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Major Data Loss Today — But Luckily I Had Just Made Several Backups

UPDATE Jan 13: my data is all intact, thanks to backups. The SoftRAID folks have reproduced the issue on their end. It is as yet unclear whether it is a SoftRAID bug or a macOS bug.


I am not going to go into details at this time until I understand the cause, which kept corrupting volumes and involves complex hardware.

But I lost my main Work volume today, a 4-blade RAID-0 stripe. Total destruction with all data corrupted as IntegrityChecker instantly showed for every file (including its own files)—even though Carbon Copy Cloner thought all was well with 800GB of cloning.

Proof that backing up is not enough—data integrity should be proven, not assumed—verify your backups with IntegrityChecker.

Trying to redo the corrupted volume, it corrupted a different volume on other blades and vice versa. This fiasco involves 12 NVMe SSD blades and RAID-0 (though only 4 each together). It is as if the system jumbled the numbers of all the blades on the PCIe cards, and thus any effort to use any of them would toast everything involving any of the blades.

That's all I want to say at this time because I’m still trying to wrap my head around repeated volume corruption of freshly-created volumes. Maybe it’s a macOS Catalina (Crapalina) + 2019 Mac Pro thing and maybe it is hardware and maybe it is software and who the hell knows. But I am working with appropriate parties to track it down.

I love some aspects of the 2019 Mac Pro, but might I suggest waiting a few months for most people, both for Crapalina and the Mac Pro. New hardware and buggy new OS just smells like rotten fish. Apple should have made Mojave an option.

Fact is, macOS Crapalina has so many bugs it’s ridiculous. Tonight’s shock and awe of wanton data destruction might have nothing to do with Crapalina or the Mac Pro, but it might.

The good news is that I follow my own advice and backup many times over, and I had just backed up. So I am spending some hours restoring, and pulling out suspect hardware and will go from there, keeping some hardware out of the equation for now.

I am very glad I have the 2019 iMac 5K as a 2nd computer so that I can do something useful while fixing the mess on the Mac Pro.

It is also a very good thing to have a large (4TB or 8TB) internal Apple SSD (not just PCIe SSDs), because Shit Happens, a whole truck load of it tonight. So much so that I may ask B&H to let me return the 16-core Mac Pro with 4TB SSD for a 24-core with 8TB SSD.

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Phase One Capture One 20: Serious Pain Points for Organizing Large Shoots (Updated with Reader Comments)

Negligible CPU core utilization is minor point compared to multiple usability pain paints in Capture One 20. And the image quality that comes out of Capture One 20 is outstanding, and a key reason to consider it.

But... I have 2500 images from my December trip to organize and deal with. Capture One 20 is a productivity nightmare compared to Photoshop ACR. There are several badly done key basic operations in C1_20 that I must use over and over, and they are costing me dearly in wasted time (5 steps and longer ones instead of 1, with much higher risk of mistakes!). Session mode is better but it still requires 3 steps and Sessions such for hundreds of folders and scatter CaptureOne crap folders in every folder. Simple things should be simple, not multi-step make-work teeth-grinding tedium. Along with broken default settings for key image processing parameters (no way to set defaults for key things I want to set)—that layers on yet more work and risk of error. The tedium adds up.

I can’t see how any pro can stomach wasting as many hours as I did yesterday with enervating busy work all stemming from bad design that could be easily rectified with no downside to existing users. But my feedback seems unwanted indeed not even understood nor do I see any desire to understand it (usually that entails asking a question, or asking for clarification, and that has not happened, not once, which is exceedingly poor communication and no mindfulness at all). What I encounter is NIH, with no interest in the pain points, just (literally) an argument that their way is better—without ever even understanding my pain point. Well—5 tedious error prone steps is NOT better than 1 risk-free step. Tomorrow I have to waste more time and the pain points won’t change. I want to process my images, but first I want them organized, and C1_20 is costing me big time, needlessly! The idea of switching to C1 Pro as so many readers have suggested to me over the years... maybe their workflow is well suited to it, but it’s a total freaking disaster for me.

Anti-functional file layout for Sessions, thousands of useless crap files

In addition to the multiple time-wasting usability problems referred to above, a MAJOR gripe I have is the anti-functional file structure with Sessions. With Adobe Camera Raw, I get processing settings adjacent to the files via sidecar XMP files, making it easy to organize things right in the Finder (MUCH faster than any other way).

With C1 Sessions, I get useless and identical boilerplate sidecar files for metadata—thousands of useless crap files, all while the processing parameters are squirreled away in a sub-sub-folder “CaptureOne/Settings130” (WTH?), which are XMP data containing the processing settings. Why is this data not in the sidecar files alongside the image? Why invent a second file structure that disassociates the key processing data from the image? It is an anti-functional and risky organizational strategy that works well for nothing, with the alternative Adobe style sidecar XMP processing setting files having no downside and making it super easy to group files into subfolders.

This ass-backwards file structure in Capture One makes it error-prone to move a group of images into a new sub folder, because one has to manually go find the corresponding ".COS" files in CaptureOne/Settings130, then move create a new CaptureOne/Settings130 folder inside the new subfolder, then move the ".COS" files over. JFK!!! This is how I lost meticulously crafted exposure settings for a particularly difficult group of images—I had to spend half un hour fixing it from a backup.

