PHOTO TOPICS

Reviews of photography techniques, equipment, software, instructional materials, and any other "topics" that are related to photography.   

Friday
May172013

Paul C. Buff - Cyber Commander Interference

I was using Cyber Commander at a client location when my Einstein flashes started to fire intermittently.  I thought it must be the batteries getting low, so I changed them, but no change.  I then pulled out my backup Cyber Commander but that didn't help.  I then thought it was the hot shoe on my Nikon D4, so I swapped it out for my Nikon D3s.  Still no change.

So I switched to my backup Pocket Wizards and they worked fine.

While on the shoot it occurred to me that a similar thing happened about a year ago.  Both times I was at a client who was a high tech software consulting and programming shop.  My guess is that these clients have some very powerful wireless networks.  I have used the Cyber Commanders at dozens of low tech clients with no problem.

My assumption is that the heavy radio traffic at these locations was interfering with my Cyber Commander's radio frequency and that caused them to fail.  I didn't try to change the frequency of the Cyber Commander.  So I don't know if that would help.  Fortunately I had a backup system, I also have a sync cord in case all heck brakes loose and neither wireless system works. 

 

Tuesday
May072013

Adobe Creative Cloud Cost Analysis / Review

Adobe announced that they will no longer be selling individual licenses of programs like Photoshop CS6 and Premiere Pro, instead you can either license them individually at a cost of $19.99 per month or you can license the entire Creative Cloud Suite for $49.99 per month.  Adobe Lightroom, which is very popular with photographers, will still be sold as an individual package for a $79 upgrade fee.  If you go with entire Creative Cloud Suite, Lightroom is included, but if you go for the $19.99 per month Photoshop single application option you still have to buy Lightroom upgrades.  

I did a five year cost analysis for those photographers that use Adobe Photoshop CS6 and Lightroom only (which I believe covers most photographers).  Adobe has historically released a new version of Photoshop about every 18 months at a cost of around $179.  So you are paying approximately $10 per month for Photoshop assuming you upgrade when a new version comes out.  

The old method of purchasing Photoshop would cost $600 over five years, and the new Creative Cloud pricing cost doubles that at $1,200 over five years.  This assumes that most Photographers already have a sunk cost of purchasing the software (Adobe is giving you a $10/month reduction for the first year .... bid deal?).

If you go with the entire Creative Cloud suite your cost will be $3,000 over five years.  That does include Lightroom so that would save you around $300 over that five year period.  So you will be shelling out an additional $2,100 over five years for the Photoshop/Lightroom combination.  If you need and want access to the other products in the suite this might be a good deal, but if you don't, well it is just good news for Adobe. 

The other thing that concerns me is that Adobe has no incentive to improve their software.  Before they had to give you features and functionality to justify the price of the upgrade, but that is no longer an issue because you are stuck paying the same monthly fee regardless of any new features.  

You could just stick with Photoshop CS6, but they are going to get you because the Adobe Camera Raw engine, that is the heart of Lightroom, will not be upgraded unless you go with the Creative Cloud.  So you camera raw engine in Lightroom and Photoshop will be different and you loose a lot of the synergies that you get from keeping them in sync.  

Overall, this is a big money grab by Adobe.  It first started last year when they no longer allowed you to skip an upgrade for Photoshop.  I skipped CS5 and went from CS4 to CS6 because I didn't see anything in CS5 that I really needed and save myself $179.  Can't do that anymore.  Of course it doesn't matter anymore because you have to go with the Creative Cloud.  

The old pricing model didn't provide Adobe with enough steady and growing revenue.  Wall Street likes companies with steady (annuity) and growing revenue streams, they will give them a higher PE ratio than companies that need to sell new innovation via one time license fees every few quarters to keep the revenue coming.  This was a business decision pure and simple ... there is nothing here for the customers, but a lot for the stockholders.  I would feel better about it if they would just say it and not try to make it like they are doing something for the customers, we aren't a bunch of idiots.

