In Focus, Bangkok Photography Blog April 7th, 2012

Extreme Image Processing, Guangzhou China, Intel 520 Series 240gb SSD Review


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Feature Photograph *menu

The pictures I’m using in this feature are all credited to Stick, the processing is mine. Somehow I ended up with them on my computer and they fit the requirements for this feature so Stick was generous enough to allow their use. Thank you Stick!

Canon 5d, 24-70mm F2.8L @F11 1/400th 50mm ISO 100 (credit to Stick)

The pictures I’m using in this feature are all credited to Stick, the processing is mine. Somehow I ended up with them on my computer and they fit the requirements for this feature so Stick was generous enough to allow their use. Thank you, Stick!

Sometimes our images are taken on someone else’s schedule, so we can’t wait for the best light or circumstances. The best we can do is to grab a solid composition and proper exposure and if we really like the image we can put in the effort to use advanced (extreme) image processing techniques to get the most out of them at a later time. In this feature we’ll show the before and after images and talk a bit about what we can do to get there. In a later tutorial I’ll walk you through the process step by step.

The image above is a finished image. We have a nice sky, it appears the light is hitting the decorative features of the entrance lending more detail and color, and the background is thankfully void of ugly power lines and unnecessary clutter.

Wait, hold on a minute. The “before” image shows just how plain the image was as it came out of the camera. Notice the terrible power line clutter? The green gas meter on the left side of the fence? Extra flags, trees, poles, and broken pieces of fence? If we wish to show off the Thai architecture in the best possible light, then it often pays to isolate the piece and ensure the light provides the best color and detail.

Canon 5d, 24-70mm F2.8L @F11 1/400th 50mm ISO 100 (credit to Stick)

Wait, hold on a minute. The “before” image shows just how plain the image was as it came out of the camera. Notice the terrible power line clutter? The green gas meter on the left side of the fence? Extra flags, trees, poles, and broken pieces of fence? If we wish to show off the Thai architecture in the best possible light, then it often pays to isolate the piece and ensure the light provides the best color and detail.

How did we get there? I have to warn you, this is absolutely safe to try at home. In fact, I encourage you to grab the before images in this piece and see what you can do with them prior to the upcoming tutorial. In this image we used selective editing in Lightroom to direct light and detail on the decorative art. From there we imported into CS5 Photoshop and used a combination of the content aware healing brush, cloning, and history eraser to remove the power lines and other clutter, and then levels to balance the exposure. It sounds simple, but consider I have about 45 minutes invested in the processing of this one image. The power line removal was accomplished at the pixel level and really does require a fair bit of patience. Give it a try, the more you practice the better you’ll get.

There are some elements to look for to see if you make a good image, or just dressed it up a bit. First, make sure you didn’t miss any stray bits of power line and other clutter. Look in the small apertures of the gate to ensure you removed them there as well. Look at the sky where the wires and clutter once were, notice how smooth and graduated the tones are? If you do this one the sky will never look right. Be consistent and be neat, and above all be very patient. Do this pixel by pixel and you’ll be really happy with the results. Let’s look at some other examples.

Wow, what a beautiful boardwalk. The clay tiles are colorful and show their strong patterns, the ornamental lights show off their gold and silver finish, the Me Kong river is blue and almost pristine looking, and the sky is well exposed in relation to the body of the scene. Wonderful balance with many interesting compositional elements. A classic shot well executed. But it needed some work to get there.

Canon 5d, 24-70mm F2.8L @F9 1/400th 24mm ISO 100 (credit to Stick)

Wow, what a beautiful boardwalk. The clay tiles are colorful and show their strong patterns, the ornamental lights show off their gold and silver finish, the Me Kong river is blue and almost pristine looking, and the sky is well exposed in relation to the body of the scene. Wonderful balance with many interesting compositional elements. A classic shot well executed. But it needed some work to get there.

This is the original image. What’s missing? Sure, the light. Unless you want to wait around for the perfect afternoon light you won’t do better than this. Sometimes we just happen to be there when the light is great, other times we need to shoot a scene and move on to the next and sort it all out later.

Canon 5d, 24-70mm F2.8L @F9 1/400th 24mm ISO 100 (credit to Stick)

This is the original image. What’s missing? Sure, the light. Unless you want to wait around for the perfect afternoon light you won’t do better than this. Sometimes we just happen to be there when the light is great, other times we need to shoot a scene and move on to the next and sort it all out later.

Now, imagine the afternoon light shining in from over your shoulder and from the right. Keep this light direction in mind as you process the image. I used the exact same tools and sequence in all of this shots so I won’t repeat it for every image, but the finished result is a fantastic scene brought to life through the hand painting of light which brings out the natural colors and details already present. Let’s do another one, this is fun!

In parts of Thailand you’ll find brightly painted colorful older tuk tuks. It’s almost instinctive to make this capture. A lone vintage tuk tuk, resplendent in it’s design and bright colors juxtaposed over a rather drab background. This processing called for selective saturation techniques we covered in this tutorial Selective Saturation.

Canon 5d, 24-70mm F2.8L @F7.1 1/320h 40mm ISO 100 (credit to Stick)

In parts of Thailand you’ll find brightly painted colorful older tuk tuks. It’s almost instinctive to make this capture. A lone vintage tuk tuk, resplendent in it’s design and bright colors juxtaposed over a rather drab background. This processing called for selective saturation techniques we covered in this tutorial Selective Saturation.

