Synology DiskStation 1513+

I always advocate cloud storage for off-site media and storage, and my libraries have grown so much over the years that single hard drives in my desktop don’t cut it anymore. My old Drobo’s were too slow and I had an Apple XServe file server sitting around, and while it seems to be the perfect option, the machine is as loud as a Boeing 747 during take-off… Research led me to the Synology NAS (Network Attached Storage) units and users were raving about them in unison.

At first I thought, a 2-bay unit like the Synology DiskStation 2-Bay (Diskless) Network Attached Storage (DS213j) would tide me over for a while, but I convinced myself reasoned quickly that a more powerful device like the Synology DiskStation 4-Bay (Diskless) Network Attached Storage DS412+ (Black) would be more sufficient for my needs.

The 4-bay unit sounds almost perfect for everyday needs with up to 16TB of storage, but I figured I’d rather spend a $100 more on a 5-bay unit with room to grow and I invested in a Synology DiskStation 5-Bay Diskless Network Attached Storage (NAS) with iSCSI/DS1513+ (DS1513+)

Pretty much all being equal, the Synology 1513+ unit allows for managed add-on storage via eSATA with the Synology Disk Station 5-Bay Expansion Unit for Increasing Capacity Network Attached Storage (DX513), which should leave me with enough room of my growing needs of local storage.Synology 1513+ DiskStation

Synology 1513+ DiskStation

The Synology Disk Station DS1513+ is very compact in size and very quiet

Synology 1513+ DiskStation

Synology 1513+ DiskStation

Synology 1513+ DiskStation

Synology 1513+ DiskStation

Synology 1513+ DiskStation

Adding additional Hard Drives is a snap. To start, I added Three 4TB Western Digital Red drives in a Synology SHR (similar to RAID5, but more efficient) setup, which are NAS certified, i.e. run cooler and more quiet than desktop drives: WD Red 3 TB NAS Hard Drive: 3.5 Inch, SATA III, 64 MB Cache – WD30EFRX

Synology DiskStation 1513+ transfer speeds

Transfer speeds are ridiculously high, even with only one Gigabit LAN connection (The Synology 1513+ offers 4 Gigabit connections for simultaneous connections). Jumbo packets (your router/switch needs to support them) seemed to make a huge difference with some file transfers. The unit runs very cool, and has redundant fans, which suck the air through the device, in the rear.

Synology Disk Station 1513+ control panel

The OS/software gets controlled via browser and is very well thought-out and easy to deal with, it took me merely one afternoon to set everything up for multiple users and remote access – admittedly I’m familiar with the procedure of networking and port-forwarding etc. and have set up file servers before.

The Synology Disk Stations offer much more than dumb storage, as they have, just like a full blown file server, a processor, RAM and OS built-in and the possibilities are endless for home and small business use. I couldn’t be happier with my decision to go with the 1513+.

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Photoshop performance booster

Screen-Shot-2013-10-13-at-11.40.25-PM

Screen-Shot-2013-10-13-at-10.09.55-PM

There are many ways to tinker with and improve Photoshop’s performance, most importantly to allocate plenty of RAM for the application and utilizing a second hard drive as a scratch disk, both of which are sufficient most of the time. However, if you are working with large files on a regular basis, and file save and read times stifle your workflow, you may want to rethink your strategy and switch to SSDs for the most time consuming tasks.

I have had a hybrid setup on my Mac for a few years now, an SSD for my system and apps and a regular platter hard drive for file storage, and while recent SATA drives are plenty fast for most applications, performance takes a hard hit with huge Photoshop files. I’m just finishing up a retouching job where every psd file is larger than 1.35GB and some even hit the 2GB ceiling and I had to save the larger files as psb files (Large document format), the largest file weighs in at 2.76GB.

