would work with my keyboard, so I decided to go and take a look at the computer store at the weekend. Now, I have to eat some words this week as well as last week, as I’ve said in the forum a number of times that I would probably not buy a Wacom Tablet, as I don’t do much photo editing. Not quite as bad as my statement about the SensorScope that I corrected last weekend, as having heard so many good things about the Wacom tablets, I have always been very tempted to try one out, and now, with my wireless mouse broken, I started to think it might be a good time to try. Another reason I’d held off is because I don’t really have room to put a large tablet, but I’d been conditioned from an early age by my Mum, who always says “If you’re gonna ‘ave one, ‘ave a biggun!”. I made the mistake though, of going to the Wacom Web site and seeing what they have on offer, and noticed a nice small A6 sized wide format Tablet. This is the 4×6 in the US I believe. This was just the right size to fit on the attachment on the side of my tiny desk that is just large enough for a standard sized mouse pad. I was starting to get pulled in more and more.
The price was pretty reasonable too, at around $230, and of course, because the Intuos Tablets also come with a mouse, it was going to be much easier to convince the other half that it makes so much sense to go for this now, as the mouse was broken. Anyone that’s ever spend time convincing the other half how absolutely totally necessary your next new toy is will be able to relate to this.
I was starting to think that if I could get just a wireless keyboard, without a mouse, I’d be well on the way to being able to warrant buying the Wacom tablet and see for myself what all the fuss is about. With it being so hot in Tokyo right now, so I decided this would also be a good time to take my first visit to the huge Yodobashi Camera superstore in Akihabara, which is nicknamed the electricity town in Tokyo. The store opened a year or so ago, and they have a 400 space car park, so we could just take a drive over there, have lunch, and browse the camera floor as well, and then check out the keyboards and Wacom tablets. My missus was on board, so we set out. After a nice 30 minute air-conditioned drive, we parked up and made our way from 5 stories below ground to the eighth floor, ate lunch, and then went to the camera floor. It was here that I did something that I really should not have done, which was I had a play with the new 50mm f1.2 L lens from Canon. This was a big mistake. I have resisted this lens so far, and I resisted it on Saturday too, but this is such a beautiful lens, I really don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to keep it out of my camera bag. Even when focusing on something relatively far away, the bokeh is just amazing, and that’s only by looking at the images on the camera’s LCD!
So, dragging myself away from the camera section, screaming and shouting, internally at least, we made our way down to the 2nd floor, where the keyboards were. I had a good look around and noticed that there are some really cool keyboards around now, and lots of them Bluetooth wireless keyboards. I like to have a wireless keyboard, because I have my computer hooked up to my TV in the living room, and sometimes like to just take the keyboard over to the sofa and look at stuff with my other half. I have my TV calibrated too, so it shows photos really well, so me and the other half often go through my final selection of shots from a shoot together, and I really like to look at my Lens Work Extended CD, or DVD from this month, on the TV screen too. I also watch my Luminous Landscape Video Journal DVD on the TV, and it’s always nice to just take the keyboard over to the sofa and do it all from there.
My problem was that all of the wireless Keyboards that I liked had a mouse with them, and I didn’t like the idea of buying this and then leaving a brand new mouse unused. I went down to the 1st floor now, and checked out the Wacom Tablet to see if it was really going home with me today, and was really quite impressed with the compact size of the 4×6 tablet. They had them hooked up to PCs so I could have a play with them too, and although it felt pretty awkward at first, I figured that after a time, I’d get used to this, and the mouse felt better in the hand than I thought it was going to feel just by looking at it. I didn’t buy it right now though, as I was still undecided about the keyboard, so I went back upstairs to the Keyboards, and picked up the one that had really caught my eye, even though it had a mouse with it. I didn’t want to buy a keyboard that didn’t match what I wanted so I decided to bight the bullet. Then though, I turned around saw a section on the end of one of the aisles across the way, with a Logicool stand with a pretty cool looking keyboard on display. It was just one keyboard, set apart from all the others. When I got closer and read the name, I found it to be a diNovo Edge Keyboard, which is new from Logicool. I’m going to include a link to this keyboard in the shownotes, so you can see for yourself, but the photos do not do justice to what has got to be just about the coolest keyboard I’ve seen to date.