This is the original image and it’s fine how it is. I just thought it would be more dramatic if processed using the selective saturation techniques.

Canon 5d, 24-70mm F2.8L @F7.1 1/320h 40mm ISO 100 (credit to Stick)

This is the original image and it’s fine how it is. I just thought it would be more dramatic if processed using the selective saturation techniques.

I love this image. Storm clouds providing a darkened sky which really sets off the white and gold shrine in the background. The light is shining directly over my shoulder on shrine bringing out it’s beautiful colors and detail. There is no substitute for great light. Well, maybe sometimes there is.

Canon 5d, 24-70mm F2.8L @F10 15000h 24mm ISO 100 (credit to Stick)

I love this image. Storm clouds providing a darkened sky which really sets off the white and gold shrine in the background. The light is shining directly over my shoulder on shrine bringing out it’s beautiful colors and detail. There is no substitute for great light. Well, maybe sometimes there is.

It was the middle of the day, there was no darkened sky, and there were distracting power lines and other clutter everywhere. Yet, with a great deal of patience and about 30 minutes we transformed this image to the ‘before’ image above. One is dramatic and shows off the natural colors, detail, and beauty always present in the scene, and the other is what we most often capture as the victim of timing and mother nature.

Canon 5d, 24-70mm F2.8L @F10 15000h 24mm ISO 100 (credit to Stick)

It was the middle of the day, there was no darkened sky, and there were distracting power lines and other clutter everywhere. Yet, with a great deal of patience and about 30 minutes we transformed this image to the ‘before’ image above. One is dramatic and shows off the natural colors, detail, and beauty always present in the scene, and the other is what we most often capture as the victim of timing and mother nature.

When you make these captures keep post processing in mind. Understand your tools and what they can do, and what base exposures you can take at the time to provide the best canvas for processing later. Thailand is full of beautiful temples ruined by negligent city planning, stray mongrel dogs, faded and/or dirty paint, and the general ravages of time. We can turn back the clock, adjust the timing, and make great pictures which will stand up to pixel level scrutiny and will print at any reasonable size including 30×20 inch prints. I’ll bet if you go through your own archives you’ll come up with many such shots you can improve through extreme image processing. See you next time with the tutorial.

Guangzhou China *menu

Tom Tweedel is a good friend with significant experience in China and has self-published several interesting volumes of his travels in China complete with many great images and informative narrative. Last year he visited Thailand for the first time and I had a great time showing him around the area. Somehow he found time to put together a like 340 page book of his travels around Thailand and you can get your copy here! I've got a copy of this book and I can tell you it's well worth it, especially for first time travelers or if you haven't seen more of Thailand than downtown Bangkok.

For those whose plans include extended travel in Thailand and China I’d recommend contacting Tom and inquiring into obtaining copies of his books. Tom Tweedel is an Austin, TX based photographer and can be reached at: [email protected]

Guangzhou is the economic engine of South China, though Shenzen has become a force to be reckoned with as well. It was also the very first place in China I visited many years ago. Each time a go back it is a occasion for reflection on how much China, and I, have changed.

This trip to Guangzhou marked the first time I would be traveling China with my children, aged 5 and 8. I wondered how the journey head would go.

This trip to Guangzhou marked the first time I would be traveling China with my children, aged 5 and 8. I wondered how the journey head would go.

The airport at Guangzhou was both modern and interesting. A vast improvement from years ago.

The airport at Guangzhou was both modern and interesting. A vast improvement from years ago.

Guangzhou is somewhat (well locally anyway) famous for all of the bridges across the Pearl River. Each has a unique design

Guangzhou is somewhat (well locally anyway) famous for all of the bridges across the Pearl River. Each has a unique design

As we came into Guangzhou it was interesting to still see chunks of farm land scatter among the medium density apartment complexes.

As we came into Guangzhou it was interesting to still see chunks of farm land scatter among the medium density apartment complexes.

A lot has changed since my first visit. The city has been transformed from free wheeling chaos to a reasonably ordered modern city.

A lot has changed since my first visit. The city has been transformed from free wheeling chaos to a reasonably ordered modern city.

Motorcycle Taxis seemed to be popular, I thought the umbrella was a nice touch.

Motorcycle Taxis seemed to be popular, I thought the umbrella was a nice touch.

Much of our stay here was spent visiting some friends. They were among China’s affluent class and lived in gated and very well maintained developments. To me the place seemed more like a vacation condo than a regular dwelling.

Much of our stay here was spent visiting some friends. They were among China’s affluent class and lived in gated and very well maintained developments. To me the place seemed more like a vacation condo than a regular dwelling.

The place had a pool that was very nice and the kids enjoyed it immensely. Going between the house and the pool, strolling around the complex, it was hard to believe that this was China. It just felt so different from my previous experiences.

The place had a pool that was very nice and the kids enjoyed it immensely. Going between the house and the pool, strolling around the complex, it was hard to believe that this was China. It just felt so different from my previous experiences.

Each unit at the complex had a garage. Most (but not all) garages had cars. Automotive ownership is a growing symbol of affluence in China. If you want to “be someone” you’ve got to have a car, even if you don’t need it.

Each unit at the complex had a garage. Most (but not all) garages had cars. Automotive ownership is a growing symbol of affluence in China. If you want to “be someone” you’ve got to have a car, even if you don’t need it.