Regular HDDs didn’t cut it in terms of performance, and I ended up adding another SSD as an additional work drive for Photoshop files only & I was able to cut file opening times drastically (SSD 13.3 seconds vs HDD 32.5 seconds) and save a few percentage points during file saving (SSD 29.6 seconds vs HDD 37.2 seconds). I also allocated my regular 2TB HDD file storage drive as a scratch disk. All tested with a 2.76 GB psb file, 100% in RAM, Maximize Compatibility during save is on and a ton of other apps are open…

My Windows 8 PC’s performance also greatly improved with an SSD as a system/app drive… I remapped my document folders to a regular HDD and everything is flying pretty good.

Samsung 840 Pro 256GB

Samsung Electronics 840 Pro Series 2.5-Inch 256 GB SATA 6GB/s Solid State Drive MZ-7PD256BW

Samsung 840 EVO 250GB

Samsung Electronics 840 EVO-Series 250GB 2.5-Inch SATA III Single Unit Version Internal Solid State Drive MZ-7TE250BW

Samsung 840 EVO 120GB

Samsung Electronics 840 EVO-Series 120GB 2.5-Inch SATA III Single Unit Version Internal Solid State Drive MZ-7TE120BW

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Time lapse technical pointers

When I first started doing time lapses a few months ago, I used the iPhone app trigger trap with its accompanying dongle for my EOS cameras (EOS Rebel t3i, and my trusty EOS 5D MKI)

The setup proved to be somewhat cumbersome, as I had to strap the iPhone to the tripod with a rubber band and handle two devices at the same time… In the meantime I had been using the t3i for video with Magic Lantern, which extends the cameras feature set with peak focusing, audio meters, crop overlays, zebras and other things that are very useful for video.

What I also discovered at the time, was that Magic Lantern has a built-in intervalometer for and the Rebel became my camera for said setups, but upon comparison, the larger sensor of the 5D with its lower pixel density still provides better image quality with less noise, especially at night, and I was somewhat bummed out that I still had to use the older camera with the somewhat cumbersome trigger trap setup.

On a side note, I had used a 5D MKII before, but never liked how it handles video, as it seemed like an afterthought on the camera and seriously preferred the Rebel t3i for video, especially with the swivel screen and more modern software (you can read some of my recommendations about video gear on a budget here). So I stuck with my trusty old 5D MKI for still and then recently discovered that someone ported Magic Lantern to the MKI (or EOS 5D classic), which seriously made my day – no more fiddling around with dongles and remote cables!

Contrary to common belief, Magic Lantern does not alter the firmware of the camera and gets loaded as an additional program from the memory card, which needs to be made bootable through the firmware update process. Takes 2 minutes to to and one can run the camera in “factory” mode from a fresh memory card.

Trigger trap does have a greatly advanced feature set, and now also offers an Android app, for those who are interested in experimenting with it. the dongle and adapter cables for a variety of cameras are available on amazon.

products mentioned in this article:
Canon EOS Rebel t3i
trigger trap
trigger trap dongle and adapter cables for a variety of cameras are available on amazon.
Magic Lantern port for 5D MKI (EOS 5D classic),

If you buy something through the provided amazon or B&H photo links, you help me out and motivate me to write more tips and reviews, as I receive a small percentage of the sale. thank you!

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Cloudflare stats

cloudflare review
click on image for larger view

As mentioned in my previous post, I’m using cloudflare as a Content Delivery System (CDN) for most of my websites… as you can see from the stats, it saves a little over 50% bandwidth and a little over 50% in file requests are saved. Loading time -some of the photo pages are pretty hefty- was cut in half as well, tested with pingdom tools.

This blog is running on wordpress and to improve local performance, I increased the php memory limit to 128MB, and also employ DB Cache Reloaded Fix for database caching and WP Super Cache for delivery

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Six high quality compact cameras for street and travel photography

It’s been a long time since I reviewed compact cameras for , and a lot has changed since then. The issue is pretty clear – sometimes we don’t want to lug around our bulky gear, be it a rangefinder, or a full sized DSLR, or even a medium format camera. Recent pocket cameras have seen fantastic upgrades in sensor technology and lenses and the latest crop (pun intended) of compact street shooters really shines.