Don’t get me started on cleaning up the mess of leftover files this disassociated-data design ends up creating. But at least if you move everything to a C1 Catalog, this following will clean up the mess left there by Sessions, which C1 does not clean up:

cd <directory-of-interest>
find . -name CaptureOne -print0 | xargs rm -r

Catalogs have their own problems

With a C1 Catalog (not Session), I can create subfolders (thus avoiding the data-disassociation risks of subfolderizing), but I get a tedious make-work 5-step error-prone process that takes literally 10 times as long as I could do it were it done right (a single risk-free command eg “Create new folder with selected files”). Organizing my files into folders is a god-damned time-wasting nightmare due to this design. Thus, whether Sessions or Catalog, Capture One is a time-wasting teeth-clenching make-work headache for organizing files. Already I have lost processing data due to reorganizing my files into subfolders with Sessions—I spent half an hour recovering my processing settings yesterday, and that was just for four focus stacks—I had to go figure out the behavior and placement of files... OMG what a horribly anti-functional design when it could all be beautifully straightforward, as with Adobe sidecar files.

Capture One 20: no way to easily create a subfolder with selected files

It doesn’t have to be bad or even mediocre

I know how some people start using a product and quickly just don’t think about the things that could be easier or faster—I see it all the time—but I have fresh eyes on it and boy does it SUCK. I am talking about things I have to do hundreds of times. Were I to use C1_20, I’d have this nightmare every trip of the year.

No professional in his/her right mind experiencing the pain points I am experiencing would go with Capture One 20. They would use C1 for for image quality or color rendering or tethering or just because IQ4 files are not supported by Adobe (yet), etcetera. But for organizing thousands of files from a shoot many times a year? Shoot me already.

The sad thing is that Phase One could fix my pain points with a few days (at most) of development work, but my attempts to relate the problems have been met with argument instead of consideration. I find this literally painful to experience as I want to see the product improved, and it saddens me to see anyone stolidly working against their own interests. The suggestions I have made would make no change to workflow for existing users. Of course, changing the sidecar file approach would be different, but that could just be a setting along with a fallback location to the old one—complete compatibility.


Don’t get me started on bugs—many.

Capture One 20 QLICProcessor crash
Process:               QLICProcessor [85940]
Path:                  /Applications/Capture One 20.app/Contents/Library/QuickLook/
Identifier:            QLICProcessor
Version:      (
Code Type:             X86-64 (Native)
Parent Process:        ExternalQuickLookSatellite [85939]
Responsible:           quicklookd [85938]
User ID:               501
Date/Time:             2020-01-11 10:03:42.961 -0800
OS Version:            Mac OS X 10.15.2 (19C57)
Report Version:        12
Bridge OS Version:     4.2 (17P2551)
Anonymous UUID:        92EC0B7D-523B-46C5-BD40-7F7057FBB657
Time Awake Since Boot: 81000 seconds
System Integrity Protection: enabled
Crashed Thread:        0  Dispatch queue: com.apple.main-thread
Exception Type:        EXC_CRASH (SIGABRT)
Exception Codes:       0x0000000000000000, 0x0000000000000000
Exception Note:        EXC_CORPSE_NOTIFY
Application Specific Information:
*** Terminating app due to uncaught exception 'NSInvalidArgumentException',
reason: '+[MOVariant styleLayerFromPath:]: unrecognized selector sent to class 0x1035ed0d0'
terminating with uncaught exception of type NSException
abort() called

Reader comments

Emphasis added.

Christian S writes:


No surprise this whole release is a disaster, it broke basic functionality of the layers tool, layers with the same name are now added instead of replaced when copied.

LCC corrections don’t work when you don´t turn off hardware acceleration.

It is also full of other bugs and glitches and crashes from time to time even when idle. Phase One has done a very poor job and user reporting issues are ignored by support for weeks now.

DIGLLOYD: lots of work is needed on performance and bugs and usability.

Joseph O Holmes writes “Capture One, Deeply Flawed”:

I used Capture One for about two years (after my new Nikon D850 files were not recognized by Apple Aperture), and the frustrations finally became so intolerable that I switched to Lightroom over the last three weeks.

I have about 200,000 images occupying about 4TB of a hard drive, which both Aperture's and Lightroom’s catalogs opened within about 10 or 15 seconds. Capture One took three to five MINUTES to open a catalog of the same size. And every time I’d try to scroll through images, I’d face a spinning beachball lasting a half minute.

I finally resorted to dividing the catalog into smaller catalogs just so I could use the application. That was the worst of many issues

I made a detailed list of interface lacking and had it sent to Capture One engineers, but the next revision fixed none of them. I gave up. Lightroom is no Aperture, but it’s way better than Capture One at cataloging my images.

DIGLLOYD: See Joe’s web site at https://josephholmes.io and his blog at https://blog.josephholmes.io.

James M writes:

I’m glad to learn that I’m not the only one who is confused and frustrated by Capture 1’s catalog structure.

I finally gave up despite the image quality. Life’s too short to figure all this out.  I can use my time in more effective ways to take better photos.

DIGLLOYD: ditto, except that I’m stuck with Capture One 20 for the 2545 Phase One IQ4 files I took on my December trip—not supported by Adobe Camera Raw (yet).

Staale A writes:

Unfortunately C1 is a total nightmare.

I have tried to love it over the years, but software wise and integration wise, with regards to any Apple update it just gets worse and worse.

Picture by picture edits, fantastic if you take 365 pictures on total during the whole year. Great regret, should have been easy if they had really taken the users/paying clients seriously— great concept / zero execution —Danish «Hygge»...

