Friday, 30 October 2009

Lumix LX3 firmware update: in action

Lisbon, October 2009

Crikey! A photo on a photography blog.

Last time I posted a quick view on the Lumix LX3 firmware update (rev 2.1). Last weekend I was putting I to use in the pleasant sunshine of Lisbon. The main way I was using the new lens memory function was to set a fixed focal length of around 40mm-e and zone focus at f/4.

The review is simple: I really like this new mode. With all the zooming and focusing removed, te camera is very responsive. When waking up from off or sleep, the lens returns to the last position as promised. This makes it more fun to use as I'm not constantly battling the camera to do what I want. I took a lot more pictures as a result. And I expect I shall continue to do so.

This is the feature I most wanted when I first bought the camera and here it is. Now I have just the street camera I wanted. Of course, I've also got the zoom should I need it and a focus button when required.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Lumix LX3 firmware update: first impressions

Just installed the new firmware for the Panasonic Lumix LX3 (version 2.1). Main reason for installing is the new "Lens resume" feature, which remembers the zoom and focus position after the camera is powered down 9either in sleep mode or by turning it off). Nice feature, suddenly I've got a snapshot camera that I can set to 40mm-e and zone focus.

As a result, I decided to test the focal lengths available to see if I could find somethng in the 35-40mm-e range. Turns out there are 13 distinct focal lengths available in the range, these are they as reported in EXIF, together with the 35mm equivalent focal lengths in parentheses (all figures in mm):

5.1 (24)
5.4 (25)
5.9 (28)
6.3 (30)
6.8 (32)
7.4 (35)
7.9 (37)
8.8 (41)
9.3 (44)
10.2 (48)
11.1 (52)
12.1 (57)
12.8 (60)

So I've set mine up 6 stops from wide (which is the default starting position) at 7.9mm. I'll probably also mark the lens barrel at this point with a silve pen so I've got a marker.

So far it seems to work OK, although I've just done a few test shots. A trip away next week will be a nice test out on the streets.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Windows computing for photographers: part 3, the boot drive

This will actually be quite a lot less photography and quite a lot more general Windows computing. Non-computer nerds can probably look away now. Real experts should look away now, lest the horror of my mistakes proves too much. You have been warned...

In previous episodes I talked about memory upgrade & RAMDisk (easy) (part 1) and (part 2) a bunch of hardware purchases. This third installment will be about my adventures in boot disk land.

Life should have been so simple - install the new SSD, clone the old boot drive across, change boot sequence & then clone my application spaces. Then technology and user ignorance intervened. I made a lot of mistakes. Learn from my errors & my figuring out what I should have done.

Step 1: the failed clone

Somewhere along the way the cloning software messed up, ruining the Master Boot Record (I think). That put the computer out of action for a while as I figured out how to get things back. I forget exactly what i did but it was relatively easy after a bit of googling.

Step 2: the complete clone and failed reassignment

I tried again. this time I successfully cloned the boot drive to the new drive. Hooray! And then I got clever (ha, ha, ha) and tried to reassign the boot drive letter (C:) to the drive. Suddenly the computer wouldn't boot at all. And I managed to make te old drive "Inactive" (i.e. make it unbootable) so I couldn't even recover to the old situation. And, of course, I'd not cloned all the other logical drives off the old system before I got into this mess.

Step 3: recovering the mess

So there i was, computer a giant paperweight. Every online source effectively stopped at this point (with words along the line of "you're in real trouble if you get here") with no help on getting out of the hole. Fortunately I had my netbook to do some surfing. I also had a pile of disk drives and external enclosures for the final part of the upgrade (wait for part 4). Turns out I also had a disk copy of Norton Ghost that boots from CD. Hooray!

So I cloned all the old stuff using Ghost to one of the new drives and used the external enlosure via USB to the netbook to verify the copy.

Much searching for solutions later, I decided the only way out was to reinstall the OS on the SSD. Fortunately all my data and applications were on separate partitions and now cloned onto a different drive.

Step 4: now we're rocking

Windows install was easy, moving all the old data to the new drive was easy and I've ben rebuilding things over the past couple of weeks.

What I should have done:

Well at least started with the data transfer, then applications and finally boot drive. Instead I went in the reverse order. I should also have verified the boot clone before doing anything fancy. By working that way, I would have made myself independent of the old disks.

In conclusion:

Cloning boot drives can be quite simple, if you get a good step-by-step guide and follow it to the letter. If not, expect some (up to a lot of) fiddling. If all your stuff is on one disk in a single partition, you'll be in a world of trouble. Getting the new one to work, while the old one is in place is trickier. Finding out what to do when it fails is even harder. In the end, it might just be easier to reinstall the operating system - it's what I've done and it's going nicely.

As to the hardware: SSDs rock. Fast, quiet, low energy. Not cheap for the capacity but I'm not looking back now. Everything is faster, even with the previous improvements I'd done. Software installs take seconds, not mintues.

What would I do different?

Well, I think I should have looked to a more extensive upgrade. Maybe 2 SSDs, one small one for boot only and the larger one for the rest. The whole Windows cloning process seems designed for removing or reformating the old drive after the change.

Now I've gone through this all, my whole idea of an ideal computer set-up has changed. I can well imagine running a mirrored pair of boot disks in the future for security and speed.

In part 4, I'll cover changes to my main data storage, general comments on how it's all working and some subjective stuff on how this helps photographers (and ways to save cash while improving performance).

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Always a step behind

Right now I always seem a step behind where I want to be - too much to do, too little time, too easily distracted.

At the same time, I've not had any time to pick up the camera. No new photos, which caused a problem for the photo a day. However, I've been rebuilding my computer and the archive catalogue so I thought I'd drag up a few of the older shots - a week's worth of pretty cheesy sunset stuff from Mongolia a few years ago.

Hopefully I get back in the groove. I'm away all next week, maybe that will help.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Life's what happens...

If anyone's been wondering what's been happening with the blog: crazy times over here at HQ. Finally got my computer back in action and learnt some useful things along the way. Expect a couple of posts on that, continuing my Windows computing series.

Still not been out taking photos for a while but I'll be fixing that soon. It's been a struggle to keep the photo a day blog fed, but I've just enough material to keep liming along.

Hopefully I can get a few posts completed that I have in preparation (mainly on technical matters) in the next couple of days. My life is about to get mad busy for a month or two, for reasons that'll be obvious in due course.