Canon-PowerShot-S110-Camera

Canon PowerShot S110
Canon’s latest PowerShot has a regular 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor, but packs the powerful Digic-5 processor and with this system, you’ll experience excellent autofocus, tracking and high ISO performance, even in low lighting. The 3-inch touchscreen is a nice addition to this tiny marvel of technology.

features
12.1MP Resolution 1/1.7″ CMOS Sensor
24-120mm UA Lens (35mm Equivalent)
5x Optical Zoom, f/2.0-5.9 Aperture
3.0″ PureColor Touch Screen LCD Display
HS SYSTEM Technology, High Speed AF
DIGIC 5 Image Processor, Intelligent IS
Full HD 1080p Video with Stereo Sound
High-Speed Burst HQ, Manual Control Ring
ISO 12800, Multi-Aspect Ratio RAW
Smart AUTO, Movie Digest & Wi-Fi

purchase the Canon Power Shot S110 from amazon

Fujifilm-X20-Camera

FujiFilm X20
New electronics make this camera a joy to use, it is way snappier than its predecessor, the Fuji X10. The X20’s autofocus is, according to Fuji, the fastest in its class at .06(!) seconds. That, with the lack of a shutter lag and its classic styling make it an ideal candid street shooter to tag along.

features
12MP 2/3″ X-Trans CMOS II Sensor
Fujinon 28-112mm f/2-2.8 Zoom Lens
Advanced Optical Zoom Viewfinder
2.8″ 460k-Dot LCD Monitor
EXR Processor II
Intelligent Hybrid AF System
ISO 100-12800
Full HD 1080 Video at 60fps
Film Simulation and Advanced Filters
Die-Cast Magnesium Body Construction

purchase the Fujifilm X20 in silver from amazon
purchase the Fujifilm X20 in black from amazon

Olympus-Stylus-XZ-2-Camera

Olympus Stylus XZ-2
Olympus with its strong heritage has always been a little bit of an oddball for me in the digital world, but that clearly has changed since the introduction of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and the XZ-2 seems to be the real Olympus Pen camera they always wanted to create. It has a fast lens with a backlit sensor and a built-in handgrip to boot.

features
12MP Resolution 1/1.7″ BSI CMOS Sensor
TruePic VI Image Processor
27-108mm f/1.8-2.5 (35mm Equiv) Lens
4x Optical Zoom
3.0″ Swiveling Touchscreen LCD Display
Dual Image Stabilization
Full HD 1080p Video Recording
In-Camera Panorama Mode
11 Art Filters
Built-In Accessory Port

purchase the Olympus XZ-2 from amazon

Panasonic-Lumix-DMC-LX7-Camera

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7
I think that Panasonic is making the right move by not increasing its compact shooter’s MegaPixel count. Panasonic clearly has a winner on its hands with the Lumix LX-5’s successor, which I always liked in terms of handling and image quality, partly due to the glass. A Time Lapse function is built-in, which in itself is a good reason for me to upgrade.

features
New 1/1.7″ 10.1MP MOS Sensor
Venus Engine Image Processor
Leica Vario-Summilux 24-90mm f/1.4 Lens
3.8 Optical Zoom Lens
3.0″ 920K-Dot LCD with Auto Brightness
Full HD 1080 Video Recording
RAW and RAW+JPEG Recording Options
Trust iA and iA Plus Modes
Creative Control Modes
Time Lapse Shot Function

purchase the Panasonic Lumix LX-7 on amazon

Sigma-DP3-Merrill-Camera

Sigma DP1 Merill & DP2 Merrill
The Foveon sensor produces an image quality that is truly in a different league, while the MegaPixel count may seem a little bloated, the pixels are so tiny that the DP’s photos are insanely sharp and detailed. The DP2’s fixed 45mm f2.8 lens is a welcomed feature for , albeit a little long in my opinion, but your mileage may vary and Cartier-Bresson shot with a 50mm all his life. Personally, I’d take the 28mm DP1 any day… Sigma surely has learned a lesson or two since the original DP1.