After some pool time we went looking for food. It took a while to find a restaurant to everyone’s liking. In the process we went by this nearby shopping mall. They had an impromptu roller blading park set up for the kids outside.

After some pool time we went looking for food. It took a while to find a restaurant to everyone’s liking. In the process we went by this nearby shopping mall. They had an impromptu roller blading park set up for the kids outside.

This is a small but fairly typical Chinese shopping mall. Multiple levels, open center, lots of different stores.

This is a small but fairly typical Chinese shopping mall. Multiple levels, open center, lots of different stores.

The mall didn’t do it for us so we drove around looking for some special food to eat as the sun started to set. From driving around I gathered this was a fairly good part of town.

The mall didn’t do it for us so we drove around looking for some special food to eat as the sun started to set. From driving around I gathered this was a fairly good part of town.

We pulled up to a hotel that housed a very large and famous seafood restaurant. The problem was parking. The last few years have seen great growth in car ownership but little additional parking added. Being a fancy expensive place most of the people who come here drive, so parking was a huge issue. They had a small army of guys in the parking lot directing traffic. Even then it was a major challenge to find a place

We pulled up to a hotel that housed a very large and famous seafood restaurant. The problem was parking. The last few years have seen great growth in car ownership but little additional parking added. Being a fancy expensive place most of the people who come here drive, so parking was a huge issue. They had a small army of guys in the parking lot directing traffic. Even then it was a major challenge to find a place

Tonight we would eat at a place that was famous for its fresh and delicious seafood. The place was huge, the size of the floor of a department store. About half the place was seating and the other half was food display and kitchen space.

Tonight we would eat at a place that was famous for its fresh and delicious seafood. The place was huge, the size of the floor of a department store. About half the place was seating and the other half was food display and kitchen space.

The restaurant had banks of chefs working behind counters. They seem to have recruited guys from other countries as well as from all over China.

The restaurant had banks of chefs working behind counters. They seem to have recruited guys from other countries as well as from all over China.

This place could have been better described as a culinary aquarium. The entire length was stacked with tanks that held all the “ingredients”. You could stroll the displays and pick out the specific creatures you wished to consume. They had a very large inventory. This alone would have been worth a class field trip to more types of sea life than you see at any aquarium.

This place could have been better described as a culinary aquarium. The entire length was stacked with tanks that held all the “ingredients”. You could stroll the displays and pick out the specific creatures you wished to consume. They had a very large inventory. This alone would have been worth a class field trip to more types of sea life than you see at any aquarium.

Eels are a popular dish in Asia and were definitely on the menu here.

Eels are a popular dish in Asia and were definitely on the menu here.

Some type of Asian Prawn. It tastes like a lighter flavored shrimp.

Some type of Asian Prawn. It tastes like a lighter flavored shrimp.

They had a really, really large crab.

They had a really, really large crab.

Apparently few insects are safe. These water beetles were popular enough to have a tank all their own. I’m guessing they are crunchy?

Apparently few insects are safe. These water beetles were popular enough to have a tank all their own. I’m guessing they are crunchy?

Don’t know what kind it was but if it were in the US it would be the “big one” at the local fish tank. I wonder how long he’ll last.

Don’t know what kind it was but if it were in the US it would be the “big one” at the local fish tank. I wonder how long he’ll last.

It wasn’t all slimy swimming things. You could get your pigeon and ham hocks to.

It wasn’t all slimy swimming things. You could get your pigeon and ham hocks to.

And what would a visit to Guangzhou be without seeing some snake wine. Supposedly the snake infuses the wine with its essence which can be delivered in a convenient drinkable form!

And what would a visit to Guangzhou be without seeing some snake wine. Supposedly the snake infuses the wine with its essence which can be delivered in a convenient drinkable form!

Returning to the table from my aquatic photo safari I found our food was starting to arrive. This was a delectable tofu dish.

Returning to the table from my aquatic photo safari I found our food was starting to arrive. This was a delectable tofu dish.

What would seafood be without a fish dish? This was some type of flounder. As is tradition in southern China they brought the fish by your table BEFORE it was cooked to make sure it was to your liking.

What would seafood be without a fish dish? This was some type of flounder. As is tradition in southern China they brought the fish by your table BEFORE it was cooked to make sure it was to your liking.

Snails anyone? We got to enjoy a place of fresh snails. Not really my thing. I ate a few but my stomach let me know that was a few too many.

Snails anyone? We got to enjoy a place of fresh snails. Not really my thing. I ate a few but my stomach let me know that was a few too many.

We spent the night in an unremarkable hotel in an unremarkable section of town. Our friends picked us up and took us to another place to eat.

We spent the night in an unremarkable hotel in an unremarkable section of town. Our friends picked us up and took us to another place to eat.

On our way to lunch we ran into some swine there were also going somewhere for lunch..

On our way to lunch we ran into some swine there were also going somewhere for lunch..

Our dinning pleasure this afternoon was in a very swanky hotel with an impressive chandelier.

Our dinning pleasure this afternoon was in a very swanky hotel with an impressive chandelier.

Southern China is where Dim Sum was born. Guangzhou probably has the best Dim Sum in the world. A meal consisting of a wide variety of small little dumpling it is one of my favorite forms of Chinese food. One piece in particular, the little round balls in the front ranks among the best dishes I have eaten in my life. It was like the best cake, muffin, dim sum ball all rolled into one.