Judging from the VERY NEGATIVE reaction that Adobe is getting on the forums, I wonder if this will backfire and hit their revenue hard and therefore their stock price.  Time will tell if photographers will just bitch about it for a few months and then capitulate in six to twelve months and pay Adobe their monthly fee.

 

Friday
Apr052013

Olympus OM-D E-M5 ... It is not the Best Camera, but it is good enough

Is the Olympus OM-D E-M5 good enough to be my camera system for personal / family photography?  

I have a Canon S100 point and shoot camera that I use when I need to be able to put my camera in my pant pocket, but the quality of the images, even at its base 80 ISO, just aren't that good.  My professional DSLRs, Nikon D4, Nikon D800E, and the Nikon D3S are the best cameras on the planet, but they are heavy and cumbersome when on vacation or when I'm taking a few photos for personal use at Christmas or birthday party.  

So I decided to test my OMD on the streets of Washington, DC.  I don't consider myself a "Street Photographer,", but I thought I would take my Olympus OM-D E-M5 out for a test drive.  So I took the Metro down to around the Tidal Basin where I thought the tourists, hoping to see the Cherry Blossoms, would be out in force.  The Cherry Blossoms are late this year because of the cold weather, so there weren't as many tourists as normal, but there still was quite a few.  I wasn't quite sure what I was going to take pictures of. The first thing you notice is the tourists are taking photos with iPhones, point and shoot camera, SLRs, and a surprising number of people using iPads as their primary camera.  Family members stand there all proud as they get their photo taken in front of the monuments. 

I started at the Jefferson Memorial and walked around to the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial.  I then walked over to the Washington Monument (which is being repaired) and then over to the White House. 

I used two lenses, the Panasonic 25MM F1.4, and the Panasonic 100MM-300MM.  I typically shoot with wide-angle lenses, but I wanted to change it up and shoot with a long telephoto lens.  The 100-300 becomes a 200-600 (35MM equivalent lens) on the OMD.  I found myself having to constantly back up vs. getting closer as I normally do with my wide-angle lenses.  I found the 100-300 to be surprisingly sharp.  I had one strange thing happen that I am not sure is a result of the lens or the OMD Sensor.  If you look at the columns of the Lincoln Memorial you can see how jagged they are.  I shot JPG + RAW and they were both the same (I was thinking maybe that Lightroom was having a problem decoding the RAW).  This was shot at about 188MM.

Other than that, the Olympus and my two Panasonic lenses performed well.  Almost all of the photographs were shot at the camera's base ISO of 200, so I didn't stress the low ISO capabilities of this camera, expect for a few shots in the Metro which were shot at ISO 4000.

The lightness of the Olympus OM-D is so nice.  I walked about four miles over a three hour period and the camera and lenses were barley noticeable.  So is the excellent image quality that comes from a DSLR like my Nikon D800E and the associated size and weight worth the bother for personal use vs. taking something like the Olympus OMD which is super light and convenient.  If I want to put the camera in my coat pocket (not pants) I can put my Panasonic 14MM F2.5 pancake lens on my OMD.  It is a bit bulky, but it fits.  Try that with a DSLR.  The lenses that are being developed by Panasonic and Olympus for the Micro Four Thirds platform is very impressive.  

THE VERDICT:  We are planning a family vacation to Seattle this summer.  There should be some great photo opportunities.  I have decided to take my OMD and leave the Nikon DSLRs at home.  It is funny that I don't even notice the weight and size of my Nikon D4 with lenses like the Nikon 70-200 F2.8 when I am on the job as a professional photographer, but when I am on vacation or taking photos for personal use, it makes a big difference.  Don't get me wrong, the OMD is no match for the Nikon D4 or D800E for image quality, autofocus speed and accuracy, and dynamic range, but for personal use it is close enough.  I am a big believer that as a professional photographer I should be using the best equipment money can buy to deliver to my clients the best quality images.  For personal use, I am the customer and I choose to compromise quality for convenience. 

 Cherry Blossom Photography Olympus OM-D OMD Review


Cherry Blossom Photography Olympus OM-D OMD Review


Cherry Blossom Photography Olympus OM-D OMD Review

 

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Mar192013

Nikon D4, Nikon WT-5A, ShutterSnitch, and the iPad ... Winner!!!