features
46MP Foveon X3 Direct Image Sensor
Dual TRUE II Image Processing Engine
28mm f/2.8 Prime Lens (Merrill DP1)
45mm f/2.8 Prime Lens (Merrill DP2)
50mm f/2.8 Prime Lens (Merrill DP3)
3.0″ High Resolution TFT Color LCD
Movie Mode
Advanced User Interface
Auto and Ring-controlled Manual Focus
RAW + JPEG Format Recording
4 Frames Per Second in RAW Format

purchase the 28mm Sigma DP1 Merrill on amazon
purchase the 45mm Sigma DP2 Merrill on amazon
purchase the 50mm Sigma DP3 Merrill on amazon

Sony-Cyber-Shot-RX100-Camera

Sony Cybershot RX100
Sony’s compact offering sports a huge DSLR sized 1-inch Exmor CMOS sensor in a relatively small package that blows the competition away in terms of noise and image quality. It’s not even too pricey at $648, and well worth the investment into a large sensor compact.

features:
20.2MP 1″ Exmor CMOS Low-Light Sensor
Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T Lens
Xtra Fine 3″ LCD Display with WhiteMagic
Optical 3.6x Zoom & Digital 7.2x Zoom
Optical & Electronic Image Stabilization
Full HD 1080/60p Video Capture
Ultra-Fast 0.13 Sec High-Speed AF
Face Detection & 10 fps Burst Mode
Record Stills Using JPEG, RAW, or Both
Aluminum Body with Built-In Pop Up Flash

purchase the Sony RX100 from amazon

If you buy something through the provided amazon or B&H photo links, you help me out and motivate me to write more tips and reviews, as I get a small percentage of the sale. thank you!

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Web hosting for photographers

top ten web hosting companies for photographers

Being a graphic designer, photographers would oftentimes ask me which web host to use for their portfolio websites and blogs. I compiled a list of reputable and reliable web site hosting companies for my fellow (street) shooters. I have used a wide range of web hosts during my long career as a web developer and here my top web host for geeks and photographers. hostgator offers all the geeky tools and installs one could wish for on shared hosting… ssh, Ruby on Rails, I was able to install Django for a project I’m working on and managed to hook my account up with git. Hands down, hostgator is #1 and I will not make any other recommendation from here on out.

Hostgator
Use Coupon Code t9ivnCa4K4 for a 25% discount on their already insanely low pricing
$3.96 with unlimited space and traffic, free domain name included. tons of extensions available, most notably Ruby on Rails, ssh and git for the Über-geeks. hostgator is currently my go-to web hosting company and this site is running on hostgator.

Extras
Pretty much very web host provides the basics like bandwidth and disk space, with excellent uptime guarantee. Photographers who want to showcase or sell their work, may want a few extras like a content management system (I’d suggest wordpress for a blog and easy updates), or an e-commerce solution to sell photos and merchandise. Most web hosts today offer c-panel or other solutions for backend access and maintenance, which automatically includes statistics, database tools and software installs like Joomla, wordpress, phpbb and many more…

Be careful with your consideration, and don’t let price alone be the determining factor, as you may stick with your provider for a few years. Uptime is just as important as speedy delivery, especially with larger images. I’d definitely suggest using a CDN (Content Delivery Network) like cloudflare to make your website as fast as possible, the free plan is fine for starters and I’d suggest to update to pro when traffic increases.

Cloudflare integration
If you plan on running your website on wordpress, cloudflare offers a plugin that takes care of everything for you, all you need to do is plug in their provided app codes, change the domain name servers and your site is super-charged within 5 minutes.

AdWord Credit
Many web hosts offer free google adword credit ranging from $25 to $300, which you can use to run ads on google to boost traffic hostgator just sent me an additional $300 credit in the mail

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Leica Monochrom review notes and test gallery

Leica Akademie M9 workshop with Markus Hartel Leica Akademie M9 workshop with Markus Hartel

During the Akademie M9 workshop this weekend I got my hands on a Monochrom for a few hours. The camera looks and feels exactly like the M9, minus the red dot and that everything is matte black chrome – stealth without gaffer’s tape out of the box… now that we got that out of our way a few observations in note form – I’m comparing b/w prints only, as only a print can ultimately tell the difference. 200% and 300% zooms on a computer display do look way different than a print.