DIGLLOYD: this is sort of a theme I’ve heard—great for a handful of images and that’s that.

Emil V writes:

Contents of your blog and subsequent reader comments struck me regarding the (non) usability of C1 and its most recent incarnation, the C1 20

I tried several times to "like" this software after all the hype I was reading especially in Medium Format forums saying that this was the ultimate tool for ectracting even the last bit of information from complex files.

Since I swapped to Medium Format from Nikon a year ago, I watched C1 tutorials, but always bogged down when they explained how they think I should catalogue my files and the incomprehesible maze of C1's sidecar files simply drove me nuts. I though I was stupid and could not comprehend some higher level of logics

So what I read on your pages came as great relief, I was not alone with my problem.

After all this I will probably not abandon C1 20 in hope that I will will be able to make use of it processing more delicate files. The reason for this is that I noticed a year or two ago that as I advance in photography the number of images where I am working at the very thin borderline between technically possible and impossible is growing. This same goes for the large and detailed prints that I make with my printmaster, He also confirmed that he has to try his best to print the images I bring to him that I later sucessfully sell.

DIGLLOYD: output quality is superb with Capture One 20, so for that purpose, it's great.

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Phase One Capture One 20: Negligible CPU Core Utilization while Importing Images, Regenerating Previews + Inscrutable GPU Usage

Negligible CPU utilization is a minor footnote compared to the much more serious pain points in Capture One 20.

Ignoring cores

I made a new catalog several times, because I could not believe how Capture One 20 wastes nearly all the CPU cores.

I don’t take kindly to an application that turns my $15000 computer into a crappy detuned space heater, and a poor one at that since so few CPU cycles are used that not much hot air comes out of the butt-end.

Witness below for Import that C1 Pro uses a bit more than one of 16 CPU cores (32 virtual cores). That means a CPU utilization of about 7% at best. These files are on a PCIe SSD capable of sustaining over 6 GB/sec—I/O speed is not an issue.

While Activity Monitor shows 0% GPU usage, I suspect that the GPU is actually being used substantially, and there is a bug in Activity Monitor. So I’m going to give Capture One Pro the benefit of the doubt for now.

Still, 15 of 16 CPU cores are just sitting there idling. Compare to Lightroom CPU core usage.

Bottom line here is that if the GPU is being used substantially, you’ll want a much faster GPU than the base AMD Radeon Pro 580X, e.g., the AMD Radeon Pro Vega II. And Phase One has to get its act together on not wasting computing power in an outrageous way like this.

Capture One 20 Import on 2019 Mac Pro: outrageously poor performance

Below, C1 Pro uses less than 3 CPU cores while regenerating previews, averaging about 2.6 cores. That’s 2.6 out of 16 (32 virtual cores), so at best 16% CPU utilization—84% of the computing power is just idle. Again, maybe the GPU is really busy and Activity Monitor is just buggy and doesn’t show it being used. But the point is, my very expensive 16-core CPU is almost entirely idle.

If the GPU is indeed being used intensively, you’ll want a much faster GPU than the base AMD Radeon Pro 580X, e.g. the AMD Radeon Pro Vega II. But you also want Phase One to get their act together on using CPU cores.

Capture One 20 Regenerate Previews on 2019 Mac Pro: outrageously poor performance

FOR SALE: Sony A7R III, Leica M Lenses, Leica M240

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Leica M gear

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  • Leica M240 with four batteries and two chargers, car charger plug, Really Right Stuff L-bracket, original box, etc.
  • Leica 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH
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Leica R lenses

Outstanding samples of these two lenses:

  • Leica 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH
  • Leica 100mm f/2.8 APO-Macro-Elmarit-R ASPH
  • Leica R-Adapter-M

Lloyd’s Sony A7R III with Really Right Stuff L-Bracket $1800 or best offer.

I have moved to the Sony A7R IV, so I am selling my Sony A7R III.

  • Checked out by Sony in September and found to be in-spec.
  • Perfect operational order, has NEVER had an issue.
  • You pay FedEx shipping of choice.
  • Includes Really Right Stuff L-Bracket.
  • In Sony box as originally sold, with charger, battery, etc.

As I am raising money for new lenses, I would be happy to sell it (at additional cost) with the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 and/or the Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 and/or the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 (I just don’t use these, favoring the manual focus Loxia lineup).

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Which Lenses to Choose?🌈

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Optimizing Zerene Stacker on High Core-Count Macs Like the 16-Core 2019 Mac Pro

Consult with Lloyd on the best Mac Pro configuration (or other Mac) for your own specific workflow needs, including CPU, GPU, memory, backup, RAID. etc. Also, the best camera system choice for your needs!

See also 2019 Mac Pro: Zerene Stacker.

I use Zerene Stacker a great deal for focus stacking. Here are key tips that deliver the best performance:

  • Store the input files on the fastest drive available (fast SSD) so that delays from I/O are minimized.
  • Use uncompressed TIF. Do NOT use compressed TIF. JPEG can be used, but it is also compressed, which will have a slight negative performance impact (unless the files are on a slow drive where I/O speed dominates).
  • Disable Options => Preferences => Preprocessing => Use External TIFF Reader (make sure it is unchecked).

CPU utilization with Zerene Stacker is optimal if and only if uncompressed TIF is used. Using compressed TIF impairs performance only a few percent on an 8-core iMac 5K, but exacts about a 20% speed hit on a 16-core 2019 Mac Pro and more than that on a 24/28 core Mac Pro.