Many of my clients like to be able to see the results from a shoot real time, which is great by me because I can get real time feedback on the shoot.  I used to have to take my laptop and a long 25 foot USB cord to hook my camera to the laptop.  Between the cord and the laptop it was kind of clumsy.  I like to move around on a shoot and being tethered doesn't help.  I often shoot outside, and here again, the cord and laptop just got in the way and the laptop was hard to see in bright light without some kind of cover.

I read an article about an iPad app called ShutterSnitch that allowed a photographer to easily acquire images from his/her camera over WiFi.  Many photographers use the Eye-Fi card, but it only comes in SD format and my Nikon D4 doesn't support that.  You could use an SD to CF card adapter but I read about a lot of problems with weak signals and slow transmission.  Then there was the Nikon WT-5A Wireless Transmitter which is designed for use with the Nikon D4 D-SLR camera.  At $553 dollars at B&H it was a major investment vs. a $69 SD Eye-Fi card.  As I always tell my kids, when you GO CHEAP you PAY MORE. 

How many times have you bought something that was cheap and supposedly just as good as the best solution, only to have to deal with all the frustration and lost time, and at the end of the day you finally end up buying the best solution anyway.  And when I am with a client I don't want to be fumbling with unreliable equipment.

The WT-5A fits like a glove on my Nikon D4.  It was fairly easy to configure, and the connection to my iPad was fast and reliable.  The ShutterSnitch app is very intuitive.  It acquires the photos quickly, it allows you to rate and sort the files quickly.  Customers love to flick through all the photos and rate them real time.  

On a portrait shoot I use to put the proofs from the shoot on my website and have my client pick their favorites when they got back to their office.  Because the iPad is so easy to use and setup, I find myself using it on portrait shoots and I allow my client to pick their favorites before they leave and I can go right to retouching without the intermediate step of putting the proofs online.   This saves time, disk space, and my clients get their images faster.  The $553 for the Nikon WT-5A was money well spent!

 

Thursday
Mar142013

Einstein E640 Reliability and Firmware Upgrade on MAC

Einstein E640 Reliability

I have had two Paul Buff Einstein 640s fail (they just die and won't power on ) on me over the last six months. These units are less than 18 months old.  I had about eight other Alien Bees and While Lightning strobes from Paul C. Buff over the last 10 years and never had one problem with them.  I don't know if it is just bad luck, or a trend, but if another fails on me I will consider replacing them with another brand.  Other than that, I really like the units and the Cyber Commander interface that lets me control the strobes from my camera position.

I just received my a new E640 unit from Paul C. Buff to replace my dead one that I sent in a week ago.  I can't fault the service.  I just hope the Einstein's reliability is as good as their service.

FIRMWARE UPDATE:

On another note .... Paul Buff came out with a new Firmware upgrade (v31) for the Einstein units.  I bought a 2GB Micro SD card as instructed, it came pre-formatted as FAT16.  I downloaded the firmware onto my MAC, copied the firmware to the SD Micro card and when I put it into my Einstein it just went into an endless loop where the fan kept coming on and off.

I then reformatted the card in FAT16 using the MAC Disk Utility, but that didn't help.  I called support and they couldn't figure out what was wrong and offered to send me an SD Micro card with the firmware on it (for free).  In the meantime my wife brought home her Windows laptop from work.  I loaded the firmware onto the card using her Windows machine (the card that was formatted FAT16 by my MAC) and it still didn't work.  Then I reformatted the SD Micro card using the Windows Disk Management utility, and then reloaded the firmware .... IT WORKED! 

For some reason, unless you format your SD Micro card with the Windows Disk Management utility, it won't work.

 

 

 

Monday
Mar112013

Nikon D4, Nikon D3S, Nikon D800E, and the Olympus OM-D E-M5 in Action

I spent two days photographing the IDEA Personal Trainer Institute in Alexandria, VA.  I really enjoy shooting this event, but the lighting in the hotel meeting rooms is horrible. Some of the the sessions are presentations, but most of the sessions involve a large amount of movement and activity with trainers jumping, running, stretching, etc.

