Thursday, 16 July 2009

Another drive crash and the way I fixed it..

Yesterday I bought two new 1TB drives to get more space, since I was getting low on it (had 0.7GB to be exact.....). Since 1TB is quite an upgrade I changed (or was planning to) practically all my drives configuration. Previously I had:
1x 160GB - OS drive
1x 320GB in RAID1 - Work Drive
1x 320GB in RAID1 - Work Drive
1x 160GB - random stuff

The new plan was to replace some drives and set everything like this:

1x 160GB - OS drive
1x 1TB - Work Drive
1x 320GB - random stuff
1x 1TB - BackUp drive

I'd be left with 1x 320GB which I might use as another (have 3 already) external drives for backup and 1x 160GB - which I'm now thinking of using as a clone copy for OS drive. Just can't decide to set it externally or internally.

So I started with the work. I was a bit worried that something would go wrong with disabling the raid array but that worked great. I removed one drive and installed the 1TB instead. Booted and it worked. But then I notice my "Random stuff" drive was missing from Explorer. When I say "Random stuff" I mean my LR Database (!!!), my downloads (!) and some other stuff which really is random and can be lost without harm.
Anyhow, I wasn't too worried, this has happened MANY times before, usually it's just some easy-fixable glitch, something with the settings or drive path or mbr. I used WD Diagnostic tools, as I usually do, it did it stuff, but then posted "Drive FAILED". Man, my heart stopped! I then used check disk from windows, this one is usually good as well, but it couldn't even find the drive! I was getting more and more worried. I went online, google of course, read for an hour, tried a dozen or so programs, NOTHING worked. Images of file structures flashed in my mind, all the stuff I lost, LR thumbnails (during my lowest moment, I even calculated it would take about 78 hours to rebuild the thumbnail database), print screens of stupid archival moment, patches, firmware and add-ons for my phones, pda, notebook and other devices. This sucks! I kept telling myself, in the back of my mind, it's all replaceable, it's all replaceable..
Then a beacon of hope emerged, a forum, a post, a user with exact same problems and, as apposed as on other forums, a SOLUTION! A program which restored EVERYTHING. I downloaded the demo, ran it, hold and behold, it found all my 3 partitions and all the date! WOOHOOO!!! Then a sobering moment.. the price. Of course, demo version wouldn't actually DO anything. It's just there to tease you, and to make matters worse, with your own data! Back to the price.. 210euros.. yes, 210euros.. Is it worth it? Hmm.. the dilemma moment. A pad emerged, pen followed, two columns, pluses and minuses. As much as I tried, minuses were way in front. Decision was made, purchase denied.. I went back to google, browsed around, found a little tiny program called TestDisk. Since it was free I downloaded it and ran it. Just for fun of course, this can't possible compare to 210euros worth of programmers code. Dos prompt oped, some lines of text, I clicked away. It posted something about partitions, I didn't really pay that much of attention. I said to reboot, so I did. Got back to XP, opened explorer and there it was.. yes, you guessed it, my drive restored!!! All three partitions, all the data, it was all there! I couldn't believe it. A FREE program fixed my drive! For FREE! It sure made my day. Did I mention if was FREE?? Drive fixed, I returned to my work, copying files all over the place. Happy to report - system is up and running and I have 650GB+ of free space for my work files and everything is backed up to another drive as well. Mission accomplished.
I left out the name of the 210euro program on purpose! For that price, they don't deserve ANY free advertising. The program that actually did the same thing, or even better, fixed my drive is TestDisk.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Packing for a shoot

Been so busy lately, with all kinds of stuff, I haven't been shooting virtually nothing at all. Finally I have a big shoot coming up, so I'm getting some of my basic stuff together. I remembered I never really photographed my gear, not even for insurance purposes, and I noticed everyone is doing this lately. So here it goes, my basic gear that I'm planning to take to a shoot.
I kept the big stuff out, like big stands, softboxes, background system, etc..
And I kept lots of small stuff out as well, simply since I was too lazy to get everything together. I'll photograph that at a later date.

