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Friday, July 1, 2005

Beauty & The Beast


Tame the large files produced by a high-resolution digital SLR


Beauty & The Beast  They're beautiful—one look and I'm captivated. I stare and find myself absorbed by every detail. If this isn't love, it'll do. As a card-carrying photo geek, I admit that looking at digital files produced by the new 12- and 16-megapixel SLRs leads to a rush that normally means a trip to the confessional. Okay, maybe I exaggerate, but not by much.

What's so thrilling about a super-megapixel camera goes beyond bragging rights, No, it's the large file it produces and the imaging possibilities that file holds. So it's with anticipation that I sit down at my computer and begin applying filters, adding layers, and enhancing colors, contrast and sharpness. I'm having a ball tweaking and shaping the image to perfection as the file gets bigger and bigger and bigger.

Suddenly, my joy is assaulted with sluggish progress bars and intrusive error messages declaring I've exhausted my system resources. My excitement quickly turns to frustration as I consider the creative fixes to apply to my computer, none of which are effective.

Managing Size With Speed
You'll be hearing a lot about 64-bit processing in the coming months, particularly with Microsoft's announcement of its Windows XP Professional x64 Edition. Navigating through the marketing hype to come, what's applicable to photographers is that the release of the new operating system (OS) will take full advantage of the 64-bit processors that have been built into computers using AMD and Intel chipsets for the last several years. Most importantly, it's going to provide performance improvements that make handling large image files a pleasure rather than heartbreakingly painful.

Right now, the maximum amount of RAM a current computer can handle is 4 GB. With Windows XP Pro x64 working in tandem with a 64-bit processor, that jumps to a whopping 128 GB. Now, that won't make a huge difference if you're working with a single image file. If you're a photographer who's creating a panorama using dozens of 19 MB RAW files, however, you have the means to easily handle the resulting file that's measured not in megabytes, but in gigabytes.


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