So here you are with poorly lit rooms and the need to stop action.  I get about 10 to 20 minutes per session and I have to move onto the next session.  There is no time to setup lighting, and in most cases there is no room to setup lighting and you can't risk a trainer tripping over a light stand.  About half the time I use my on camera flash with a CTO filter and bounce some light off the ceiling and walls to up the lighting about a stop in the room.  Most of the time I am shooting at ISO 3200 when I am using a flash in this manner, and if I don't use a flash I am between ISO 3200 and 12,800.

I brought four cameras: the Nikon D4, Nikon D3S, Nikon D800E, and the Olympus OM-D E-M5.  The D4 and D3S are the BEST low light camera on the planet and are my go to cameras to capture action in low light.  I have three prime lenses, the 24mm F1.4, the 50mm F1.4, and the 85mm F1.4.  I also use three zoom lenses, the 14-24mm F2.8, the 24-70mm F2.8, and the 70-200mm F2.8.  I wasn't sure how I would use the D800E. It has too many megapixels for what the client needs.  I take a few thousand photographs over these two days and I don't need a ton of 36MB files to process.  

I found myself using the Nikon D800E in DX crop mode with the Nikon 85mm F1.4 lens.  This gave me an effective 127mm lens at F1.4.  The D800E is about one stop less sensitive than the D3S or D4.  After a couple of days with a couple of heavy cameras around my neck, the D800E with an 85mm is a lot lighter than the D4 with my 70-200.  And the big benefits is that the DX RAW files are only 16mb vs 36mb.  The other thing I love about this combination is that the 51 focus points cover the entire frame.   I tend to put a focus point right on my subject's eye and this gives me the ability to frame my subject how I want and still have a focus point over the the eye. 

I also brought my Olympus OM-D EM-5 camera with three lenses: the Olympus 14 F2.5 pancake lens, the Panasonic 25mm F1.4 lens, and the Panasonic 100MM - 300MM lens.  I tried to use the Olympus for some of the low light, action situations but it wasn't up to it.  Because of the action I need great auto focus, though the Olympus is good, it can't focus like the Nikons when it comes to action photography.  I also need to be comfortable taking photos with an ISO of 3200 plus.  The Olympus is  a good two stops worse in low light than the Nikons.  I did find one thing that the Olympus did that the Nikons couldn't, I put the 100-300 on my Olympus which gave me an effective 200mm to 600mm range.  I found that the rooms in which there were just presentations were better lit, and little action (primarily just a speaker, and the attendees sitting at a table). I could pull out my Olympus with my effective 600MM lens I could get so close shooting from afar.  The other thing that was surprising is that when you marry the image stabilization of the Panasonic 100-300mm lens with the built-in images stabilization of the Olympus OM-D you can hand hold a 600mm lens at 1/125 with no problem.  

Here is a sample photo shot with my Olympus OM-D, 600mm, ISO 6400, 1/125, F5.6 - not bad considering:

 

I tried to take some action shots with the Olympus at ISO 6400 with no flash.  It was slightly underexposed and I got a very noisy image.

 

As expected, the Nikon D3S (and D4) were amazing in low light. The next image was shot at 1/250, with a Nikon 24mm F1.4 at F1.8 using ISO 6400, very clean!  

The next image was shot with a Nkon D4 at 1/250, with a Nikon 24-70mm F2.8 at F2.8 using ISO 9,000, very impressive!

And here is the Nikon D800E with my Nikon 85MM F1.4 shot at ISO 4000, F2.0, 1/320.  I shoot the Nikon D800E in DX crop mode, making my D800E about at 16MB camera vs the mega 36MB native full frame FX format.  It gives me better reach and a more usable file size.  Not as clean at the Nikon D4 or D3S, it is about a stop worse in terms of noise.  



