09 January 2018

A good deal found locally!

While working on the GX1 hacks I encountered an error with the 'natural3' hack. The mp4 modes shut down with the complaint that my card could not keep up with the data. It was phrased far more cryptically of course :# but that was my inference. I looked for online solutions, which a U3-class card should manage if others' stories were correct. A few 32G cards would serve for under $30.. but I decided to look locally just in case

After a couple of failures I visited my local Kroger store (Fred Meyer here in the Pacific NW) and hit a deal! The 64GB Sandisk Ultra Plus was on sale for just over $32. I brought it home, formatted it - and the message remained.

Now that I've shifted to a gentle version of the Galaxian hack I have no issues, and a large and fast card to hold my data. Some times I do catch a break!

08 January 2018

GX1 hack rehack update

The system still does what I wish with no playback hassles or camera lockups - how nice!

So what I have now is a decent AVCHD update on bitrate (HD and FHD) and no change to stock MP4 files. Further reading at personal-view.com shows that MP4 bitrates over 23M/sec will not allow playback in the camera, so we'll stay at 20M. Other setings that were discussed did not provide enough reason for boosting audio as that will also 'break' GX1 playback.

I attempted to run ten-second snips at each setting to determine bitrates - but I was shooting at max ISO (3200) at our table so nothing special at all. No movement other than cats cleaning themselves, so nothing worth inspecting for difficult imaging like the website suggests to show the improvements that AVCHD should demonstrate. I'll head down the hill for some moving water in the near future, as blockiness of moving water is a known torture test.  I'll be happy if I see a minimal amount of frozen pixels in the moving water during playback. The hack settings suggest much larger bitrates than I am trying, so if some image breakup occurs I can bump these up more; I went with about half of their suggested boosts for both 1080 and 720 resolutions in AVC mode.

Here are the resulting file sizes, which did not quite align at 10 seconds. Clearly the MP4 files are smaller as expected. The stock GX1 settings for AVC are 16M/sec and 12M/sec but I bumped them up to about 32M and 20M (or thereabouts). Perhaps at some point I will re-hack at higher AVC rates, but until I see some results to justify more changes, this will serve nicely.

02 January 2018

hack hack unhack

I've been messing up my simple life with GX1 video by 'improving' its specs. Oops.

Many of the Panasonic cameras have had their firmware inspected for video features. The video looks quite good to an average user like me, but dedicated folks on a budget want top-level quality from a bargain camera. Apparently they have succeeded to some degree that they can see, but for the most part the video looks very similar in before/after shots I have seen.

However it's not just the video specs. Beyond the MB/second bitrate one can also boost the audio quality. That sounded more appealing to me - especially since I was about to record a piano concert for the player and her family. Having a better audio track on a camera with no microphone jack would be a good thing.

And so I looked into personal-view.com and its many levels of hacking on dozens of cameras.
My first stop was the GalaXian hack from user 'driftwood', which moved several steps forward on nearly every parameter. I think I took the settings as given.. which for me was a mistake. The setting boost makes the video unwatchable on the camera! That might have been fine if I'd had time to test everything, but to learn this on the day of the event was too much to ask - so the hacked camera was set up as the 'B' camera rather than the main shooter. The video turned out fine in fact, but it was unsettling.

I then tried some other settings, and even tried to reload the original firmware. Luck was not on my side in those endeavors.

After that I went with a different hack, the 'natural3' set from user bkmcwd. It had a different error message with mp4 mode, claiming my card write speed was too slow (the AVCHD mode seemed fine). The camera then locked up on playback and I despaired of seeing the GX1 work again. (It turns out that others have reported similar camera lockups and shooting/deleting still images can reset things - now they tell me!).

Finally I put the natural3 back on the camera and it was not locking up, and I found a V3 SD card (at a great price!) hoping to get that error message to relent. Alas, luck was again not with me, even though the card speed should be sufficient; perhaps the GX1 was not the 'natural3' intended target and that has been my problem. Most users of that hack use an earlier GH camera.

After several more attempts to reset the camera to Lumix-standard v1.1 firmware I looked again at the GalaXian hack. I lowered some of the high-demand settings for mp4 images and tried again. Now the camera records both mp4 and AVCHD without hassle or lockup.
And I cannot play them back on the camera!

So at last, after further reading, I loaded firmware 1.1 and boosted the AVCHD settings but left MP4 settings untouched. At this I finally found peace: videos both work, stills look fine, nothing freezes on playback.

Maybe it will even work the same way tomorrow?

21 December 2017

delays and complications

I had hoped to check the three developers that I currently have on my system (Zoner, Polarr, PD8) - but life has intervened and delayed me. While it's still a fun idea, I'm running out of time on my Zoner time trial. They use a slow but steady subscription of $49/year right now, so it will keep moving up incrementally like Adobe products. This makes me think of iTunes and its occasionally nice interface that gets ripped to shreds at random intervals - my wife and I currently have very little clue as to getting music to Pods or Phones any more. Not my favorite way to play.

Still, I have a week or two. I'll try to grab a needs-work image and process with Zoner first, then try out the other two. I've already removed Elements X from my system so it won't be part of the game.

29 November 2017

another developing contender?