I don’t mind admitting that I’m a sucker for cool looking technology, as long as it’s not just looks, and this keyboard excels in both looks and functionality. First of all, it is incredibly slim, and has all those fancy buttons to start Outlook and Media Player controls. It also has a really cool volume control that lights up when you run your finger over it. It comes with a recharging stand that you can stand the keyboard in to not only charge it, but to store it vertically which would be great for getting it out of the way on my tiny desk if I want to bring the tablet to the main part of the desk for serious photo editing. It was all coming together nicely. One thing actually that used to bug me with my old keyboard is that it took batteries, which needed replacing every six months or so, but this one has inbuilt rechargeable batteries. They’re fast charging too, taking just two hours to fully charge and it will then run for up to two months, or a day on just five minutes charge. It also has a touchpad, which is basically an inbuilt mouse, so even when I do take it away from the PC, I have a mouse right there too, which was again just perfect, because although the mouse that comes with the Wacom tablet is wireless, it can only be used on the tablet itself, and the tablet is connect via a USB cable, so doesn’t have the portability. As I became more and more sold on the diNovo Edge keyboard, my wife’s rolling eyes were confirming that I was about to do something which is pretty typical of me, which is buy the most expensive piece of kit in the store, out of the keyboards on offer that is. The other sets, even with the mouse were retailing at around $15,000 yen or $130, yet the diNovo Edge was going for 24,000 yen, which is about $200, but I was sold. Because it was so expensive by comparison too, the store were giving 20% points on this, so if I paid cash, I’d have lots of points to put towards the tablet, along with what I already had.
So no longer able to resist all this perfect matched and incredibly cool technology, I made my way to the cashier and bought the keyboard. I then went back to the first floor and picked up the Wacom 4×6 Tablet too, using my points from the keyboard as well as a bit of plastic. Now, I was pretty excited about the keyboard, based on what I’d already seen in the store, but when I got home, after I plugged the charger in, I dropped the keyboard into it, which seems to turn it on, whether the switch on the keyboard itself is on or not, all of the lights lit up, in a really cool display, not much short of watching fireworks, but really classy looking. I started to think how close the electronics around us are getting to the things we’ve been seeing for years in Science Fiction movies. This keyboard is really just like something from a Science Fiction movie, but much classier.
I’d paid the premium partly because I’m a nerd and I couldn’t resist it, but partly from an interior design perspective too. My PC sits in my living room next to the TV, and when built myself a PC in February, I paid a lot of attention to building something good looking, from an interior design perspective, and not just functional, and I felt like I’d just put the icing on the cake with this keyboard. If you’re still listening, i.e. I haven’t bored you silly and you’re listening to another Podcast, sorry for rambling on about this, but if you are in the least bit geeky like me, I hope you can appreciate how exciting these peripherals are getting.
After I’d got the keyboard excitement out of the way, I plugged in the Wacom Tablet and set that up. I went through the exercises to get used to using it, and found that there are a few cool new things you can do with gestures to navigate around Vista too, which was a nice bonus. I’d say that you can pretty much get away with using the pen for everything, although it’s a little bit awkward at first. I’m trying to restrict myself to using just the pen for a while, to get more used to it, but there’s a little circle of orange light that lights up when you use the touchpad on the keyboard, so I can’t resist touching it every so often, and I have to admit, still most things are easier with the mouse, so when I get tired of the pen, I drop the mouse onto the tablet and use that. What I’ll do though is give the Wacom Tablet a good run for its money as I start to work through the photos from future shoots, even though it will mostly be just for dust spotting, and some mask work, and I’ll probably do an episode on my finding in a few weeks, to share my findings.