Friday
Mar082013

MATROX Thunderbolt Docking Station for MacBook Pro and MacBook Air 

I bought this docking station about two months ago hoping that it could clean up having to plug in my audio cable, my USB 2/3 hub cable, my DVI cable, and my ethernet cable seperatly into my laptop by combing them into the Matrox docking station and just having to plug one thunderbolt cable into my MacBook Pro Retina laptop.  Great concept, but it has been very unstable.  I had a hard time waking my laptop from sleep, my USB3 devices simply wouldn't work,  and I found my laptop just becoming unstable.  I have unhooked my Matrox and went back to using direct connections into my laptop for the last two weeks, everything works great, the laptop wakes from sleep with no problem.  

Bottom line - don't buy the Matrox Thunderbolt Docking Station.  I have been on the Matrox website and there are some references to these problems, but the answer is always that they are working with Apple to find a solution (you get the feeling they believe it is Apple's problem, not theirs).

 

Friday
Jun012012

How to Improve Lightroom 4 Performance Problems

When I installed Lightroom V4 I noticed a big performance hit in the Develop Module.  When I would move the Exposure slider I would see a second or  two delay before the change was visible on the screen.  I also noticed that the Spot Removal brush would take two or three seconds before I would see the results.  In Lightroom Version 3 I had none of these problems.

Lightroom V4.1 improved the performance a little bit, but still didn't get it  back to the level of Version 3.

THE SOLUTION: Turn OFF (set to zero) the Luminance Noise Reduction in the Detail tab. When you are done with your editing for ALL your images just change the Luminance setting to your preference and sync it to all the other photos.  

THE OTHER SOLUTION: Set the Process Version to 2010 under the Camera Calibration tab, but the problem with this is that you no longer get the benefits of the 2012 Process Version.  

FYI: I have an eight processor, 2007 vintage Mac Pro with 11GB of Ram.

Monday
May072012

PocketWizard TT5 Problems with Nikon D4

I was trying to use the PocketWizard TT5 with the Nikon D4 with my Paul Buff Einstein Strobes and the PowerMC2 and I noticed a slight delay when I hit the shutter release button.  It was about a one second delay.  I changed up to my Nikon D3S and I had no such problem.  I have sent an email to PocketWizard to see if they know of this problem and see if there is  a fix on the way.

Here is their response:  (net ... net ... it will be a couple months ... July 2012 or so).

Thank you for your inquiry about the D4.  There is a lot of new and exciting equipment hitting the market from both Canon and Nikon and we know many of you are hoping to use them with your PocketWizard ControlTL radios as soon as you can.  Like you, we’ve been waiting patiently for them to show up (yes, we have to wait for them just like everyone else).

Once they arrive, we start the process to make our system compatible with the new gear.  This requires reverse engineering the signals coming up through the hot shoe of the radio, followed by lots of compatibility testing.  This is a complex process that can take a fair amount of time and testing depending on how different the new equipment operates compared to earlier models.

Adding compatibility requires a new version of the ControlTL firmware.  We are trying to include the D4 compatibility in a future firmware update.  With so much new equipment coming out, this may take a couple months and require a few revisions of firmware. Each revision will be released as a beta version that is available to the public first. 

We will announce the availability of beta versions and official firmware releases via our Facebook page and

Twitter feed as well as on PocketWizard.com.  You may also find some feedback from other photographers who have experimented with the equipment, as many have posted their results.

 Here is the link to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pocketwizards

and our Twitter page: http://www.twitter.com/#!/PocketWizard

 

Tuesday
Apr102012

Upgrade Mac Pro with More Memory, Graphics Card, and SSD

I bought the original Intel based Mac Pro back in January of 2007.  It had two dual-core Xeon 2.66 Ghz processors (four processors total).  I think it came with 3GB of memory and I added an additional 4GBs for a total of 7GB.  About a year ago I added the ATI Radeon HD 4870 graphics card to my system. The Geekbench scores for this system were around 5000, respectable, but many of the iMac and MacBook Pros that are being sold have Geekbench scores over 10,000.

