News from the Ether Feb 17

Some recent articles that may be of interest…

 

Nik Software Suite is now free

Google has announced that the Nik software suite is now free.  This is a powerful yet easy to use suite including Analog Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, Silver Efex Pro, Vivesa, HDR Efex Pro, Sharpener Pro and Dfine.

I think I paid $US450 for it some years ago.  When Google took it over eighteen months ago, they reduced the price to $US150.

There is good and bad in this.  The good is that it is a great product and if you do not have it you should download it and use whichever modules work for you.  Silver Efex Pro in particular is an easy and powerful method of monochrome conversions.  You can find tutorials here.

The bad is it may have a limited life expectancy.  There appears to have been no updates since Google took it over and Google may not be prepared to maintain it for future operating system changes.  The question remains whether they are committed to such powerful and easy to use products for the serious photographer or whether in future they will be focused on more superficial products for the mass market.

How to maintain Epson Printers

Up till around seven years ago, “clogging” could be a chronic problem with Epson printers. Now, they are usually very reliable but “clogs” still can happen.

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Canberra Photographic Society, Clogged Heads, Epson, News from the Ether, Photography, Printers

New SC-P800.  Working fine.

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You can tell if you have a “clog” if you run a nozzle check and there are broken lines. Then you run a head clean and usually that solves the problem. You should really run a nozzle check before each printing operation to avoid wasting expensive paper.  (You run both a nozzle check and a head clean through the printer driver).

“Clogs” are usually build up of excess ink on the heads blocking nozzles. It can happen if you don’t print for a while so you should periodically print or run a nozzle check. Opinions vary on how often that should be but at least every month is probably a good starting point.  Actually, Geoff Schewe suggests every week and using an image that uses more ink than the nozzle check pattern.

In Canberra we live in a climate that is hot and dry in summer. This makes ink dry more quickly and can lead to blockages. Try and have your printer in a cool humid environment. My house has evaporative cooling but it doesn’t work so well in my study where the printer is so I also use a portable evaporative cooler. As a cheaper option, this is essentially the same as the old method of having a fan with a bowl of water underneath it.

Some years ago, I experienced “clogging” due to air in the lines on an R800 printer. If I waited until the ink ran out to replace a cartridge rather than replacing it at the first warning light, I could get air in the lines and need extensive purges. I haven’t experienced this with subsequent printers and suspect that this is a problem of the past.

You can get clogs if your inks are too old. They will last longer than the use-by date but how long that might be is a matter of judgement and will depend on your printing conditions. I suspect two or three years past the use-by date is still OK. I had a blockage last year that required an expensive replacement of the ink delivery system and I had cartridges that were five years out of date. That may be pushing it too much. So that my inks are more recent, I also now buy them singly as each runs out rather than a whole set at a time.

Third party ink can also be the source of problems. It’s always better to use genuine Epson ink.

If you have a blockage and it doesn’t come good after say three head cleans, then further cleans will probably just deposit ink on the head and make it worse. If the printer is not under warranty there is another procedure you may like to try. I have tried it and it worked for me but please note you try this entirely at your own risk.

It involves Blue Windex and Chux Superwipes or paper towels. Alternatively, you can use a commercial solution instead of the Windex. In short, you cut to size a sheet of the superwipes, spray some Windex over it, put it under the printer head and leave overnight. In the morning, you take it out, cut another piece, put Windex on that, put it under the head and move the head over it for twenty or thirty seconds. Then you run a head clean and a nozzle check (maybe twice if necessary). If there is only partial improvement, try running the process again another one or two times. Potentially you may be able to resuscitate an old inkjet printer lying around in your garage to you can give it away.

Here is a video better explaining the process for an Epson 3800 or 3880 (using a commercial product). The process for an older printer where the cartridges sit over the heads is similar but a little different.

Once again, this will void your printer warranty and you try this entirely at your own risk.

 

Summary then:

  • Run a nozzle check before each print run
  • Try to not let your printer get too hot and dry
  • Periodically print or run a nozzle check
  • Replace inks if they get very old
  • Use Epson Ink
  • If a nozzle check shows a “clog’, run a head clean
  • Don’t run too many head cleans in a row, no more than say three
  • If necessary you can try the procedure described above, though at your own risk.