Southern China is where Dim Sum was born. Guangzhou probably has the best Dim Sum in the world. A meal consisting of a wide variety of small little dumpling it is one of my favorite forms of Chinese food. One piece in particular, the little round balls in the front ranks among the best dishes I have eaten in my life. It was like the best cake, muffin, dim sum ball all rolled into one.

The restaurant was pretty posh.

The restaurant was pretty posh.

We ate and ate and ate. This fatty pork dish was both tender and succulent.

We ate and ate and ate. This fatty pork dish was both tender and succulent.

After the feasting my wife and her friends chatted while I took the kids to check out the Pearl River.

After the feasting my wife and her friends chatted while I took the kids to check out the Pearl River.

A pano of the housing development along the Pearl River.

A pano of the housing development along the Pearl River.

After Dim Sum we drove around a bit to look at the city. While Guangzhou is large it doesn’t have a concentric core of tall buildings like American cities. Their tend to be clusters.

After Dim Sum we drove around a bit to look at the city. While Guangzhou is large it doesn’t have a concentric core of tall buildings like American cities. Their tend to be clusters.

This is the city concern hall, though I wouldn’t be surprised if there are bigger/better venues now. The last time we were here this was on the outskirts of town with open fields around it. Now it is surrounded by high rent residential complexes.

This is the city concern hall, though I wouldn’t be surprised if there are bigger/better venues now. The last time we were here this was on the outskirts of town with open fields around it. Now it is surrounded by high rent residential complexes.

Most of the large Chinese cities that I have been two share one geographical feature, they are very flat. Consequently they have to build large structures to get broadcast antenne high in the air. As such any city in China that thinks itself modern seeks to build a unique TV tower.

Most of the large Chinese cities that I have been two share one geographical feature, they are very flat. Consequently they have to build large structures to get broadcast antenne high in the air. As such any city in China that thinks itself modern seeks to build a unique TV tower.

With our brief stay in Guangzhou drawing to a close we headed to the train station to catch the express to Hong Kong and the next part of our journey.

With our brief stay in Guangzhou drawing to a close we headed to the train station to catch the express to Hong Kong and the next part of our journey.

Intel 520 Series 240gb SSD Review *menu

Introduction

Every generation of new SSD’s has so far brought increased performance, higher reliability, and lower costs. When shopping for an SSD it’s important to know what generation the model you’re looking at falls under. If the price appears to be very attractive, chances are it’s an earlier generation. This isn’t bad if the price vs. performance is there, but often the latest generation and all it brings with it is available for not much more. Be wary of marketing where they’re stressing performance compared to other hard drives and not other SSD’s, or where a low price is being stressed. You should also expect a minimum 3 year warranty.

Bangkok Images is a huge believer in SSD’s (solid state drives). No single upgrade to your current computer, or part for your next computer build, is likely to have as much impact on overall performance as a proper SSD. In the last few years SSD’s have shown incredible growth in the market where any well spec’d computer will have at least one SSD. With some imaging and video workstations I build for clients we’ll often use three SSD’s for maximum performance.

SSD’s are coming down in price making them much more affordable than even 6-8 months ago, but they’re still priced where we best recommend them for notebooks and for the system drives on desktop workstations. There are high capacity storage SSD’s available, but they’re priced prohibitively for the average end user.

Every generation of new SSD’s has so far brought increased performance, higher reliability, and lower costs. When shopping for an SSD it’s important to know what generation the model you’re looking at falls under. If the price appears to be very attractive, chances are it’s an earlier generation. This isn’t bad if the price vs. performance is there, but often the latest generation and all it brings with it is available for not much more. Be wary of marketing where they’re stressing performance compared to other hard drives and not other SSD’s, or where a low price is being stressed. You should also expect a minimum 3 year warranty.

Every generation of new SSD’s has so far brought increased performance, higher reliability, and lower costs. When shopping for an SSD it’s important to know what generation the model you’re looking at falls under. If the price appears to be very attractive, chances are it’s an earlier generation. This isn’t bad if the price vs. performance is there, but often the latest generation and all it brings with it is available for not much more. Be wary of marketing where they’re stressing performance compared to other hard drives and not other SSD’s, or where a low price is being stressed. You should also expect a minimum 3 year warranty.

In the recent past it was a rare SSD that provided great performance, high reliability, and all the desired features such as garbage collection (TRIM). Usually the drive would suffer in one or more areas. The latest generation utilizing Sandforce controllers have been very good performers. Now IMO, one manufacturer stands alone in bringing that great performance coupled with all the desired features and best of all, extraordinary levels of product validation. In other words they’ve tested and refined the entire drive including the firmware to be the most reliable on the market. This is the Intel 520 Series Cherryville SSD’s. This is the new top dog I recommend for all my performance workstation builds. Follow along and I’ll tell you why.

In the recent past it was a rare SSD that provided great performance, high reliability, and all the desired features such as garbage collection (TRIM). Usually the drive would suffer in one or more areas. The latest generation utilizing Sandforce controllers have been very good performers. Now imo, one manufacturer stands alone in bringing that great performance coupled with all the desired features and best of all, extraordinary levels of product validation. In other words they’ve tested and refined the entire drive including the firmware to be the most reliable on the market. This is the Intel 520 Series Cherryville SSD’s. This is the new top dog I recommend for all my performance workstation builds. Follow along and I’ll tell you why.