Below, this is excellent CPU utilization, though there is a modest amount of room for improvement (virtual CPU cores partially idle usually are not meaningful).

2019 Mac Pro: Zerene Stacker CPU usage, uncompressed TIF

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2019 Mac Pro vs 2019 iMac 5K: RAW File Conversion Speed

Consult with Lloyd on the best Mac Pro configuration (or other Mac) for your own specific workflow needs, including CPU, GPU, memory, backup, RAID. etc. Also, the best camera system choice for your needs!

Wow. The 2019 Mac Pro just stomps the 2019 iMac 5K. Now how the hell do I fit it into my Sprinter van and with a display and deal with the power draw... bummer that 2019 Mac Pro is probably not going to work out for field work and it will have to be the 2019 iMac 5K—but maybe at some point I can get a 16-core iMac Pro future model.

In Lloyd’s MPG review of the 2019 Mac Pro:

2019 Mac Pro: Convert RAW Files to JPEG With Adobe Camera Raw (Sony A7R III)

2019 Mac Pro: Convert RAW Files to JPEG With Adobe Camera Raw (Nikon D850)

2019 Mac Pro: Convert RAW Files to JPEG With Adobe Camera Raw (Canon 5DS)

2019 Mac Pro: Convert RAW Files to JPEG With Adobe Camera Raw (Hasselblad X1D)

2019 Mac Pro: Convert RAW Files to JPEG With Adobe Camera Raw (Fujifilm GFX)

2019 Mac Pro: Lightroom Import/Export

2019 Mac Pro: Phase One Capture One 20

The 2019 Mac Pro trounces the 2019 iMac 5K over all raw files types.

2019 Mac Pro: focus stack with Zerene Stacker

Upgrade the memory of your 2019 iMac up to 128GB

2019 Mac Pro vs 2019 iMac 5K: Focus Stacking Speed

Consult with Lloyd on the best Mac Pro configuration (or other Mac) for your own specific workflow needs, including CPU, GPU, memory, backup, RAID. etc. Also, the best camera system choice for your needs!

I get a nice bump up with Zerene Stacker, which I use a lot.

In Lloyd’s MPG review of the 2019 Mac Pro:

2019 Mac Pro: Zerene Stacker

2019 Mac Pro: Helicon Focus

Includes a performance analysis of GPU and CPU cores utilization along with important notes on getting the best speed out of Zerene Stacker.

2019 Mac Pro: focus stack with Zerene Stacker

AMD Radeon Pro 580X in 2019 Mac Pro Badly Lags the AMD Radeon Pro Vega 48 in the 2019 iMac 5K

Consult with Lloyd on the best Mac Pro configuration (or other Mac) for your own specific workflow needs, including CPU, GPU, memory, backup, RAID. etc. Also, the best camera system choice for your needs!

The base video card (GPU) in the 2019 Mac Pro is the AMD Radeon Pro 580X, a last-generation design. On paper it’s not very good and in practice it’s no better.

Shame on Apple for shipping a last-generation GPU 'dog' in a $9400 machine that can't even come close to the Vega 48 GPU in the 2019 iMac 5K.

In most GPU intensive tests, the the AMD Radeon Pro 580X in the 2019 Mac Pro badly lags the AMD Radeon Pro Vega 48 in the 2019 iMac 5K. Nor do I see GPU utilization over 75% with the 580X.

If you do stuff that uses the GPU, plan on upspending for the AMD Radeon Pro Vega II to the tune of +$2400, or wait until the AMD Radeon Pro W5700X debuts.

Personally, I’ll be getting the Vega II or maybe dual W5700X—I want the extra 4 Thunderbolt 3 ports on the video card as I already have only one full speed Thunderbolt 3 bus available (attaching a 5K display eats up a good chunk of bandwidth on the other bus).

In Lloyd’s MPG review of the 2019 Mac Pro:

2019 Mac Pro: Gigapixel AI

Below, check out the GPU results in each graph.

2019 Mac Pro: focus stack with Helicon Focus
2019 Mac Pro: scale 60MP image to 240MP using Gigapixel AI

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Adobe Lightroom Users Rejoice—Your Ship Has Arrived with the 2019 Mac Pro!

Consult with Lloyd on the best Mac Pro configuration (or other Mac) for your own specific workflow needs, including CPU, GPU, memory, backup, RAID. etc. Also, the best camera system choice for your needs!

The 2019 Mac Pro really puts in a spectacular pro performance with Adobe Lightroom Classic. Performane with Adobe Lightroom CC should be identical.

For 60-megapixel Sony A7R IV raw files, the 2019 Mac Pro walks all over the 2019 iMac 5K—the iMac 5K takes 2.5X longer to get the job done—WOW!

In Lloyd’s MPG review of the 2019 Mac Pro:

2019 Mac Pro: Lightroom Import/Export

Includes a performance analysis of GPU and CPU cores utilization.

2019 Mac Pro: Import and Export 552 RAW files
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2019 Mac Pro: Detailed Analysis of Phase One Capture One 20 Performance, GPU and CPU Utilization

My review of the 2019 Mac Pro now evaluates performance of Phase One Capture One 20, a raw converter used by many professionals.

Capture One 20: Export to JPEG (Phase One IQ4)

Includes a detailed performance analysis of GPU and CPU utilization with the GPU both enabled and disabled.

I need a GoFundMe or something like that to fund the purchase of an AMD Radeon Pro Vega II, so I can weigh in on how it performs in Capture One 20 as well as many other apps.