Recent Articles from the Web (April to July 2015)

(News from the Ether)

Technique

HDR Panoramic Photography Tutorial by John Maynard

Drone Photography in Iceland by Spencer Cox

Making people and other things go away by Kevin Raber

The very old debate about image manipulation by Ignacio Palacio

Night photography image processing, best settings and tips by Roger N Clark

 

Cameras and Lenses

IBIS High Resolution Mode – Amazing Technology by Nasim Mansurov

Thom’s recommended Nikon DSLRs by Thom Hogan

Thom’s Recommended lenses for FX users by Thom Hogan

The Upward Ladder by Thom Hogan

Current Mirrorless Lens Availability by Thom Hogan

Canon 5Ds Review through Print Performance by Keith Cooper

Canon G3x Review by Michael Reichmann

 

Printers

Epson Surecolor P800 Review by Keith Cooper

The New Epson Surecolor P800 Printer Review by Mark Segal

 

Software

Stellar Phoenix Photo Recovery Review by Spencer Cox

CS6? – The end is nigh by Thom Hogan

 

Computers

The Ultimate PC Build for Photographic Needs by Nasim Mansurov

How to Upgrade to Windows 10 by Nasim Mansurov

Windows 10 Spying: How to opt out of Microsoft’s intrusive terms of use by Doug Boulton (the Independent)

 

Photoshop and Lightroom Updates

(News from the Ether)

New versions of Photoshop and Lightroom are available – Photoshop CC (2015) and Lightroom CC (2015).  The upgrading process is a lot more straightforward and automated than for the CC 2014 upgrades.

Main changes appear to be:

  • New dehaze filter  (Lightroom and ACR)
  • New black and white sliders for Gradient Filter, Radial Filter and Adjustment Brush (Lightroom and ACR)
  • Improved processing of Fuji RAW files in Lightroom/ ACR
  • Improvements to content-aware fill (Photoshop)

However, new features such as the dehaze filter are not available in Lightroom 6 (just the CC option).  It is not clear whether they will become available later.

For short videos on the changes, see Julianne Kost’s Blog.

 

FastRawViewer

(News from the Ether).

A new product, FastRawViewer may be of interest to some.  It is made by the same people that produced RawDigger.  As the name implies, it is a viewer with minimal editing capabilities.  Its value is that it offers a genuine RAW histogram, that you don’t get in Lightroom for example, or I would think other RAW processors. It also offers focus peaking to help assess sharpness.

This means that you can quickly scan your RAW files and determine which are accurately exposed (with no blown highlights) and perhaps sharpness.  You can then assign stars or colours to your selected images and these will come across when you import them to Lightroom.

  • If your images are already in Lightroom, the stars or colours you assigned don’t come across automatically.  You will see a little vertical arrow at the top right of an image.  If you click on that you get a warning that metadata has been changed and can select [Import Settings from Disk].  You can do this for many images at a time.
  • Alternatively, if your images are already in Lightroom, you could remove them first before assessing them in FastRawViewer.  (Press Delete, then select Remove rather than Delete from Disk)
    • Ratings will then show automatically when you re-import the images to Lightroom
    • However, if you have made changes to the images in Lightroom and you have Edit/Catalog Settings…/[Automatically write changes into XMP] unchecked, you will need to first save metadata to file (Metadata/ Save metadata to file or [Ctrl][S]
      • In other words, in Lightroom you can write change to the catalogue or also write them to sidecar files.  If you only save to the catalogue and remove images from the catalogue without first saving the metadata to file, you will lose any changes you have made).

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Maui Taxi

Here is an example of the main screen.  I also have an array of thumbnails to select and navigate with on a separate pane in my other monitor .  You can see overexposed areas by pressing [O] and underexposed areas by pressing [U].  There are both in this image.  The underexposed areas (with no detail) are behind the grille and do not matter.  The overexposed areas are mainly reflected sky on the windscreen and probably do not matter.  If I really wanted to correct that in Photoshop, I could sample the windscreen colour, apply that to a blank layer at just off full white and blend using “Darker” blending mode.  It is, incidentally, an infrared image and this is not its final appearance.

When I first checked FastRawViewer out last month, it was too slow on my PC to be usable, taking around six seconds to turn over from one image to the next.  Nasim Mansurov did not find this in his review so it may depend on how your PC is configured.  However, having downloaded the new version 1.1.1, speed is no longer a problem for me so it becomes usable.  It’s quite cheap.  You can download a trial for free and it only costs $US20.

 

Release of Lightroom 6 and Lightroom CC

(News from the Ether)

There is a new version of Lightroom.  You can either purchase an upgrade to Lightrooom 6 or get it as Lightroom CC if you have a subscription.  New features include:

  • Panorama Merge (to DNG file)
  • HDR Merge (also to DNG file)
  • Filter Brush (partially remove the effects of another tool)
  • Face recognition (probably assigns ketywords)
  • Advanced video slideshows
  • Performance improvements (GPU processing)

Click here for more details from Nasim Mansurov.