I am a photographer so most of my heavy lifting is done with tools like Adobe Lightroom, Apple Aperture, and Photoshop CS5.  I use CS5 plugins like Nik Color Efex Pro and Portrait Professional.  Most of these tools take advantage of the GPU so the ATI Radeon HD 4870 gave me a good boost.  But there were times with Aperture, exporting from Lightroom, and running some of the CS5 plugins that my system got a little sluggish.

So last summer I had to decide to buy a new Mac or upgrade my 2006 Mac Pro.  The future for Macs is definitely going towards buying high powered laptops with an SSD (solid state drive) and using Thunderbolt devices for access to your high speed drives and monitor.  The problem in the summer of 2011 was that there were few Thunderbolt peripherals available, and you knew that the current, heavy MacBook Pros were going to go the way of the MacBook Airs.  I really use the internal drives of my Mac Pro and didn't want to give them up, and someday Thunderbolt drives will be my answer.  So I looked into the current Mac Pros, they are fast, but they currently don't support Thunderbolt.

Given that we are in a period of transition with Apple Mac products, I decided to extend the life of my current 2006 vintage Mac Pro.

I replaced my original 256GB main hard drive with an 256GB SSD (Crucial Technology $372).  I added 4GB ($108) to my memory taking me up to 11GB.  And I swapped my two dual-core Xeon processors  for two quad-core Xeon processors ($200 on ebay), giving me an eight core machine.

 

My Geekbench score  went from 5000 to over 10,000.   I spent $680 and I got a machine that was current in terms of performance vs. spending what would have been over $3,000 to get a new Mac with an SSD card and 11GB of memory.  The new machines have faster cores, so applications that only run on a single core aren't as fast on my machine as they would be on a new Sandy Bridge Intel CPU.  But for most things my performance is much better.

After I did this upgrade and things were working well, I got greedy.  I decided to add a USB 3.0 card to my Mac Pro last November.  The only card I could find that claimed to work on a Mac Pro the was CalDigit SuperSpeed PCI Express Card.  My system has crashed more times in the last two months than in the prior five years.  I suspected the CalDigit card, so I removed it two weeks ago.  Guess what ... no crashes since.  You have to install a USB 3.0 driver from CalDigit to make this card work because the operating system, Mac OS X Lion, doesn't support USB 3.0.  It seems to be that this driver doesn't play well and causes the system to crash.

CONCLUSION:  For $680 I have extended the life of my Mac Pro for probably at least two years ... well worth the money.

Tuesday
Jul122011

FUJI X100 Review

I have had the Fuji X100 for about a month.  After reading about the image quality of this nostalgic looking camera, I had to see for myself if it was as good as advertised.  

The image quality is excellent, comparable to my Nikon D3S.  For doing street photography of static subjects the camera works great and is sufficiently responsive.  The X100 can sync a flash at 1/2000 of a second.  This is great when doing flash photography outside in bright sunlight.

Unfortunately, I have found a lot about this camera that make it difficult to use in many situations.  Here is my list of gripes:

  • I like to pick my focus point on my Nikon DSLR bodies.  I don't like to focus and recompose with the center focus point because that slight amount of movement can make a sharp eyelash a bit soft.  Selecting a new focus point on the X100 is very cumbersome, especially if you are using the optical viewfinder because the button you have to push to turn on the focus point selection is right next to your eye and hard to reach when looking through the viewfinder.
  • Manual focusing is useless.  It takes so many turns of the lens ring to move the focus that it becomes very tiresome.
  • The X100 has a macro capability but you have to push a button on the back of the camera and then toggle to macro mode to focus on subjects within two feet or so.  Why not just automatically switch to macro mode when the camera sees that you are trying to focus on something close by.  
  • There is a Command Button on the upper right side of the back of the camera.  The button is totally underutilized.  Why not push that button to go right into playback mode?
  • I shoot in RAW mode and it takes quite a long time to write to the SD card.  
  • The camera has a fixed 23mm lens (35mm equivelant).  There are times I wish the lens was a bit wider and a bit longer.  You can't complain about the lens quality, but when you just want to take one camera, having a fixed length lens can be limiting. 
  • All of the above problems make it very difficult to use this camera if you are trying to capture the moment. 
  • Video focusing is hit or miss.  The focus just seemed to wander everywhere.