Intel 520 Series 240gb SSD

The Intel 520 Series Cherryville SSD’s use Intels latest 25nm MLC Nand chips. The smaller the process node, the less power they consume and the less heat they produce which greatly enhances their life. They can also run faster. 25nm Nand chips are the smallest available in consumer products. The 520 series also uses Sandforces well proven SF-2281 controller code named Cherryville which might make you wonder why this controller since others have been using it for a while? After the small setbacks Intel experienced with the 320 series SSD’s they decided to be more cautious with the 520 series. The firmware was refined to a very high level and as I’ve already mentioned the validation process has been extraordinary, more by far than any other competing product. Intel SSD’s have an incidence return rate of only .1% while others hover around 5-9% as calculated by an independent review.

The SATA interface is the new SATA III/6gbps interface which is now supported by most every new motherboard and many of the newest notebooks such as Asus’s excellent Zen Ultrabook. The case is all aluminum where plastic would be just fine, and Intel backs their 520 Series SSD’s with an industry high 5 years! They have a very high level of confidence in their new SSD.

The box is well packed and includes power adapters so you can use both an SATA or Molex power source, a SATA III/6gbps rated cable, a 2.5 inch to 3.5 inch mounting plate, and the associated hardware. A complete packaging with all the items you might need for a notebook or desktop installation.

The box is well packed and includes power adapters so you can use both an SATA or Molex power source, a SATA III/6gbps rated cable, a 2.5 inch to 3.5 inch mounting plate, and the associated hardware. A complete packaging with all the items you might need for a notebook or desktop installation.

Installation and Performance

Our reviews try not to get too deep on the technical and testing processes, instead we like to focus on what the real world photography enthusiast is interested in rather than the hard core computer enthusiasts. In this particular build we used a 2700k Intel CPU in an Asus P8Z68 Deluxe Gen 2 motherboard with 3 Sapphire 6770 Flex 4 output video cards mounted in a very clean Lian-li V1020B case which I was building for client who needed a very powerful workstation for day trading. He needed it to support a minimum of six monitors and he wanted all the power and speed to work in real time. Building the computer was the easy part, but since day trading is heavily dependent on a very fast broadband connection it’s usually this connection which becomes the weak leak when used from inside Thailand.

Mounted in this state of the art machine with a Western Digital Caviar Black 2tb hard drive for data storage Intel’s newest 520 series SSD is sure to perform optimally. And of course it runs off an fully updated version of WIndows 7 Ultimate SP1.

Our reviews try not to get too deep on the technical and testing processes, instead we like to focus on what the real world camera enthusiast is interested in rather than the hard core computer enthusiasts. In this particular build we used a 2700k Intel CPU in an Asus Z68 motherboard with 3 Flex 4 output video cards mounted in a very clean Lian-li V1020B case which I was building for client who needed a very powerful workstation for day trading. He needed it to support a minimum of six monitors and he wanted all the power and speed to work in real time. Building the computer was the easy part, but since day trading is heavily dependent on a very fast broadband connection it’s usually this connection which becomes the weak leak when used from inside Thailand.

Installation was straightforward. The Lian-li case had four spaces dedicated to 2.5 inch drives and they supplied rubber vibration isolators. I screwed in the 4 rubber isolators, mounted it in the case, and connected a SATA power connector and a SATA III/6gbps cable to the Intel SATA III/6gbps controller on the motherboard.

The newest motherboards come equipped with both a Intel and Marvell SATA III/6gbps controller. A common question is which one should you use? As a rule, use the Intel controller with Intel and Sandforce SSD’s, and the Marvell controller with Marvell controlled SSD’s. Still, it pays to try both with the different versions of their drivers if you’re after the very best performance.

Out of curiosity I installed this SSD into a modern USB 3.0 case and ran the benchmarks.

In the USB 3.0 enclosure the drive returned a rather ordinary combined score of 246. I use the AS SSD benchmark because I feel it more closely emulates the tasks photographers most commonly use. 246 is okay, but so last generation SSD. Will it perform better once connected to a SATA III/6gbps controller?

In the USB 3.0 enclosure the drive returned a rather ordinary combined score of 246. I use the AS SSD benchmark because I feel it more closely emulates the tasks photographers most commonly use. 246 is okay, but so last generation SSD. Will it perform better once connected to a SATA III/6gbps controller?

WOW! This is the fastest score I’ve recorded from a SATA based SSD. Only the PCIe OCZ Revo drives are faster. If you remember I tested the previous speed king the Crucial C300 during my review here. The C300 scores a still respectable 643 even though it’s nearly 18 months old. In my Intel 320 series review that SSD only scored a 358. The new 520 series provides double the performance of their previous 320 series, and at least double the validation. This is one hot SSD!

750 WOW! This is the fastest score I’ve recorded from a SATA based SSD. Only the PCIe OCZ Revo drives are faster. If you remember I tested the previous speed king the Crucial C300 during my review here. The C300 scores a still respectable 643 even though it’s nearly 18 months old. In my Intel 320 series review that SSD only scored a 358. The new 520 series provides double the performance of their previous 320 series, and at least double the validation. This is one hot SSD! For this test we’ll only be using the AS SSD benchmark which you can download here.

Summary

There’s not a lot to quibble about here. As of April 2012, the Intel 520 Series 240gb SSD provides the highest level of performance and highest level of reliability validation of any SATA SSD I’m aware of. It is boxed with all the hardware you might need for a trouble free installation and it’s durable aluminum case is sure to withstand any normal abuse you might throw at it.