2019 Mac Pro: export max-quality JPEG, CPU vs GPU speed


MAJOR Performance Improvements to diglloydTools IntegrityChecker Java version 1.1b10

Just posted is diglloydTools IntegrityChecker Java version 1.1b10.

Runs on any computer with Java—Mac, Windows, Linux, etc. More about IntegrityChecker and why every professional should be using it.

Buy diglloydTools

License and download page

This is a beta version but well tested (and IntegrityChecker only reads your files anyway!).

Version 1.1b10 is backward compatible with prior versions but older versions are not forward-compatible with updated folders of 1.1b10 due to the addition of missing folder support (see below). In other words, do not run older versions once this version updates folders.


  • Folders are now tracked, so that if an entire folder anywhere in the hierarchy goes missing, a warning is emitted.
  • The 'dupes' command is now much more useful. It emits 'rm' commands that can be copied/pasted in Terminal to remove unwanted duplicate files. Use these commands with care, since icj cannot know for sure which duplicate should be considered the primary. However, an apparent primary is selected by date and intelligent use of the name. Saved me 600GB! (I had somehow had multiple downloads of some very large raw file shoots from my trips).


Optimized for extreme performance.

  • Major performance enhancements (up to 5X faster, depending on CPU cores and speed of the drive). Performance is highly optimized for SSD, but should be considerably better for most hard drives too.
  • Concurrent loading of folder hash files is up to 3X faster.
  • Throughput can hit 4.6GB/second on the OWC Accelsior 4M2 PCIe SSD, and about 2.9 GB/sec on most Apple internal SSDs (8 core systems).
  • Total throughput hits nearly 3 gigabytes per second on fast 8-core Macs such on an 2019 iMac 5K or 2019 MacBook Pro (assuming a very fast SSD such as the internal SSD). It is now fast enough that CPU power on 12 core or more machines should outrun SSD speed, that is, icj is I/O bound unless an SSD can deliver 4GB/sec or more.
  • Throughput both for mixed-size files and large files is now very close to the limits of SSD speed (as tested on 2019 iMac 5K 8-core on its fast internal SSD)
  • A performance bug is now fixed that resulted in unpredictable 2X to 3X performance losses on the same workload (instantiation of threads in thread pool was not being triggered reliably).
  • Performance on hard drives has been improved by up to 3X. Due to API limitations, hard drives still do not perform as well as hoped.
CPU usage while running IntegrityChecker java

Upgrade the memory of your 2018 Mac mini up to 64GB

Too-High Pixel Density on 5K and 8K Displays Impedes Image Assessment

This topic keeps coming up, so I m republishing this article from 2017.

See my Mac wish list.

See also Which Display for Image Editing and Viewing?.

[This is a rerun article, the question keeps coming up so I thought I’d repost]

In my my mention of the LG 5K display, I wrote that “the pixel density is way too high for that type of detail work”, which generated at least two reader emails, below.

LG 5K display for 2016 MacBook pro

But first, the flip side: being able to see 14.2 megapixels (5K) or 33.2 megapixels (8K) is a huge boon in image assessment—overall assessment. But high pixel density is not good for assessing fine detail, and that’s a problem for anyone shooting a burst of frames (focus may be subtly better on one frame of several), comparing lens performance, determining whether an f/9 or f/11 shot is better (competing interests of DoF vs diffraction dulling), assessing how much to sharpen, etc.


What I did not make clear in that statement is the conditions under which it is true, and it could be false for someone 25 or 30 or 35 years old with perfect 20/20 vision. I have no way of knowing that directly. By “true” I mean that by direct experience, I know what works and what does not work for me, that is, what leads to errors in evaluation and what does not.

I’m not young any more—my sixth decade, which means that presbyopia has become an annoying issue (one reason that lack of an EVF option is going to drive me away from DSLRs entirely within a few years).

My eyes need +10 diopters correction, so eyeglasses are marginal solution (introducing chromatic errors of their own and other issues). I wear contact lenses and when my eyes are not tired or irritated correction is excellent at 20/20, with a slight astigmatism, which is why I focus cameras left-eye only. I also have limitations on close-focus range with contact lenses. So I CANNOT peer a little closer at a computer display—can't focus there.

My sense is that many of my readers are not spring chickens either, and may have similar or worse vision limitations. That said, I am not claiming “proof” of anything here as a general principle, only that Retina displays of 220 dpi or more make it extremely difficult for me to evaluate images for critical sharpness.

The bottom line here is “try it yourself”. I think most users are fooling themselves about image sharpness if all they do is view at 100% pixels on an iMac 5K (or LG 5K or Retina display). Those “sharp” images often are not quite sharp.

Displays with optimal or acceptble pixel density

My workhorse display, the NEC PA302W has been discontinued but can still be purchased. The NEC PA302W is by far the best choice for image evaluation for both its pixel density and its GB-R LED backlight backlighting which is far more neutral in grayscale than most IPS displays, many of which have a faint but visible magenta tint even if the measurement device falsely claims otherwise—this can readily be seen side-by-side!

Stefan D writes:

"Pixel density way too high" for assessing sharpness? Could you please elaborate on this in your article a little bit more. I would think more density = easier to assess sharpness. Thank You!

