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Thread: Do we take software for granted?

  1. #1
    xpatUSA's Avatar
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    Do we take software for granted?

    The thought in the title of this post occurred while messing around with the Sigma SD10, trying to see what kinds of color casts occur at high ISO settings (not that I ever use high ISO, I'll hasten to add). It was cold outside in the Real World and it's so hard to assess the color of tree-trunks and twigs and other natural stuff. So, no prizes for guessing what I did. ISO 1600, 1/250 sec, well-lit, don't leave home without one:

    Do we take software for granted?

    It's a Sigma X3F (raw) file opened in ACR 5.4, NR'd to the max and sharpened a bit.

    Quite frankly, that is an astoundingly good picture, garnered from the much-maligned early Foveon sensor which is not noted for it's high-ISO, long-exposure imaging quality. Now, if the shot had been taken in low light with a correspondingly long exposure, I'm sure that pure mush would have been the non-recoverable result! But we digress . . .

    So, why is the image so good? It's pure software that does it. It makes one wonder, when reading debates about the "ISO performance" of this camera versus that, whether the contribution made by software is really appreciated by everybody. Or does it just go without saying?

    I have another converter 'X3FWorkshop', written by Arvo Jagel, that gets right back to basics and applies no noise-reduction at all (even less than dcraw!). Opening the very same X3F file with X3FWorkshop is a bit of an eye-opener (same image, remember):

    Do we take software for granted?

    To paraphrase Crocodile Dundee: "Now that is noise . ."

    A little off-topic, but the SD10 in-camera medium-size preview JPEG comes out quite well:

    Do we take software for granted?

    Not quite as "good" as ACR, though . . .
    Last edited by xpatUSA; 26th March 2013 at 05:28 AM.

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    dje's Avatar
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    Re: Do we take software for granted?

    Ted I'm not sure that it's taken for granted but rather the importance of software/firmware simply isn't appreciated. That applies to a lot of things of course these days. Most people watching a BluRay disk on their HD television would have little appreciation of the amount of processing going on in the background in the BD player and the TV. Does it matter ? I guess not.

    We do take technology for granted a lot though. How many people think about how on earth a Google search can be so quick and effective !!

    Dave

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Do we take software for granted?

    I think what people are missing is the way that many of the devices we use today are really customized computers that have taken over what custom built analogue devices did a decade or two ago.

    I remeber having to explain this to my wife, frustrated at the time lag between turning on the car and getting full access to the onboard entertainment / navigation system. It's not a radio; it's a computer that has to boot up (or at least emerge from "sleep" mode), before fully functionality is available, just like every other computing device that we use, be that a mobile phone or a digital camera. No, it's not a camera; it's a computer that takes pictures....

    I think a great analogy is if you ever get a chance to walk through a factory building that was built in the late 1800's or early 1900's. Look overhead and you will see large pullies and shafts that were connected to a single large motor. Take-off belts powered the individual machines. As individual motors became smaller, more powerful and built right into the machines.

    We are seeing the same thing as mass-produced, customizable processors are built into everyday equipment, running generic and custom built software and continuously connected / integrated "cloud" based data and communications.

    Powerful (and to some extent, very scary) stuff for sure…

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    Wayland's Avatar
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    Re: Do we take software for granted?

    I recently updated to Lightroom 4 and PhotoShop CS6 and was amazed at the improvements in the RAW conversion using the 2012 process.

    I thought I had things pretty well nailed before that but I've been going back over some of my old files, especially the near misses and re-processing some of them from scratch with amazing results.

    This weekend I upgraded my Canon 5D to a new 6D because I felt I was starting to push the boundaries of what I could achieve with the old body in terms of low light work.

    I tended to stick to 100 iso. for most of my work and if really pushed I would go up as high as 800 iso. but no further because the quality deteriorated too much.

    I was hoping that I might be able to push a bit further with the 6D, maybe as much as 6400 iso. if I was lucky.

    This morning I took a few test shots in the snow looking at the dynamic range and performance at different iso. settings. Dropping them into LR4.3 I have to say I was astounded.

    I normally shoot RAW and expose to the right so my "ideal" exposure is the highest I can get without a highlight warning.

    First of all I found that Lightroom could still produce acceptable results from files one stop beyond the "blinkies" and in fact two stops over was not a complete write off.

    Going the other way from the "ideal" I could resurrect a file that was three stops under and although it was a little dull, the noise, even in deep shadow areas was well within the levels that LR could handle without destroying too much detail.