There’s not a lot to quibble about here. As of April 2012, the Intel 520 Series 240gb SSD provides the highest level of performance and highest level of reliability validation of any SATA SSD I’m aware of. It is boxed with all the hardware you might need for a trouble free installation and it’s durable aluminum case is sure to withstand any normal abuse you might throw at it.

Intel5209

I’ve already installed Intel’s 520 Series 240gb SSD’s in 7 custom workstation builds and every client is thrilled with the performance. No one has had any trouble at all. A few clients have got curious and opened their cases to take a look at it and they’ve all said something like “it’s beautiful..” Well, beauty is often only skin deep, but in the case of the Intel 520 Series 240gb Cherryville SSD beauty runs through and through. I suspect it will be a good year before a SSD comes on the market which equals all this drive offers. This is the drive to get now.

Photography News of Interest *menu

A Dutch model is deemed “too fat” to work. What do you think?

A Dutch model is deemed “too fat” to work. What do you think?

Jessica Simpson ROCKS in nude pregnancy photos! Ever since Demi Moore posed nude on the cover of Vanity Fair I’ve had scores of pregnant women want me to photograph them in the same way. And they look fantastic! Check our Jessica in Elle magazine. You’ll be glad you did.

Jessica Simpson ROCKS in nude pregnancy photos! Ever since Demi Moore posed nude on the cover of Vanity Fair I’ve had scores of pregnant women want me to photograph them in the same way. And they look fantastic! Check our Jessica in Elle magazine. You’ll be glad you did. Jessica Simpson ROCKS in nude pregnancy photos! Ever since Demi Moore posed nude on the cover of Vanity Fair I’ve had scores of pregnant women want me to photograph them in the same way. And they look fantastic! Check our Jessica in Elle magazine. You’ll be glad you did.

1800’s couple’s portraits reunited at Philly Museum. This is an interesting story. The man’s portrait was known to be displayed in a local museum, but the ladies was lost. It was found with the great-great-great granddaughter who had it displayed in her home thinking it was a reproduction. When she found out it was real she donated it to the museum so they could once again be displayed side by side.

1800’s couple’s portraits reunited at Philly Museum. This is an interesting story. The man’s portrait was known to be displayed in a local museum, but the ladies was lost. It was found with the great-great-great granddaughter who had it displayed in her home thinking it was a reproduction. When she found out it was real she donated it to the museum so they could once again be displayed side by side. 1800’s couple’s portraits reunited at Philly Museum. This is an interesting story. The man’s portrait was known to be displayed in a local museum, but the ladies was lost. It was found with the great-great-great granddaughter who had it displayed in her home thinking it was a reproduction. When she found out it was real she donated it to the museum so they could once again be displayed side by side.

Facts about America’s Warped Body Ideals are “controversial” somehow. This is an interesting article about nude plus size models, eating disorders, and differences in opinion concerning beauty. I get this underlying message that they author wants you to accept fat women are the new norm and we should adjust our tastes.

Facts about America’s Warped Body Ideals are “controversial” somehow. This is an interesting article about nude plus size models, eating disorders, and differences in opinion concerning beauty. I get this underlying message that they author wants you to accept fat women are the new norm and we should adjust our tastes. Facts about America’s Warped Body Ideals are “controversial” somehow. This is an interesting article about nude plus size models, eating disorders, and differences in opinion concerning beauty. I get this underlying message that they author wants you to accept fat women are the new norm and we should adjust our tastes.

Realistic Drawings Look Like Photographs! I can’t imagine the patience, or the skill level, this takes to pull off so well. These really do look like photographs.

Realistic Drawings Look Like Photographs! I can’t imagine the patience, or the skill level, this takes to pull off so well. These really do look like photographs. Realistic Drawings Look Like Photographs! I can’t imagine the patience, or the skill level, this takes to pull off so well. These really do look like photographs. Realistic Drawings Look Like Photographs! I can’t imagine the patience, or the skill level, this takes to pull off so well. These really do look like photographs.

Readers Submissions *menu

Steve please see my comments.

Again your advise and instructions were right on. This gives me exactly what I was looking for. Thanks.

Steve you have really done a lot to direct me to a much higher level of photography. You instructions, guidance, advise, software and equipment recommendations are always right on and have made picture taking so much more enjoyable.

I can not thank you enough for the help and perhaps we will meet up again and I will buy lunch.

Rick

Rick –

Thank you for the feedback. It’s always high praise to know I’m helping someone enjoy their photography. We’ve been corresponding on/off for a while know, and just by asking questions and considering my responses, all of us who read this column have watched your photography improve by leaps and bounds.

Some have asked why I print your questions and submissions and not print others. The answer is simple, it’s because I think your journey is a common one. Your shared experiences will benefit many others setting out on the same path. Your gift to us.

I hope you continue because I suspect your improvements will start to come faster, you’ve reached a point of knowledge where you’re gaining confidence in both your decision making and you photography, and you’ve accepted that making mistakes is part of the process. All this means fast improvement.

Thanks again Rick.

Steve

I’d like to mention that everyone, myself included, is really enjoying the current trend of readers submissions. Everyone loves them, but remember we can really use more. I have only another week’s worth in my queue, so please take the time to put together a few images and words if you can and send them in. Thank you. [email protected]

Readers Questions *menu

Hello Steve,

How are things? I have been following the site regularly and enjoyed the articles and updates. Dana's submission was uplifting and thanks for the tip on the Adobe Lightroom update. I haven't used it much since downloading it but the map feature really caught my attention. I always found maps to be interesting and the possibilities with this in Lightroom seems to be extensive.

