Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Canon Picture Styles

Like it or not, this image effectively came straight out of my camera, using a custom picture style.

I shoot entirely in RAW mode, so I never bothered to look into these JPG presets. However, after seeing how far you could push these presets in-camera in this post at Canon 5D Tips, I thought I'd try messing with Canon's Picture Style Editor a bit to see what I could come up with.

The author of the 5D Tips blog post wasn't kidding - the software is very difficult to use. I have no idea what I did to achieve the above image, but it's cool enough that I'm going to keep tinkering to see what else I can come up with. Adobe Lightroom can't use these picture styles, so I had to export my JPG in Canon's DPP. And, since I'd rather swallow a handful of white-hot thumbtacks than use DPP, I think I'll just switch to RAW+JPG for the times when I'm tinkering with picture styles for crazy effects like the one above.

The Canon 40D and 5D Mark II only allow 3 custom picture styles, so I'm going to take only my favorite presets with me. I can always resort to DPP in post-processing, so it's not critical that I have my picture styles with me, but it'll be cool to see how well the effects work with the shots in-camera. Also, I'm no wizard with video processing, so it'll be a nice shortcut to apply these effects to video in-camera as well.

Overall, if you shoot RAW, nothing much is gained here but a little fun while shooting.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Drobo BeyondRAID Enclosures - Making Hard Drive Death Less Painful

Data Robotics Drobo 4-Bay USB 2.0/FireWire 800 SATA Storage Array

My Canon 40D turned me into a digital pack rat with its 10 megapixel RAW files, slowly filling up my 500GB hard drive up over the course of a year and a half. Every few weeks, I'd burn my recent photos on two sets of DVD-Rs, put them in different boxes, and rest assured that my data was reasonably safe. It was a problem, but a manageable one.

That backup strategy wasn't ready for my upgrade to a Canon 5D Mark ii a few months ago. I now have 21 megapixel RAW files that weigh in around 27MB each, and 1080P video at 300MB per minute. Not only that, but the camera can shoot in damned-near darkness, so I'm shooting in locations that were previously inaccessible. Most outings with the camera would end in a filled 16GB CF card. It didn't take too long to find myself 100 DVDs behind in my backup routine.

In comes Drobo - a multiple unit hard drive enclosure all of the benefits of traditional RAID, but without the rigidity. The Drobo houses up to four SATA drives, spreading your data across them to protect against any one of them from failing. It doesn't care if your drives are the same size or vendor, and, you can replace drives at any time with one of equal or bigger size. You can also start with two drives, and work your way up to four, if you like. The biggest drive in the cluster is used for redundancy, so if you had four 500GB drives, your total usable disk space is about 1.5GB.

Unlike RAID, the unit is data-aware, continually checking for errors. If any are detected, the green light will flash yellow next to the affected drive. If the drive is on the verge of dying, the light turns red. At this point, you can remove and replace the failing drive without turning it off, and while still using it, if you like. The Drobo takes care of assimilating the new drive into the cluster, spreading the data across it to protect from any future drive failure, completely transparent to your machine.

I still plan on continuing to burn my data to DVD-R, but have become a little more lax since buying the Drobo. To safeguard against accidental deletions, complete hardware failure, or theft, I signed up to unlimited data offsite backup. For $50/year, Backblaze's software automatically encrypts and uploads all of my data to their servers, even keeping a couple of weeks of incremental backups so that I can rollback some data to a few days ago, if needed.

I now sleep just a tad better at night.

While you're at it, I recommend you get started with two of these 1.5TB Seagate drives. If you have an extra 500GB drive laying around the house, throw it in the mix as well - it can't hurt, you can upgrade it later.