One other thing that I wanted to mention today is that Barnack has been updated. Barnack is a Windows utility I’ve mentioned a number of times that I use to calculate hyperfocal distance and depth of field for any given focal length and aperture combination. Its freeware created by a guy called Mikkel B. Stegmann, and I’ll put a link to the download page in the show-notes. Now, unless you carry a notebook PC around with you when you’re shooting, Barnack is not really much use in the field. Rather it’s a tool to help you understand the relationship behind all the parameters that effect depth-of-field and hyperfocal distance etc. That is what I use it for, and have found it to be really useful for this. In the updated version, we have a few pretty neat changes that I’d like to mention. Firstly, the format has been rearranged. Until now we’ve had a landscape aspect ratio, in the window has been wider than it is tall, but now, it’s changed to portrait, being taller than it is wide. It looks like the reason for this is because there are a few new graphs that have been added, and it no longer makes sense to put them all on one screen. Now there’s a pull-down below the graph to the left to display any one of the five graphs at a time.
There’s also the addition of a Blur Circle slider that I haven’t seen before. The help says that the Blur Circle is “The diameter of the disc that covers the area that a point, at the image centre is defocused over. Hence, the blur circle for a perfect lens depicting a subject at the focus distance would be zero.” I have to say, I’m not 100% clear on how this is supposed to be used from this description. On playing with the sliders though, it seems initially to be showing us the distance at which we need to focus to maintain the size of the circle of confusion, because as you slide the focus distance slider around, the Blur Circle slider also moves and displays the same distance. From that point though, you can slide the Blur Circle slider around independently, so I guess Blur Circle indicator is telling us how much that circle will spread out, albeit getting blurrier and blurrier, as we move the circle to a new distance either further from or closer to the point at which we’re focused.
The other cool thing to remember about Barnack is that it allows you to open an image that you have shot, and it will grab the shooting data from the EXIF information, and set the Camera make, focal length and aperture etc. It will also display the Circle of Confusion in millimetres in the information on the right side too, which will help you to figure out what you should set it to be when adjusting these settings manually. I’ll put a link to a Wikipedia page on the Circle of Confusion in the show notes though, as this has a table that will guide you to select the best size for your sensor size, although this also depends on other variables such as the pitch of your pixels, which varies by model. There’s also now a handy clone button too, which will basically open another instance of Barnack so that you can load more images for comparison if you want. Anyway, if you haven’t tried this, please do. It’s all very good stuff that really helps to understand the physics behind our art.
So, once again, sorry if I bored you silly today. I am finding it a bit difficult to keep up with things, especially with the graduate school Finance training taking up a whole load of my time, and not being able to put off things like the server transition any more. This weekend wasn’t really a time thing though, as much as just being really tired. On Saturday we did the shopping trip, and I spent some time learning how to use the Wacom etc. But then on Sunday, I just kind of totally wound down, and couldn’t really get moving again, so I didn’t have any images to talk about. The High School baseball matches are on the TV at the moment too, and I often tend to get glued to the screen while these matches are on. I’m not big on watching sports on the TV, apart from important football matches, or Soccer for US listeners, and I enjoy a good rugby match as well, but don’t usually get that caught up in the baseball matches, despite there being a match on the TV most every evening. For some reason though, the high school baseball really just captivates me. I reckon it’s probably because you can really sense the ambition coupled with sometimes intense nervousness in the 16 to 18 year old young men that are giving their all for the team and the possible glory of taking the prize, as the best high school baseball team in Japan.
And with that, I’ll say goodbye for this week, and you have a great week doing whatever you do. Bye-bye.
Find Barnack here: http://www.stegmann.dk/mikkel/barnack/
Here is Wacom’s Intuos3 4×6 page: http://www.wacom.com/intuos/4×6.cfm
The Logicool diNovo Edge Keyboard is here: http://www.logicool.co.jp/index.cfm/keyboards/keyboard/devices/192&cl=us,en
The Wikipedia page on the Circle of Confusion: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circle_of_confusion
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Posted on behalf of Martin by Michael Rammell, a Wedding Photographer based in Berkshire, England. Michael also has a long-standing passion for Nature & Landscape photography. To catch up with Michael, visit his Web site, and follow him on the following social networking services.