I have had a few questions that I feel I've started to answer through research on the internet but in doing so raised new questions you may be able to help with.

1. In regards to in camera HDR image processing I wondered about the length of time it would take to fire off three shots on, say, a camera that achieved "approximately" 6 shots per second. I deduced "approximately" 1/2 sec plus the exposure time for a total time always greater than 1/2 second increasing to the cameras limit for max exposure which seems to be around 30 seconds for the cameras I looked at. (This brings up an intermediate question… Would it be wise or even possible to execute three consecutive shots in the 30 second range or would the sensor over heat?) I derived the conclusion that the average time for an in camera HDR image would be between>1/2 second to around 5/6th second. I came to this conclusion using beer math while sitting at the computer one evening so I may be a bit off base here.

2. Another assumption was that the write speed of a memory card might (it does) effect the number of shots per second. After reading your article on memory cards I shopped around a bit and found quite a few choices on B&H alone. Looking at SD and CF cards I noticed the read/write speeds for both were generally comparable between cards of the same size with the exception of Lexar that offers 32, 64 and 128GB CF cards with a speed of 150MB/s. Here ( http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/841566-REG/Lexar_LCF32GCTBNA1000_32GB_CompactFlash_Memory_Card.html)

My questions here are:

a. Is there an advantage to using one type of card over another ie… CF over SD or SD over CF if they are rated at the same size and speed?

b. Will USB2 be able to read the 150MB/s cards at full speed and do these cards read and write at the same speeds?

3. Are there HDR cameras already on the market capable of writing at 150MB/s, or does it really matter if the files are smaller than 150MB? For instance, will a 22MB file write substantially faster on a 150MB/s card vs. a 90MB/s card?

My reason for this research is to determine how to utilize in camera HDR image processing. My thoughts that 6 shots per second is fast were dashed after thinking about it a bit. Wondering how a half second relates to the camera world I went back online to a music site, no less, and found an online digital metronome. ( http://www.metronomeonline.com/) I clicked on 120 to set it at 2 beats per second and it started to clack away. Now bear with me… While the metronome provided it's steady beat I clapped my hands as fast as I could to see how many times I could clap in a 1/2 second. I found two claps to be the rough average leading me to the realization that quite a bit of movement can happen in a 1/2 to 5/6 second time frame. Now, this was allot of work to figure out what camera manufactures are already telling us, right? (That, "HDR is effective for still life and landscapes.") My efforts have helped me gain a better idea of how to judge the movement of a wave, running water, or the wind moving a tree branch during certain landscape shots to include HDR. There are even metronome aps for iphone and android out there.

1. Learn to use Photomatix Pro and raw images.. much better.

2. I consider 4fps the bare minimum for “average” static scenes suitable for HDR.. even static scenes have moving clouds/sky/water/leaves/branches. 6 is marginally better, 9-11 a lot better.

Thanks and I hope all is well. Talk later.

Joe

Joe –

You’ve been busy! I’m going to take these questions in order the best I can. Here goes:

1. Great question. My answer and the manufacturers answer will probably be different, and for sure our motivations are different. Yes, sensors can overheat and when they do noise is much more present. Also, sensors can be overheated and their characteristics can/will change. A case and point is the 5d2, originally it had a 30 minute max recording time as a pre-release. Canon’s testers demonstrated how easily a 30 minute recording span would eat sensors and ruin cameras.

Cooling is always possible through different mechanisms, but they require power, space, and if not implemented perfectly will decrease from image quality. So yes, there are limits. I don’t know if the 30 second limits you’re speaking of for HDR will cause issues, you’ll just have to try it. But 30 minutes of an open shutter (as required for video) sure does.. so in the production models Canon knocked it back to I think.. 10 minutes. Some cameras are less in the 3-4 minute range.

Also, HDR is much better done manually using raw images. “In Camera” is great for point and shoot stuff, but so far not for serious work.

2.

a. There shouldn’t be. However, I consistently find CF cards rated at the same speeds to be significantly faster.

b. Ideally it should, realistically it won’t. There’s more at play with the speed ratings than just matching them up. Almost for certain, computer depending, you won’t get full transfer speeds without either a USB3.0 card reader or a SATA card reader. And no, while some cards read/write at the same speeds most do not. Read the fine print.

3. I don’t know. Because I haven’t been interested in HDR capable cameras it’s not something I’ve looked into. If you send me the model number(s) of what you’re looking at I’ll get back to you.

4. Some additional thoughts:

  1. Learn to use Photomatix Pro and raw images.. much better.
  2. I consider 4fps the bare minimum for “average” static scenes suitable for HDR.. even static scenes have moving clouds/sky/water/leaves/branches. 6 is marginally better, 9-11 a lot better.

Steve

Steve –

One of the guys I meet all the time at the local open space area is using a Canon SX40.

It has a 800 mm optical zoom and a few bells and whistles on the camera. Does not take RAW but has both a view finder and LCD screen.

I checked the from the local camera store and used it for a few days. Was impressed with ease of use except for the view finder. Doesn't compare with the Nikon finder in overall "user friendly" side by side match up.

Smaller and lighter than our DSLR cameras but the results, at least what he sends me, seem sharp and with lots of good color.