This is what I'm planning to put everything in.. hopefully.. minus the tripod, reflectors and reflector hand. That goes with the other stands stuff.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

External drive speed test

Since I tested the Compact Flash cards in my previous post, I'll post the test result for my external 1TB WD drive here.
It's now about a month I have it and I have to say I'm really happy with it. It's virtually silent, you can hardly even hear it. After the todays test I can also say it's really fast.
I was just comparing it with a friends 1TB WD My Book Studio Edition and his results are much worse. He gets 42,2MB burst speed and 40,5MB average read speed. So there you go, he paid almost 50% more then I did and mine's better, faster and with 5-year warranty ;)

SanDisk Compact Flash cards and Firewire reader test

It's been an ancient mystery, a question in the history books, a dilemma of all mankind,.. and we're here to answer it.. well, at least in my case and on my machine. Memory cards..
We all have them, we all need them, we all want them more. The biggest (well, not really), the fastest (true, true..), the best (that goes without saying).
I've been a long time buyer of SanDisk. I had their 128MB cards, 256 cards, to the newest 1GB and 4GB cards. I mainly use 4GB cards since I get around 250-300 shoots on one and that for me is the "right" number. If card fails, gets stolen, or something else, I won't die, I'll have stuff on other cards. If that happens to your brand new 16 or ever 32GB card, well, you were warned many times. It really takes seconds to replace a card, why risk it.
Anyhow, I used to use SanDisk USB2 reader and for 1GB card it was ok. When I switched to 4GB I started to notice how long it really takes to transfer pics to PC. TOO LONG. So I switched to SanDisk firewire. Man, it's a joy to watch how pictures just fly into PC. I never really tested how long it actually takes, I know it's long enough for me to get a cup of coffee and that's fine by me. But I've still been curious. So today, after I was testing my new 1TG external drive, I gave my compact flash cards a drive as well.

I used HD Tach and here are the results:

SanDisk CF 4GB Extreme III 30MB version

SanDisk CF 4GB Extreme III 20MB version

SanDisk CF 1GB Extreme III 20MB version

SanDisk CF 1GB Ultra II

You noticed something interesting? I sure did! Ultra II and Extreme III 20MB version are practically identical! That's kinda strange, but I did test it a couple of times.. Extreme III 30MB version really outperforms others, so it's the one I'll stick too for the future.
Hope you learned something as I did ;)

Saturday, 27 December 2008


What do we computer/photo geeks people need most, beside time? Disk space of course!
Man, it's that time of the year again, doing the cleanup on my drives and discovering I'm in a desperate need of MORE DISK SPACE! :S There's never enough, NEVER!
So, a visit to the local PC store, got me more bills to pay and two brand new 1TB WD Green drives. Since I plan to use them as external drives, I got two external hard disk enclosures from Thermaltake as well. Since they hava eSata connection, speed shouldn't be that much of a problem.

Drives installed, all I need is to connect them to PC. No problems there, XP finds the drive straight away, I format the drive (have to mention, out of 1TB of space, you get 931GB, so 93GB lost in a second (1TB = 1024GB - 931GB = 93GB) SUCKS!!), put some data on and that was that. Until I restarted the PC that is. After reboot drive was nowhere to be found. I checked the cables, everything was ok. Run "find new hardware" from Control Panel and XP reported it found the drive. Phew, I though.. only for a second though. Drive was found, XP also installed it, but it showed up as 32MB (yes, 32MB, MB) drive and unformatted as well. My pulse went through the roof at that moment. What the?!? How the?!? Safely removed the hardware, rebooted, again, same problem. Tried USB cables, same thing. Drive wasn't found, when it found and installed it, only 32MB of space was reported and unformatted as well.
So it was time for uncle google. It found a few identical problems with the same drive and same motherboard. It appears mobo only sees the drives memory (this is a 1TB drive with 32MB cache), and not the drive itself. Some said it was/is a XP SP3 problem. Anyhow, spend 3 days doing the research, posting on half a dozen computer forums, tried a bunch of ideas, bios setting, chip drivers, etc, etc, nothing worked. I connected the drive to my laptop, same thing. That showed me there was something wrong with the drive itself, not my XP or Gigabyte mobo. So more research, bunch of programs that reset factory size on the drive (few people posted this fixed their problem), and on and on, NOTHING worked. Was it the MBR? Should I connect the second drive and hope it would work the first time like the first drive did? Copy the MBR from that onto the first one? Man was I desperate, I almost gave up and looked up the warranty.
Then I simply rebooted the PC and something new happened. CheckDisk found the drive prior to XP boot and it started to scan it. After an hour or so and a bunch of problems, it got into windows. Windows found a new drive straight away, with all 931GB of space and all my data intact! Problem solved! How? No idea :D
Was it the drive, was it SP3 or something else? Who cares really, as long as it works, right, but I do think SP3 has some bugs. I keep having a redraw problems in my Photoshop, and monitor settings keep changing after reboot. I use 2 monitors and after some reboots second monitor doesn't even show up in the settings. But that's another story..

Be safe and have multiple backups, internal as well as external.

Monday, 22 December 2008


This is one of many overdue post I was planning to put up a while ago, but you know how it goes, tempus fugit and all that.. There's never enough time. Anyhow, some folks bugged me about this one, so here it is.

What do you do when you have a few black straws?