DIGLLOYD: an iMac 5K (or LG 5K) has pixel density of about 220 dpi = ~4.3 line pairs/mm. Without peering closely at the display, the pixels disappear. If the eye cannot resolve these pixels, how can one be sure of sharpness differences? Many an image that is not quite sharp still looks great at 220 dpi, and yet the same image at 101 DPI on my NEC PA302W is obviously less than fully sharp. I’ve seen that over and over, so I’m on my guard if an image looks sharp on my MacBook Pro Retina and I cannot tell f/2 from f/5.6 without going to 200%.

Consider a 6 X 4" print from a slightly blurred image that looks really sharp at that size (because it is 300 or even 600 dpi), but when printed at 13 X 19" it is obviously less than fully sharp.

How can I tell if my image is fully sharp, or sharper than another similar frame?

At pixel densities over 200 dpi, it becomes difficult to reliably distinguish critically sharp from almost sharp.

Digital displays were nominally 72 DPI (dots per inch) to start with, more or less. As larger screens emerged, the dpi rose to as high as 110 DPI or so. With the advent of Retina and HiDPI display, DPI becomes very high.

It is far easier to assess image sharpness at 101 dpi than at 220 dpi (320 dpi makes it impossible). Zooming to 200% is a possibility, but problematic for reasons discussed further below. Note that I am not talking about thin clean lines from vector graphics, but complex image details.

My closest comfortable focusing distance under relatively dim indoor lighting is 18 inches. That means I should be able to resolve at best about 3.5 lp/mm (a rough estimate based on Norman Koren’s analysis), assuming my eyes are working perfectly (often not the case!). So right off the bat, most human eyes cannot resolve the 4.3 lp/mm of the iMac 5K display without peering closely, say 12" away—which is absurdly close for a 27" display (not really usable) and a serious ergonomic problem to boot. And of course there are all sorts of human perceptual issues involved that make it much more complex than that, and I’m not evaluating black and white line pairs here, but real images with complex detail and color.

For my work, I have to evaluate sharpness correctly all the time for my readers, so a Retina or HiDPI display is problematic. It is one of several reasons that I evaluate images on the NEC PA302W (2560 X 1600, 30" display = 101 dpi), and while I am reluctant to do lens assessments while in the field with my MacBook Pro Retina. It’s hard enough to compare/shoot lenses fairly while also having pixel density hide subtle differences.

There are other reasons too: when doing fine detail work, assessing the amount of sharpening to apply, etc, the high pixel density makes it difficult to assess any nuances. This forces working at 200%, where each image pixel is now a 2 X 2 block of screen pixels, and this raises yet more issues, more on that below.

Ed A writes:

I was interested to read your review of the LG 5k monitor and the hint about the upcoming 8k from Dell. I've been using HiDPI displays for several years now, starting with the old IBM T221 and now with Dell 5k screens.

But I was surprised that you said the higher resolution display was not recommended for evaluating image sharpness.

Why not? Surely if you need to view individual pixels you can just view the image at 200% magnification and effectively have about 100 chunky pixels to the inch. Or even 400% magnification, where each pixel on the image becomes a block of sixteen on screen. Then you can check the raw image sharpness without having to squint.

However, I can guess one possible reason. Often when viewing an image at 200% magnification it is scaled up with some kind of 'smart' resizing which, rather than simply mapping one pixel to a block of four, applies some kind of blurring. When looking at a whole photograph this does give a more pleasing result than pixel-doubling. But it is infuriating for pixel-level work like you mentioned. A similar defect applies to monitors themselves: typically a 4k monitor run at plain old HD resolution won't just display blocks of four, but will blur the image too. Great for video games, not so great for still images and text.

Back in simpler times, image viewing software would just scale up naively to a block of pixels, and monitors would too (the T221 does it right). It is frustrating that things have gotten worse, at least for some software.

Does your favourite viewer or application for pixel-level work allow you to zoom in to 2x, 3x, or 4x scaling and cleanly distinguish the individual pixels? If not, then really the fault is with the software rather than the HiDPI monitor. On the other hand, if the software can do it right, surely a 27 inch 5k display is very nearly as good as your preferred 32 inch PA302W?

DIGLLOYD: it was no review, just a mention from the show.

I use Adobe Photoshop CC 2017. Using 200% is problematic for my purposes and 300% or 400% serves no useful purpose at any DPI, particularly given the false detail present from Bayer matrix demosaicing. Even 200% is problematic that way.

Hugely enlarging an image is looking at twigs on trees, not the forest. I am not a “pixel peeper”, and I consider it a pejorative. So the last thing I want to do is use 200%. For a good example of the wanton foolishness of MTF charts or other pixel peeper favorites vs real world behavior, see Sigma 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM Art: Two Aspen.

  • Perception matters, acutance in particular. A blurry image at 200% loses acutance, and acutance is a key feature of the very best lenses. So 200% actually makes it worse for comparing to another lens, or another frame, by degrading both and thus reducing the apparent differences.
  • Sharpness is not about some pinpoint spot; I need to see sufficient context for proper evaluation. It is a mistake in methodology to zero in on a small area for checking sharpness. Zooming to 200% shows an area 1/4 as large as at 100%, reducing the context greatly while showing a blown-up version lacking the original acutance.
  • At 200%, one image pixel becomes a 2X2 block of screen pixels. Acutance is lost; the image looks soft and blurry. It is visually annoying and frustrating to work that way (and time wasting to zoom in/out constantly). I do this in the field when I must, but it is tedious. Scaling always has do something: harsh edges with no smoothing, or some kind of smoothing. The best solution if one is going to scale is to resample and sharpen with algorithms that one has determined to work well for assessing sharpness differences—but there is no option to force the GPU to do that. So... maybe a solution is possible that has fewer negatives.
  • GPUs often scale pixels in undesirable ways that do not preserve acutance and/or smooth things, etc. See Photoshop and GPU: Blurry Image Scaling Damages Image Assessment Workflow, which shows that simply changing a setting can affect image display dramatically, but the behavior can change as the image size changes! This might not be a problem for 200%, but it shows that scaling problems do exist.
  • “cleanly distinguish the individual pixels” is a mistaken idea. Any interpolation will introduce its own problems, which is seen directly by using various resampling algorithms, all producing different results. Once the original image is resampled (200% or whatever), it not the original any more.