He has quite a following and gives a lot of free advise to anyone who asks.

What is you opinion of the pictures shown on his web site.

http://www.ethanwinning.com/

http://www.cameralabs.com/reviews/Canon_PowerShot_SX40_HS/

Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer on this camera.

6 days until we hit the 20 hour trip to BKK.

Rickster

Hi Rick –

Did you read my last piece on“camera categories?” It has a sensor size visual aid at the very bottom which will help you see the difference in sensor size between your DSLR and the HS40. I believe the HS40 has the 1/1.7” size sensor and your Sony and your wife’s Nikon a 23.6×15.7mm… which is a night and day difference in image quality, light collection, and high ISO performance. If you’re always going to be shooting in really bright light the HS40 will produce adequate images.. but the less light the more limited it becomes. That, and it’s lens is super slow..

These are so different you really can’t compare them to a DSLR on anything but they both take pictures.

If you’re asking would it be a good ‘do everything’ type camera to carry on vacation? Maybe. If you shoot in bright light you’ll be fine. The long lens is very difficult to get even decent focus with.. the camera is far too small and light to brace well, you’d need to be chocked up in a high quality tripod to get sharp images above 300mm.. but that’s the same for DSLR’s too. Some people can shoot longer focal lengths hand held, but it’s a matter of practice and your ratio of keepers to throwaways.

If I was taking pictures like this guy, of wildlife and the such.. and didn’t want to invest 20-30k in DSLR gear then the HS40 allows you to still get some decent pics for far far less. For many this is all they need. But for general purpose use I’d much rather have your NEX-5..

Not sure any of that was helpful.

Steve

Steve –

I purchased the FUJI SX-1 "bridge" camera here in BKK. It looks hot and has a 640 mm optical zoom lens. Small sensor and heavy as compared to others in class. Paid about $740 after VAT refund.

First report is that while it is easy to use the most important thing is picture quality and that does not measure up to our big sensor cameras. Should have listened to you and wife on that issue. Oh well, it will hit E-Bay upon my return to USA.

Siam Paragon is hosting a big Nikon show end of month and perhaps I will make another poor decision there. Looking at the D 7000 but expensive.

Off to the "jungles" for a few days of picture taking. (Not Soi Cowboy) LOL

A few shots from Nikon D5100.

Rickster

A few shots from Nikon D5100.

A few shots from Nikon D5100.

A few shots from Nikon D5100.

A few shots from Nikon D5100.

A few shots from Nikon D5100.

Hi Rick –

It’s probably not the camera which is bad.. most likely it’s just really damn hard to hold the thing steady at the extended focal lengths.. which really negates the purpose of this camera.

If you’re up to it, send it to me for about 7-10 days upon your return and let me review it. I’ll chock it up in a proper tripod, find out what the camera can do, and then if the camera is fine then I’ll see if some common techniques work well with this model. You might find the camera is usable. Or maybe not. But I thought I’d throw the offer out there. I think it would be an interesting review.

The D7000 is a nice camera. So is the new D800…. ;o)

Steve

Please submit your questions to [email protected] All questions will be answered and most will show up in the weekly column.


A Snapshot of Bangkok Images Month in Review *menu

Another month in the Mid West. I'm very close to completing my first commercial website, when it goes live I'll share it with you here. I'm doing some video recordings using DSLR's for a local band which is interesting. With an early spring the area is coming to life and I'll be getting out more with the camera to start building my local portfolio.

Infocus Blog, Thailand Photo Stories by Dana *menu

Not a single picture on the walls, or on the fireplace mantle, or the tops of the dressers in the bedrooms, or the tops of the desks, or . . . not a single framed photo or framed and hung photo. My parents had not taken, framed, or hung a single photo that had to do with their adult lives, their children, or their family. To this day my adult sis ter and myself are just stunned by this. How bankrupt could their lives have been? How empty their hearts? How limited their minds? Who were those people? They don't seem like my parents. I often say that to my sister:

I grew up in a dysfunctional family. It damaged me for life. At age sixty-two I am still angry. But at least I was alert. I knew things were not right. My sister lives three thousand miles away so we rarely see each other, but when we do get together we sometimes talk about the lack of pictures. No photos.

Standing at the front door at age eighteen waiting for the taxi to come and take me to the airport for my trip to college, I traveled with my mind's eye to every room in the house: the big living room, the dining room, the kitchen, the downstairs hallway, the downstairs bathroom, and then upstairs to the upstairs bathroom, upstairs hallway, and four bedrooms. Not a single picture.

Not a single picture on the walls, or on the fireplace mantle, or the tops of the dressers in the bedrooms, or the tops of the desks, or . . . not a single framed photo or framed and hung photo. My parents had not taken, framed, or hung a single photo that had to do with their adult lives, their children, or their family. To this day my adult sister and myself are just stunned by this. How bankrupt could their lives have been? How empty their hearts? How limited their minds? Who were those people? They don't seem like my parents. I often say that to my sister:

"Who were those people? They sure don't seem like MY parents."

Like I said. A dysfunctional family and a lifetime of memories that are hard to deal with. Could I make a suggestion? Stop what you are doing now, find a camera, and take a picture of family. Not for a scrapbook, or to be hidden away in a box of slides, or to be stored in some computer file; but for the top of the fireplace mantle, or a desk top, or a wall. Do some bragging. Show some pride. Declare your love. Make the effort. Take a picture.