– I plopped in the SD card from my “regular” M9 into the monochrom without formatting and was surprised that the monochrom displays the M9’s color files in color, yet the M9 is not able to display the monochrom’s files.

– The MM histogram spans across the whole 2.5″ screen and one can set the threshold for highlight and shadow warnings. I set mine to 5% and 95% respectively and the camera shows a red bar for blown highlights and a blue bar for blocked shadows on either side of the histogram.

– Just like any other digital camera, the MM is very sensitive in the highlights and has a whole lot of room for error in the shadows, in case of doubt: underexpose.

– Properly exposed, the MM’s dynamic range is very, very good. image #10 for example could reveal a whole lot more information with further tweaking.

– The MM’s tonality is excellent and “conversion” in Lightroom is done with a few clicks. I got the most pleasing results by cranking up the clarity to about 70 and little tweaks of the blacks, conversion is much faster than tweaking M9 color files. I did not use Silver Efex that ships with the camera.

– My main interest is high ISO shooting and the resulting gain in speed, I use my camera a lot at ISO 800+

– shot with a flash at night, the MM and M9 are pretty much on par at IS0 800 – even the noise levels look similar in the parts that didn’t get hit by the flash. 200% on my 27″ Cinema Display shows an insane amount of detail for both cameras… The MM may have a little better acuity, which you will see in very large prints only.

– The MM starts to shine at ISO 1600 and that’s where I’d use the camera the most, ISO 2500 is still insanely clean and the noise is very tight, it leaves Tri-X 400 and the M9 in the dust by far.

– M9 shows quite bit of color noise at ISO 1600+, which naturally can be eliminated with “color noise reduction” for b/w prints without impact on sharpness, matter of fact, b/w prints benefit from this move, as mottling disappears

– My test prints are 13×19 and M9 b/w prints still exhibit little noise at ISO 1600, especially in tweaked (underexposed) shadow areas. 2:1 views on the computer monitor tell a different story, the MM is much cleaner and I’d say one could see a big difference in a 40″ print. The point probably becomes moot at a normal viewing distance.

– MM ISO 2500 is very clean and useable, but the noise starts to exhibit white dots in the shadows, which may need some Luminance noise combat depending on print size (for more info refer ISO 5000). M9 ISO 2500 is useable in b/w, but needs color noise massaging.

– starting at ISO 5000 the MM seems to need Luminance noise reduction to pull the noise together. 13×19 print w/o noise reduction is sharper in detail, but exhibits moire, printed at 1440 ppi, probably due to high pixel frequency of MM sensor and interpolation issues in the Epson driver, as the moire disappears in a 2880 ppi print. noise and detail is still better than any other 35mm camera I know of. The noise looks very much like a stochastic screen for printing and will need help in the blacks, as shadows are very open. Upon further testing, I was not able to reproduce the moire, 2880 ppi print seems a little crisper with the MM files.

– there is no apparent banding in high ISO files

– Being able to shoot on the subway at ISO 5000 to freeze motion is fantastic

I shot a few frames at ISO 10,000 at night and would say that it is very useable with some tweaking, but honestly I’d need to spend much more time with the camera to make an educated decision. I’d probably use it as much as I used ISO 3,200 b/w film – almost never.

In all fairness, I was not able to do a direct side-by-side comparison and my initial response, before testing the MM was that I’d prefer the M9 because I could still keep a few shots in color and during testing the b/w camera I did indeed have at least one frame with the MM that absolutely does not work in b/w.

Long story short – the Monochrom is a fantastic camera in all regards, and here is my conundrum… When I shot film, I used b/w film 99% of the time and color was the occasional thing, where I would either just carry a few extra rolls of film, or a 2nd body from time to time. Since I switched to digital, I happen to keep a lot more shots in color. The M9’s image quality is very good, but does leave room for desire at ISO 2,500, even in b/w. I also shot a whole lot more using a flash for the past few months and with that I don’t have the need for super ISO all that much at the moment, but that may change quickly. And then of course the Monochrom hits the wallet with USD $7,950 before taxes.