Yes, you could have a drink, true.
What do you do when you have more then a "few"? Think in 100's, even thousands?

If you're a photo enthusiast, total Strobist, a bit of a technical person and a bit of a geek, you could make one of these:

What's that, I hear you ask? Here, from another side:

Got it now? No? You must be on the wrong blog ;)
Yes, it's a grid spot or simply grid for you speedlight.

Since we PHOTO GEEKS have loads of speedlights all different sizes of course, you might need a few. Size matters as well, in this case at least. Long for narrowed spot, short for wider.

So, there you go, homemade grid spots. I won't write about how to make them, ask uncle google or better yet, check It's quite easy to make them, the main thing you need is TIME! Some straws, paper, glue, tape and you're set.
I have 6 now, for my 4 speedlights and am planning to make 2 more. With the stock of straws I got, I might even open a production line ;)

Keep it tight ;)

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Tamron 10-24 compared to Sigma 10-20

I did some quick test shots yesterday, indoors as weather sucked. Before I say anything, I have to say, I know I got a good copy of Sigma. Probably the best one there is in stock. I got it straight from the distributer here in Slovenia and he told me himself he checked it.
As for the Tamron, I got the only copy available in the country.
We all know that quality control is not that great with "3rd party lenses" as we like to call them, so margin for error in this kind of comparison test is wide. I'd probably have to compare 3 or more same lenses to get some accurate/average results.
But anyhow, first comparison done, to put it in one sentence: Sigma wins in sharpness hands down.
Sun is out, I'm packing my gear, so check back in few hours for comparison shots and final words.

Update #1:

Ok, I did manage to get some shots, despite the fact the weather is against me and it started to rain again.
All shots done on D300, aperiture mode & matrix metering. Shot in NEF, imported into Lightroom, comparison view for same show of both lenses, screenshot, saved in Photoshop CS3, quality level 10. It's for show, not trying to get the best out of the images. Same process for all of them, so post process in not a factor.

10mm, Tamron f3.5 vs Sigma f4, border

10mm, Tamron f5.6 vs Sigma f5.6, border

10mm, Tamron f8 vs Sigma f8, border

10mm, Tamron f11 vs Sigma f11, border

I guess no comment needed, right?

10mm, Tamron f3.5 vs Sigma f4, center

10mm, Tamron f5.6 vs Sigma f5.6, center

10mm, Tamron f8 vs Sigma f8, center

10mm, Tamron f11 vs Sigma f11, center

20mm, Tamron f5.6 vs Sigma f5.6, border

20mm, Tamron f8 vs Sigma f8, border

20mm, Tamron f5.6 vs Sigma f5.6, center

20mm, Tamron f8 vs Sigma f8, center

I noticed that on almost all the shots Tamron appears to be one stop brighter. Just did a quick controlled test in a closed environment and this is not the case at it appears. Both lenses produced virtually the same exposure data on all apertures and focal lenghts. So it must have been the weather again..

Close up shots..
Tried some shots from the minimum focusing distance.

10mm, Tamron f4 vs Sigma f4, border

10mm, Tamron f5.6 vs Sigma f5.6, border

10mm, Tamron f8 vs Sigma f8, border

10mm, Tamron f4 vs Sigma f4, center

10mm, Tamron f5.6 vs Sigma f5.6, center

10mm, Tamron f8 vs Sigma f8, center

Some CA tests. All 1:1 crops from the edge of the images.

Tamron f5.6 CA sample:

Sigma f5.6 CA sample:

Tamron f8 CA sample:

Sigma f8 CA sample:

Update #2:

Vignette test shots:

Another handling observation: Sigma has about 1.5cm space between the rings (plus some extruded lines on both sides), so it's easy to get a good grip when you're replacing lenses. Tamron has only around 0.5cm and it's a lot harder to hold it and replace it. Especially if you're in a hurry.

Judging by my two copies, Sigma is a clear winner. It's overall sharpness is better then Tamrons, far better on corners and better in the center. CA appears to be similar, but Sigma is still ahead slightly. Tamron is brighter, has less vignette and has easier distortion to fix. Tamron has a bit longer range, is a bit brighter, costs less, weights less, but I'm not sure those factors overpower the clear image quality advantage Sigma showed? Not for me anyhow.. If you're thinking about buying one of these wide lenses, or any lens for that matter, try to test and compare your copies yourself if you can. One copy can really be totally different then another.

UPDATE (03.12.2008):
I've received some images from a friend overseas, who has tested his copy of the Tamron lens. His results were A LOT better. I talked with our distributer and we have concluded the copy they got is a really bad one. So, I'm awaiting a new copy and as soon as it arrives I'll do another test and comparison with Sigma. Stay tuned.