    The iso. tests were even more of an eye opener. My old 5D is a good workhorse but it is based around the DIGIC 2 chip so I expected some degree of improvement from the DIGIC 5+ chip in the 6D and of course a newer sensor.

    I discovered that my hope of usable files at 6400 iso. had been wildly conservative.

    The combination of new technology (Only seven years difference remember.) and new software resulted in files shot at 25600 iso. that I believe are better than 800 iso. from the older camera. I'm actually stunned.

    Of course, none of this replaces getting things right at the shooting stage but the power of modern software combined with the results of such leading edge technology herald some very exciting prospects for photography in my opinion.

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    Re: Do we take software for granted?

    As a software engineer, I would say that my goal is for the products I produce to be taken for granted, but we rarely take software for granted because it rarely works right.

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    Re: Do we take software for granted?

    I think what most people don't realise is the huge amount of effort that goes into producing the software. I've many times been asked if I can produce bespoke software for a specific task, only to have the enquirer look totally 'gobsmacked' when I've said how much it will cost !

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    RustBeltRaw's Avatar
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    Re: Do we take software for granted?

    Quote Originally Posted by tclune View Post
    As a software engineer, I would say that my goal is for the products I produce to be taken for granted, but we rarely take software for granted because it rarely works right.
    Tom, I think the goal of any engineer is to have your work more or less unnoticed by the end user. The more quickly it becomes intuitive and natural, the better you did. This informs a lot of my work as a MechE, and I'm glad to hear other fields endure similar challenges.

    With regard to image noise, I'd agree that the relevant software is developing at an impressive clip. Feats like the D800's combination of resolution and noise tolerance wouldn't be possible without excellent software, but the algorithms and the physical construction of the sensor also play considerable roles. There are EEs and mathematicians who deserve some serious credit as well.

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    Re: Do we take software for granted?

    Quote Originally Posted by dje View Post
    How many people think about how on earth a Google search can be so quick and effective !!
    I do - sheer horsepower helps a lot ...

    http://lmgtfy.com/?q=google+data+centre+photos

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    dje's Avatar
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    Re: Do we take software for granted?

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    I do - sheer horsepower helps a lot ...

    http://lmgtfy.com/?q=google+data+centre+photos
    That looks like a very interesting place to visit !!

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    Re: Do we take software for granted?

    Quote Originally Posted by dje View Post
    That looks like a very interesting place to visit !!
    There's actually a youtube tour if you're interested - it's actually quite fascinating.

  11. #11
    dje's Avatar
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    Re: Do we take software for granted?

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    There's actually a youtube tour if you're interested - it's actually quite fascinating.
    Thanks Colin. Yes I would like to see that. Do you have a link or should I just Google it ?

    Dave

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    Re: Do we take software for granted?

    Quote Originally Posted by dje View Post
    Thanks Colin. Yes I would like to see that. Do you have a link or should I just Google it ?

    Dave
    Let me Google that for you

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRwPSFpLX8I

  13. #13
    dje's Avatar
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    Re: Do we take software for granted?

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    Now that is impressive ! Very interesting. Liked the top comment on the video - "Imagine how many 'lol's are stored in that building". Great touch of irony too with the "Google provided Personal Transportation Device".

    Dave

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    Re: Do we take software for granted?

    Quote Originally Posted by dje View Post
    Now that is impressive ! Very interesting. Liked the top comment on the video - "Imagine how many 'lol's are stored in that building". Great touch of irony too with the "Google provided Personal Transportation Device".

    Dave
    They also have a G-Bike ... someone asked if it had to be parked on the "G-Spot"!

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    Re: Do we take software for granted?

    Do you recall it wasn't until 2006 that the pinch-and-swipe gestures we all know and love were first demonstrated at the TED conference (please Google for video)? Now everyone has this tech in their pocket (or up in front of their face...) and uses it continuously. Even toddlers love it.

    1968 saw the first demonstration of the computer mouse and offsite networking/videoconferencing (also Google for "the mother of all demos").

    Think about the advances we've seen since 2001 or so. The iPod, etc. etc. I simply cannot imagine being without a desktop computer. And my iPad. These devices are our entertainment centers, communication portals, darkrooms, libraries, recording studios, printing presses *you name it.

    And of course software drives it all. Developers should be our heroes, not sports stars and reality celebrities.

    I think what we take most for granted is electricity. The recent storm on the East Coast (Jersey Shore, etc.) shows how quickly we would devolve without it. Civilization to savages almost overnight.

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