Leica monochrom test scan

top: no noise reduction, bottom: 30 Luminance noise reduction in LR, scan w/ auto levels, crop approx. from 13×19″ print (shot #7, subway, ISO 5000), link to 300dpi scan

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Composition and timing 101

composition pointers by Markus Hartel, NYC
click on image for larger view

a great decent frame at first sight… everything seems to fall into place – the guy with the paisley shirt taking a pic, the woman filling the left corner and on top of that the frame is full of textures and patterns, yet something is awry… can you spot it?

yes!

the young woman walking by with the white rimmed shades is taking most of the attention! that being said, my timing was off by a step-and-a-half (on her end)… either way, her doing one more step, and the person on the left would be – you get the idea…

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Massimo Dutti 5th Ave Coming Soon

black and white street photography by Markus Hartel, New York
click on image for large view

There are rare moments when I have the time and opportunity to shoot sequences – when a scene strikes me as being interesting, I position myself and I set the scene through my viewfinder. I almost never use continuous mode on my camera, as I prefer to define my own rhythm. In this case I shot 16 frames within one minute, which in turn would be one frame every 3.75 seconds, but it doesn’t pan out that way – it went like this: notice scene – set framing – double check settings – click – start shooting – 21 second gap – find rhythm – wait for right frame – click one more…

sure, I could shoot a 20 fps camera and get something decent, but I’d still risk missing *the* shot – a camera’s computer simply doesn’t know *when* to hit it – I prefer to define my own rhythm and press the shutter button at my own pace (my subject’s pace, really). in the accompanying contact sheet you can somewhat follow my thought process

markus hartel street photography nyc
click on image for larger view

frame 1 – interesting scene, let’s see how I can frame it
frame 2 – car in the way, let’s wait and keep shooting
frame 3 – something moving
frame 4 – I’m waiting for something to fill the corners… traffic light… 21 second gap
frame 5 – people walking east (into left corner, away from me) may work – damn, backs only
frame 10 – crowd coming towards me
frame 11 – find rhythm
frame 13/14 – inching in, I have some maybe’s in my viewfinder
frame 15 – I think I nailed it
frame 16 – one more, that’s it…

intuition comes to play and the second to last frame in a sequence is (as it oftentimes is) the winner in my book

you may have noticed the 3rd pic in the top row (good one) and so did I… to mark shots in Lightroom – simply hit “P” for a pick, “x” for a reject and the numbers 1-5 for ratings. I normally give a “3” for photos I like on any given photo and go from there…

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Diagonal Method for composition in photography

photography color street photography by Markus Hartel, NYC
click on image for larger view
click on image for larger view

A popular topic during my one-on-one workshops is composition and many photographers have heard about the rule of thirds – I personally think the rule of thirds works better with the older aspect ratios 4×5, 8×10 as the frames weren’t as wide as the modern 35mm frame with its 2×3 aspect ratio. Yet, the Rule of Thirds is nowhere as flexible and true to nature as the Golden Ratio, which in turn is based on the Fibonacci sequence. Now, no one wants to do math when they’re out shooting, so there are other methods…

Fibonacci Sequence with Diagonals overlay for composition
Fibonacci Sequence with Diagonals overlay for composition

…like the Golden Ratio (Golden Mean), or the Golden Spiral, or even the triangular method, all of which one can use in Lightroom as a crop guide overlay. I personally swear by teaching the “Diagonal Method”, as it allows for very dynamic compositions and the system is easy to understand. follow the link for more info and examples. What’s really cool about the Diagonal Method is that it is so insanely easy to use, once you got the hang of it.

Like any other rule, it is not hard and fast… feel free to experiment and put it through its paces by breaking it – that’s what great artists did for centuries to come up with inspiring pieces.

Fibonacci Sequence for composition
Fibonacci Sequence for composition

Lightroom has the guides built in, if you turn on the crop tool (R), you can change the crop guide overlay to diagonal tools > crop guide overlay > diagonals

Photoshop CS6 has a bunch of crop guides built in as well, and you can download a smart vector objectby simply clicking on this link

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