I bumped into an announcement about the Zoner Photo Studio X and its ability to save in the new and improved (and Apple-preferred!) HEIF image format. Jpeg has been around a while and updated often - but a new way of saving files with all the tech/AI improvements feels like a good idea. The software is available for trial, so why not?

So here's the most recent file processed to my preference in their editor. Odd though, the trial version did not open a 5-year-old raw format; this one is from the equally-drab jpeg that was captured with the raw that I used before.

This was definitely processed differently, with those uppermost leaves being more preserved. I still shifted the green channel up at the light end and also worked to preserve the bridge better. Their HDR effect was not quite as pleasant in the end so I left that turned off.

Let's see how it compares!
Top= PhotoStudio from jpeg  -  Bottom=original above, PD8 below

Definitely warmer and brighter this time. The PD8 image is definitely punchier with its HDR slider that works the way I prefer. Perhaps I should try PD8 again - and add a Polarr workover of this image as well!

18 November 2017

more PD8 image tricks

I cranked out another test file with PhotoDirector 8. In this case a very flat image of our local lake was in need of some lively processing.

I took the top image and used my old favorite curve tool - but I tried a few new tricks. I adjusted RGB to taste but then boosted the green channel at the bright end. That left the dark-green trees dark on the left but strengthened the shrubs by the water just right of center.

I then used the HDR-effect sliders to make things jump a bit more. I like that this tool can be used push-button style or as a gentle slide to keep any cartoon effects to a minimum.

I like the reprocessing quite a bit, but those branches along the top went too dark. At some future point I will revisit and make use of the layers tool to bring them back closer to the original image. Perhaps the bridge can also be pulled into better definition that way?

Any software has features and complications that can only be learned with time. PhotoDirector 8 has caught my interest and I plan to keep learning its features.

26 October 2017

New software

I recently bought Cyberlink's PhotoDirector software. I intend it to replace PS Elements (v10, more or less) as my primary editor and catalog keeper. Adobe did not get me to subscribe to PS or now Lightroom but it's clear they believe the cloud is the future. For their profits yes, but not holding my images for ransom thank you.

My first big test came this past weekend after I wanted to stitch some GX1 raw images of lake Sacagawea and autumn colors. The merge was as easy as could be, just about like elements. I then played with the merged file and saved out a 49MB image.. perhaps it should get printed?

A small version of the 49MB file. That really yellow tree on the right is.. curious.

The software appears to do all that i would ask. It has curves and a 5-zone slider set to adjust lighting, color adjustments and white balance, even simple HDR &tone mapping adjustments. It can save tiff and png as well as adjustable jpeg.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I was surprised by pd8's exceptionally yellow leaves on the right side of the image; I like to think I'd have noticed that while on site!  I did adjust many things from the original raw file, but I did not seek to emphasize yellow in particular.

So I tried Polarr's raw processor to see how that tree looked:

Sure enough, that strong yellow foliage is not quite what Polarr sees.. strong color yes, but not as extreme. The orange on the far right is different as well. 

Good information to keep in mind, moving forward!

24 October 2017

adrift in a sea of gear

What would really satisfy me, "once and for all"?
It probably doesn't work that way - but if I could manage it, what then?

My perceived needs include weather protection, in-body stabilization and a tilt screen, preferably with some touch controls.  That would narrow me down to Pentax, SonyAlpha, Olympus and very recent Lumix bodies.

Since budget is paramount, that limits me a bit more. It would be best to go with a past-generation Olympus so my current lens set can do the job. I have neither Pentax nor µ43 lenses with weather seals so no gain there; if I had a choice I'd take the 12-60 Lumix again at some point.

Now I already tried the EM5 mark I and it didn't appeal to me much. I wish it did, since it has weather seals - but one cannot force these things. The GX7 was really nice the first time, less so the second time; I still cannot quite explain that! The EM1 Classic stands as the item of choice on a budget. That includes many features that sound quite interesting. Its video setting is primitive yet still more complete than Pentax models, with AF or tap-MF available. The EM1 also has live time/composite and PDAF points on the sensor, good features all.

So what's available to me for $250-ish?
  • I can get a Alpha - but it won't have weather seals at that price. And I'd need lenses. Many Minolta lens bargains are still out there, but add at least $100 to grab a few. No point to this, since I have both K-mount and mic43 lenses today..
  • I can get an EM1 for $300ish, then later add some sealed lenses. Current lenses cover 16-300mme so it's a fairly full set. An EM10 could also be found, which I preferred to the EM5 - current lenses are fine but no weather seals.
  • The Lumix GX1 is still around $250 - but how much do I really like it?
  • I can get a K-5, but again: I've no WR lenses on hand. I do have other lenses covering 27-450mme  assuming my white 18-55 could be restored to service. A K-30 or K-50 could show up, or a K200d for that matter if the GX1 takes all video tasks. 
  • And hey: why not toss in another copy of the K-01? Its photo and video abilities still impress - and it's smaller than the latest m43 gear despite its cruel reviews lamenting its immense size at the time. No wx seals of course, but $200 bodies show up now and then.
Or of course I can do nothing and save $225 or more! There are a few things the GX1 cannot do well, but really it does nothing poorly either. I'd love more battery life and better AF talent, but it's better than I am in most cases. I recently learned more about Pinpoint AF and that choice has helped me on several occasions.