Similar issues apply for workflow, such as how much to sharpen. This generally sorts itself out; a skilled operator can make tweaks to an established scaling and sharpening regimen known to be ideal for a particular printer, image size, etc. But in general, a too-fine pixel density hides errors, such as excessive sharpening.

Patrick L writes:

I totally agree.

Some years ago I needed a laptop (mac), for shooting tethered on location with a Hasselblad H4D 50MP. It was almost impossible to see if the subject was sharp on the MacBook Pro Retina screen, as I was used to see when using an Eizo monitor in the studio.

So I used an MacBook Air with a non-retina display, with much better result. I have not used any higher pixel density monitor for some years for evaluating sharpness, but I believe it would be even more difficult with 4K and higher. Thank you for all your work and interesting articles.

DIGLLOYD: the Apple Retina displays are all about the same impossibly high resolution of 220 ppi—gorgeous for viewing, horrible for evaluation.

Upgrade the memory of your 2019 iMac up to 128GB

Get Your Federal Tax Write-Off ASAP! And here’s an Insane deal on a 2018 MacBook Pro

TAXES: the Section 179 federal small business deduction means that gear has to be in service (not just ordered) by Dec 31. So make sure if ordering for your small business to receive stuff by Dec 31. I am not an accountant; consult your own tax advisor first.

Consult with Lloyd today if you need help deciding.

I debated getting this 2018 MacBook Pro for weeks, but B&H dropped it another $50 to $2649 ($1850 off from original price).

Back in 2018 I called it the most power laptop that Apple had ever built... plenty of power for on the road stuff for just about anyone, and I intend to turn it into a server and I needed 32GB in a laptop (all my older ones are 16GB).

Search for deals at B&H Photo with diglloyd Deal Finder or view today’s Top Deals.

I’d have preferred a 2019 model with 8 cores and 64GB and 4TB, but no point—the money is going into the Mac Pro for hard-core stuff. I would have bought the 2019 model below for $200 more, but its 1TB SSD is unacepptable which means paying about another $1000 in total—no thanks.

Below, great stuff for your Thunderbolt 3 Mac (and other Macs):

Storage and Ports for MacBook Pro, Macs and PCs

Brain-Saver: Sony Noise-Canceling Headphones... just ordered Sony In-Ear Noise Canceling Earphones Too

This is a re-run blog post; I have found these headphones so critical to my well being at times that I chafe at forgetting them, like yesterday at America’s Tire, which was very loud and really stressed me badly (the noise). I am considering buying a second pair just so I have them at home and in my van at all times. I am also considering the in-ear earphones for times when headphones are not ideal.

In Brain-Saver: Sony Noise-Canceling Headphones I discussed just how critical the Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless Noise-Canceling Over-Ear Headphones to me after my concussion last year.

Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless Noise-Canceling Over-Ear Headphones

The Sony WH-1000XM3 noise-canceling headphones continue to be very helpful, especially with a house being built from the ground up right next door what with constant pounding, drilling, sawing, buzzing and the drone of equipment. Were it not for the headphones, I’d just have to leave my home for weeks on end in my Sprinter van, as I cannot tolerate that kind of sustained noise, though I can tolerate much more than even six months ago.

Noise pollution is a cumulative thing over the course of the day, and if there are other stressors, getting the noise down really is a brain saver. Everyone is wired differently but no one benefits from sustained noise.

Noise is far more of a hazard than most people acknowledge, with studies showing damaging hits to learning of children whose classrooms are in noisy environments. Not that adults outgrow the bad effects of noise! Noise disrupts the ability of the brain to focus and learn, at the least.

See also Wikipedia: Sensory Processing Sensitivity.

Along come the Sony WF-1000XM3 True Wireless Noise-Canceling In-Ear Earphones (more info at Sony). I’m not sure they will do the job as well, not having anything over the outer ear, and I tend to have discomfort with in-ear things of any kind, but so useful have the headphones become that I have to try the in-ear version too! So I ordered them today, finally.

David C writes:

Noise does more than screw up your cognitive abilities at the time, you get cumulative hearing damage that eventually shows itself when, like me, you discover you are reading lips to hear people talking. I don’t know if the damage is latent or if you just don’t notice as your hearing goes away, drip, drip, drip, but I have read that a single exposure to really loud noise may cause permanent damage. I worked in an underground gold mine for five years, so I got plenty; for instance a jackhammer is estimated to be around 130dBA, but that’s on the street, think of the same noise in a small room with stone walls (tunnel face) with a pneumatic rock drill that is a lot bigger than a typical street jackhammer. I wore foam plugs part of the time, but sometimes didn’t have time or inclination (yes stupid, youthful invincibility). all the “old” guys (40+!) at the mine were deaf.

One thing I find odd is most sources list a chainsaw at around 130dBA, but I don’t find them to be very loud. maybe it’s because my high frequency hearing ability is gone (spectrum matters).

