Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Indulging My Inner Geek

Upgrading digital hardware can be a frustrating experience. Being a user of Nikon equipment makes things even more challenging. Don't get me wrong... I love the Nikon gear. Ergonomically speaking, these top-end pro camera bodies feel great in my hand, much more so than any of the competing manufacturer's brands. Granted, this is a purely subjective measure but an important one when you find yourself gripping one of these tools 4-8 hours a day. 

A string of natural disasters, earthquakes & tsunamis in Japan and now the current flooding in Thailand, have put Nikon even further behind the new product release curve for professional level products. Expected word on release of a new D4 series super camera expected last month never materialized. Finding a new D3x model, at least here in the US, is next to impossible... most dealers list the camera as backordered with no clue as to when stock might arrive. Dealers that have stock on the shelves are selling them for outrageous prices far above the MSR price. Desperately needing to upgrade my trusty D2x, I opted for a mint-condition used D3x. It arrived last week and I'm quite happy with the decision based on the limited use I've put it thru since it's arrival. 

Another recent upgrade was in the laptop computer department. The old Apple G5 laptop still works fine... has been an amazing piece of equipment actually. It's been dragged around the world several times, used in inclement weather situations and has never failed me. Compared to the latest generation of processors, however, this thing is a dinosaur... adequate but slow. A new MacBook Pro has recently replaced the old G5.

For the type of work I do (mostly still-life, food & architecture) the ability to shoot with the camera tethered to the laptop, both in studio & on location, is essential for lighting & composition checks. The software I have used up to this point has been another Nikon product, Nikon Capture. While slow, a bit clunky and somewhat unstable from my perspective, the software was adequate and allowed for the instant image previews required for my type of work.

The new MacBook Pro, of course, came loaded with Apple's newest operating system OS 10.7.2 (Lion). And... as is the case with with all new operating systems, some old software works and a lot of it doesn't. I haven't yet gotten around to testing things like print drivers and the like... I don't use the laptop for fine-editing or printing in most cases. The one software I need for my work, Nikon Capture, doesn't work at all on the new system... calls to Nikon Tech Support informed me that an upgraded version is on the way, but there is no idea when the new product upgrade might be released. This, I initially thought, could be a real problem, especially when it comes to shooting in the field. My options, it seemed, where to continue using the old laptop until the new software was released, or creating a new partition on the hard drive of the new laptop and then loading on older version of the Mac OS on that partition, sorely to run old software. Neither option was particularly appealing.

Taking to the web in search of information on other options, I came across the website of German software manufacturer with a product specifically designed for tethered shooting using Nikon DLSR's (all of them) and the new Mac OS. Soforbild tethered shooting application for Macs does almost everything that Nikon Capture was able to do, short of adding meta-data information to image files as you shoot them, and it does it faster, cleaner and... perhaps a little easier. The Soforbild software also opens faster and based on my limited experimentations thus far, is far more stable and less clunky that the previous Nikon option.

Sofortbild allows for complete control over image quality, exposure & aperture settings, white balance, ISO and camera firing directly from the computer. It also offers Live Preview capability for cameras equipped with that function. Files   download to the laptop far faster than they ever did using the Nikon product. Best of all, Sofortbild is available for download at no cost... free... gratis! You can find Sorfortbild here. The developer asks that you make a donation towards further development if you like the program as much as I think I do. Time & further testing will be the final judge, but so far, I'm pretty ecstatic to have found this option.

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