Conclusion ... the image quality of a camera of this size is the best on the market and is the ONLY reason why I may keep the FUJI X100.  Fuji could do some things in micro code to fix many of the usability problems. They just came out with an update and made a few things better, but they still have a ways to go to where this camera is responsive enough to use to capture those priceless moments that will be lost while you are fiddling with the X100's controls.

 

Wednesday
May112011

I sold my Nikon D7000 DSLR

I bought a Nikon D7000 DSLR Camera back in November.  I was hoping to use it for video, some home family photography, and also for some professional shoots when I wanted a lighter, smaller camera.

- I found the video capability hard to use.  The shallow DOF looks great, but it also makes it very hard to keep in focus when your subjects or you are moving.  The video autofocus system was slow and hard to use and if you used the in-camera microphone, which I did, you could hear the lens focusing in the sound track.  I went back to using my Canon S90 and IPhone 4 for video.

- It took some great photographs of my family.  But it isn't that much smaller than my Nikon D700 and I use the D700, Nikon D3, and Nikon D3S for my professional work.  These three cameras are almost identical operationaly.  The D7000 is smaller than these cameras and it just didn't feel right in my hands.  I can use the other three Nikons with my eyes closed, I had to think too much when I switched to the D7000.

- I have read some reviews that believe the D7000 is a better camera than the D700.  If your a professional photographer and are focused on picture quality, fast and accurate autofocus, and responsiveness, the D700 is a better camera.  I tried to use the D7000 a few times while on assignment.  I found the autofocus not to be as responsive in low light as the D700.  A number of times I filled the camera's buffer and I had to wait for it to clear before I could take pictures.  I don't remember the last time that happened with my D700. 

For the money, the D7000 is a great camera.  It is half the price of the D700 and is probably the best APS-C sensor DSLR camera on the market.  And of course, the D7000 does video, the D700 doesn't.  But for me, since I already had a D700 which I love, it just wasn't a fit for me.

Friday
Apr152011

Pocket Wizard FlexTT5 for Nikon Problem with VR Lenses

I had a problem on a shoot the other day with my Pocket Wizard FlexTT5 on my Nikon D3S with a Nikon 70-200MM F2.8 with VR II.  Even though I saw a flash of light come out of my flash, the photo was almost completely dark.  I called the engineering support staff at Pocket Wizard and he said that they have a problem syncing the TT5 when VR is on.  The problem also occoured with my Nikon 105MM F2.8 VR lens.  When I switched to a non-VR lens the problem went away.

THE FIX - while in manual mode, switch your shutter speed to 1/200 and take a photo and then you can change the shutter speed to whatever you want.  For some reason they can get in sync at 1/200 and once they do that they are good to go.

Wednesday
Feb092011

Pocket Wizard FlexTT5 for Nikon Review

I just received three Pocket Wizard FlexTT5s for Nikon.  I have been waiting two years for this technology ever since Pocket Wizard announced their offerings for Canon. Photographers who use Canon's E-TTL remote flash system or Nikon's i-TTL CLS flash system know the limitations of having to have your flashes in line of sight and within close proximity. Even when I would be inside within close proximity, I would have to make sure that the sensor on the remote flash was pointed back at my camera.  With my style of shooting I quite often move the lights all around my subject and having to re-align my flash to be sure it was pointing towards the camera was a real pain.

I tried the Radio Poppers but they were just too fragile for my purposes.  The RadioPopper PX transmitter box that was attached to the camera flash was held on by Velcro with a flimsy antenna sticking up in the air.   I move around a lot and quite often carry two cameras.  The Radio Popper transmitter kept getting bumped and would move or fall off the flash.  They also were very unreliable unless the batteries were very fresh.  I could barely get one photo shoot out of a set of batteries.  