An interesting bit of trivia, apparently a lot of older people in the US have become deaf in the left ear because, before AC, they rolled down the car window while driving.

I don’t wear hearing aids yet, mainly because the markup on them amounts to highway robbery (a device bought by millions of people that is mostly electronic shouldn’t cost $thousands). yeah, I know, this isn’t rational; maybe it’s due to hearing damage ;). I *do* wear plugs or headphones running the tractor, lawnmower, grinder, etc now, but too late.

“protect your ears!” is one bit of advice I’d give to all young people if I could; of course they wouldn’t listen.

If you can tolerate them give foam plugs a shot. they are useful sometimes because they are easy to carry, don’t interfere with your head movement and don’t lose their seal as easily by being bumped (e.g. when your head is in the bushes trimming a tree). plugs aren’t sensitive to your head shape, but the size of your ear canals may dictate which plugs will work.

DIGLLOYD: loud noise is bad news indeed. When I mow the lawn, I use earplugs plugs the Sony noise canceling headphones. Foam earplugs can be risky—I've had way too many that don’t quite fully seat. I prefer the soft rubery ones, having ordered a number of different ones to find some that insert reliably and stay in.

Jeffrey J writes:

I purchased the latest version of the Sony in ear noise cancelling earbuds. WF-1000MX3. I had a difficult time getting a proper seal even after trying several sizes of the ear buds.

They would seal for a bit then if I moved the seal would be lost.

Even when sealed the noise cancelling was not as good as the over the ear WM-1000MX3’s. I ended up returning them. They must work for some because reviews are generally good. Just didn’t work for me.

DIGLLOYD: I also have hard-to-fit ear canals. I find that even earplugs cause me discomfort within an hour or so too, Apple earbuds are awul for me, etc.

Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless Noise-Canceling Over-Ear Headphones

Upgrade the memory of your 2018 Mac mini up to 64GB

On the Way for Testing: 2019 Mac Pro 16-core / 48GB / 4TB

Update Dec 27: I am unappy with B&H Photo today—yesterday’s order confirmation stated expected delivery on Dec 30—now it says “backordered”. It was in stock when I ordered, and I paid for one day shipping and the order confirmation reflects that. At this point I have no idea when I’ll get the machine but it looks like no tax write-off for 2019 as well as delayed testing.

Update Dec 28: here on Sunday night says “In Stock, Order Sent To Warehouse”. Maybe there is still hope that it will ship on Dec 30 and arrive Dec 31. Update Dec 28 8:30 PM: now the order is back to "backordered". Something is screwed up with the B&H ordering system!

Update Dec 30: barring weather problems, Mac Pro should be here Dec 31 just in time for New Years geek-out celebration! All’s well that ends well, but gee, B&H needs to fix its order status system.

Why this particular 16-core Mac Pro (see screen shot below)? I would have rather bought it with 32GB memory instead of 48GB since I’ll be upgrading the memory anyway and maybe the not-yet-available Radeon Pro W5700X, but waiting 3-4 weeks for delivery is just not a viable option for me.

Plus, the Section 179 federal small business deduction means that gear has to be in service (not just ordered) by Dec 31. So the configuration below is awesome, even if I had to spend another $300 for 48GB instead of 32GB memory (see Mac Pro memory buying tips)Still it’s only about 3% of the total—immaterial given the context and the value of savings at least 3 weeks.

As it stands, I have 192GB OWC memory (6 X 32GB modules) arriving Dec 30 along with the OWC Mercury Accelsior 4M2 8TB PCIe card.

Consult with me (Lloyd) and I’ll help steer you to the best machine for your own specific workflow needs at the lowest cost, professional or you just want the best (which might or might not be the Mac Pro). Along with whatever add-ons and backup procedures and related stuff you need to sort out.

I wasn’t necessarily planning on buying a Mac Pro, but a variety of factors have pushed me into it. For starters, every pro and serious user will be thinking about getting one, so I need direct ongoing experience with it. Since I have extensive experience with the 2017 iMac 5K and 2019 iMac 5K (including photography field work in my Mercedes Sprinter van), I can offer specific, actionable recommendations for all my consulting clients.

Second, to be able to test a bumper crop of PCIe cards that are coming, such as the OWC Accelsior 4M2 8TB PCIe SSD, there is no way I can do that for the next 3-5 years without having a Mac Pro on site starting now. So I scrimped and saved all year long knowing this day would come—canned beans are quite satisfying when shooting in the field, and that is no joke.

I’ll be adding 192GB OWC memory for 2019 Mac Pro (bringing total memory to 240GB) and at least one 8TB OWC Accelsior 4M2 PCIe SSD.

I’ll start with the NEC PA302W as my primary display, but I don’t know what the 2nd display will be yet, perhaps the NEC PA311D.

Storage for backups and archiving and such will continue as-is (excepting the internal PCIe SSD), with the OWC Thunderbay 6, four OWC Thunderbay 4 (both with Toshiba 14TB hard drives), and the 8TB OWC Thunderblade SSD.

Data integrity and validation by IntegrityChecker, a critical tool when working with data for professional use; see for example How to Safely Transfer Data or Verify Backups (IntegrityChecker).

B&H Photo Payboo card is a screaming tax-savings deal with savings of $925 for me here in tax-fetish California—click the Payboo thing on my Mac wishlist page.

2019 MacBook Pro 16-inch
Storage and Ports for MacBook Pro, Macs and PCs

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