Thursday, October 09, 2014

iPad first generation meets Spotify

Found use for my iPad first gen as a dedicated music server, streaming Spotify into my stereo system.
I was very pleasantly surprised at the very good sound quality, considering I'm using the headphone out jack.

A little search on google showed that this iPad uses a very good Cirrus Logic DAC and the output impedance from the headphone out is low (ie, good). Apparently RMAA measurements are very good too.

Really enjoying Spotify through this set-up. Played James Taylor and Diana Krall. Sound is clear yet not thin or digital sounding at all. I daresay that it compares very well with vinyl playback on my Technics SL1200 with Rega Exact cartridge played through the same system.

What a treat!

LSA Standard Integrated amp with NOS Tesla 6922 tubes
LSA 2 Towers connected via Rega speaker cables

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Auto Lighting Optimizer and Highlight Tone Priority - Test on Canon 550D and 17-40 F/4L

Canon DLSRs of recent years have in-camera features that are supposed to extend Dynamic Range. One feature - Highlight Tone Priority (HTP) - aims to retain details and prevent clipping of highlights (bright areas). Another feature - Auto Lighting Optimizer (ALO) - aims to lift details from shadows (darker areas). ALO is deemed useful for high contrast scenes, eg, backlit subjects; HTP is deemed useful for high-key shots. Both are used on jpegs.

For the Canon 550D, HTP is enabled or disabled within the menu (Cn Fn 6), while ALO has four settings (Off, Low, Standard, Strong). ALO is disabled if HTP is turned on.

I did a few test shots using the EF 17-40 mm F4/L lens. The images below were taken a few seconds of each other and have not been edited except for resizing. Aperture f/5.6 and shutter speed at 640 and ISO 100, except for the image with HTP on at shutter speed of 1250 and ISO 200.

The effects of HTP and ALO are not subtle. Which setting to use is a matter of preference.
Colors with HTP on seem more saturated, but it does make the overall image darker. I can see that it could be good way to prevent blown out highlights when needed, but I do notice some noise in the sky.
For ALO, the effect is quite pronounced specially at the Strong setting. Here are 100% cropped images from the center of the frame.


The 550D does this processing as it converts the image to jpeg.

One can achieve the same effect with post-processing. I applied the simple "curves" tool in PaintNet to slightly brighten the ALO Low image, and to slightly darken the ALO Strong image; here they are  with the ALO Standard sample.

My personal preference is to turn off HTP and keep the ALO Low setting as default.
Of course, one can always shoot Raw and do all of this in post-processing, but the HTP and ALO features are shortcuts for jpeg shooters, which could be handy for casual shots such as for holidays and family events.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Barber Shop

Wimbledon Effect in Golf?

There are many versions of the "Wimbledon Effect", but a simple one is about weekend tennis players playing better after watching Wimbledon on TV.

I watched The Masters at Augusta on TV last night. Some observations: the players don't swing out of their boots -- they swing smooth and not jerky and it doesn't seem forced. I also noticed that their arms seemed relaxed and not stiff.

So this morning I tried to swing like the pros. No need to go for that extra ten yards, swing smooth, go for accuracy. On chips, pitches and putts tried to keep arms relaxed and grip firm but not tight.

The result -- I scored my best game from the blue tees on my home course so far. Definitely the Masters Effect. Hope it is not temporary, like the temporary bump in club membership applications after every Wimbledon.