I bought three Pocket Wizard TT5s vs getting a one Pocket Wizard TT1 and two TT5s because I didn't see much advantage other than size and $20 of getting the TT1.  The TT5 takes AA batteries vs a CR2450 for the TT1.  I don't know about you, but I have a lot of AA batteries laying around but not any CR2450s.  And, of course, the TT5 can act as a receiver and transmitter where the TT1 is just a transmitter.

They seem well built and I REALLY like the standard 1/4"-20 thread. I didn't even know that it had it until I received them.  I like to simplify my setups as much as I can.  The fewer parts that I have to put together when I get to a photo shoot the better.  I can mount the FlexTT5 right onto my light stand with the Manfrotto Swivel Umbrella Adapter.

One of the features of the FlexTT5 is the ability to tweak the flash sync speed beyond the 1/250 second  (they call it HyperSync). I have a Nikon D3S, D3,and a D7000.  I was able to sync all three cameras up to 1/400 using a Nikon SB800 as the remote flash before I went into Nikon's High Speed Sync.  I can sync up to 1/4000 of a second with my Alien Bee AB1600 but the light is so inconsistent over the sensor that you would never use it.  I couldn't get a clean, consistent flash with my AB1600 any faster than 1/320, 1/400 was usable but there was some shading going on.   My TT5 Sync delay on -200 when I am shooting with the AB1600. 

Testing them around my home (inside and outside) they seemed to work flawlessly except for one thing, when I used my Nikon D3S with a lens that had VR on I got flaky results. Sometimes the flash would work only if VR was off and sometimes only when VR was on.  It happened with both my Nikon 70-200 VR and my Nikon 105 Micro VR.  It didn't happen with my D3 or D7000.  I called the company and they said that VR can cause some problems and they hope to have it fixed in a future release of the software. 

You have to remember to take a few test shots to allow the TT5s to sync up, but once they do that they seemed to work fine.  I used the TT5 on the camera with and without a flash (SB900) attached.  Without the flash I put my camera in Manual mode and used the camera's exposure compensation to adjust the output of the flash.  With the SB900 attached, I was able to control the remote flashes from the SB900 controls just as I normally would without the TT5.  The remote flashes stay in TTL mode (not remote mode) and the switch on the Pocket Wizard TT5 allows you to designate which flash is in Group A, B, or C.

I hooked up my Pocket Wizard Plus IIs to one of my flashes and they went off when I fired my TT5. Of course, you can't control the flash output, but you can trigger a flash just like you have always done with PocketWizard Plus IIs. 

I hope to use these transceivers this weekend on a photo shoot.  We all know situations where things work great in your studio and you take them on location and nothing works.  I hope that won't happen here.

Here are my settings for my three TT5s.

                   Config 1                      Config 2

TT5/D3         Sync -240                   Sync -200 (used when I trigger Alien Bee AB1600)

                   HSS enabled 1/500      HSS - disabled

TT5/D3S       Sync -170                   Sync -170 (HSS Disabled)

                   HSS enabled 1/500      HSS - disabled

TT5/D7000    Sync -110                   Sync -200 (used when I trigger Alien Bee AB1600)

                   HSS enabled 1/500      HSS - disabled

 

MORE TO COME.......

Friday
Sep172010

Nikon D3S DSLR Review

I have had the Nikon D3S for about two months.  I have used the Nikon D3 for over three years and I really love it.  I was also using the Nikon D700 as my second camera.  The Nikon D700 is basically identical to the Nikon D3 in terms of picture quality and  autofocus.  They share the identical technology inside the two cameras.  The Nikon D3S adds another stop and a half to the ISO as well as video capabilities and sensor dust removal (which the D700 had but the D3 did not).   All three camera (Nikon D3, D3S, and D700) are 12.1 megapixels.  For me the big thing was the reduced noise at higher ISOs.  The two pictures were shot in a dark church and a dark reception hall in natural light.  They were shot at 10,000  and 8,000 ISO.  If you have a D3 you will be right at home with the D3S.  The controls and handling are the same.  The Nikon D3S is THE BEST camera on the market for photojournalists and wedding photographers or any photographer that needs to work in low light.