Finally! I found THE ND filter to own for my fast Leica glass (Thanks Ken Hansen)! Yes my friends, in the past I have owned many ND filters and I always had to figure out which one I would get. When shooting a Summilux lens or Noctilux lens an ND filter is MANDATORY if you want to shoot your ones wide open where they were designed and optimized to be shot. Over the last few years I have had MANY e-mails come in asking me “which ND filter should I get”..and I am happy to say that the one I own now is hands down my #1 favorite that I have ever owned/used.
It is a made in Germany Heliopan Variable ND filter that gives you a range to work with..from 0.3 all the way up to 1.8 or from 1 to 6 stops. This means you can use this single one ND filter for all of your ND filter needs. From slight brightness to brutal harsh light (like I shot the images in below), this ND filter will give you what you need with a smooth twist of the front ring. When Ken Hansen told me about it I had to give it a shot.
If you are not familiar with the purpose of an ND filter I will break it down for you very quickly.
Let’s say you love shooting your Leica and Noctilux but you love shooting that lens wide open at f/0.95. If it is sunny outside or the light is bright you will not be able to shoot wide open because the shutter speed in your 9 or M 240 only goes to 1/4000s. This means that without an ND filter you will have to stop down the lens to f/4 or f/5.6 or in some situations even f/8.
With an ND filter in place you can shoot that lens wide open as the filter blocks some of the light. With this particular filter you can adjust how much light gets let in and it is marked from 1-10. I tested this filter in the super harsh mid day sun of Phoenix AZ and my filter was usually between #3 and #6 with the Zeiss 50 Sonnar at f/1.5.
You can also use an ND filter if you want to shoot at longer shutter speeds, for example, a running waterfall. The ND will block the light to your sensor and allow you to drag out that shutter for as long as you need.
Anyway, this is an amazing ND filter and is the only one you will need for ANY situation. No need for 2-4 ND’s, just one. The build is superb and of very high quality, the ring to adjust the strength of the filter is smooth as silk and this filter is available from Ken Hansen in the two sizes any Leica shooter would need. 46mm (35 Summilux, 50 Summilux) or 60mm (Noctilux 0.95). These filters are NOT cheap but no good ND filter is. I believe this one goes for $260 but I found it to be a very worthwhile investment because it is the last ND I will ever need and will fit any 46mm lens I attach to my camera.
I tested it with the Zeiss 50 ZM Sonnar which also has a 46mm filter thread and the filter presented no issues or problems at all. The Zeiss ZM Sonnar is a very unique lens and when shot wide open at f/1.5 it almost resembles a Noctilux in its rendering. Not quite, but close. The best part is that the Sonnar comes in at around $1100. B&H is back-ordered but Tony at PopFlash has one or two in stock right now (in silver) for anyone looking for this now legendary classic lens.
Below are the images I shot with the ND attached, all with the Zeiss Sonnar 50mm ZM and all wide open at f/1.5 at the local Ren Fair here in AZ. BTW, it was almost 90 degrees in mid Feb and the sun was HARSH. AZ mid day sun sucks for taking photos, but I purposely took these at the worst time to test this filter, which did fantastic.
At the end of this review there is a link where I am giving away a free MeFoto tripod on Facebook! Be sure to enter to win the exact tripod you see below!
I admit..I am not a huge fan of tripods for my photography. I rarely ever use them (for photos) and in the past 10 years I probably used a tripod a handful of times and that was mainly due to HAVING to use them at specific events or for camera tests. Nope, just give me a nice light camera, a lens and some memory or film and I am off and running - nice and light.
But even though I do not use them often I do indeed own a tripod and have had the same one for 15 years! I use it mainly for video and it has come in handy for that when I needed to stabilize my camcorder. There are times when long exposures also get me to pull out the trusty tripod as it is the only way to do such photography and get good results. Long story short, my tripod experience is limited as I just do not like to lug them and use them. I am not a landscape guy nor a long exposure guy so keep that in mind when reading this. All in all, this will be my quick thoughts on using the MeFoto tripods but remember, I have limited experience with other brands of tripod.
My intro to MeFoto
A few months ago I ran into a rep from MeFoto and he offered to send me a couple of tripods for review. I was hesitant (because I never use them) but when I saw the tripod he had in his camera bag (yes, in his camera bag) I immediately had to know more about these small and tiny wonders. As I looked at the smallest model called “The Day Trip” I instantly wanted one. Why? I am not sure but I instantly fell for the design, colors and teeny size/ease of use. Maybe the reason I never use tripods is because I did not want to lug around my beast. Hmmmm. After a demo and a few words he promised to send a couple my way and that he did.
The small and tiny “DayTrip” will hold up to 8.8lbs and can be used almost anywhere. At $119 it is a great buy in the small tripod world and is super cool at the same time. Ball head, smooth controls and a well made feeling makes these tripods a contender for those looking for small, light and quality.
Over the past couple of months I have been in possession of three tripods from Me Foto. The Daytrip, the Backpacker and the Road Trip. All three are very nice, very well made and VERY affordable. No, these are not $1500 rock solid big and heavy tripods. Instead they are small genius designs that are light, easy to carry and they simply just work.
For tripod and landscape gurus these may not be the #1 choice but for those who are like me, and prefer a small and light tripod to stabilize their camera then the MeFoto line is right up our alley. They will not break the bank, they will work very well and they are small and attractive as well. The few times I was able to get out and use them I had no problems, issues or complications. They are simple to use as the legs pull out with a simple twist lock. Twist and the legs fall out, twist again to lock in place. The Ball Head is smooth and easy to position and the bubble level helps to make sure you are level. The #1 thing that I love about these tripods is the weight. They are light yet feel solid and they fold up nicely to be very compact. For example…
The little DayTrip tripod is TINY and will fit inside most camera bags. It is not a full size tripod but will do for those times when you just needs something to hold your camera.
The Road Trip is full size and will even quickly convert to a monopod, which I find extremely useful and cool. At $189 it is a full featured tripod that would be all many of us need. I really love this model and in Titanium it very nice to look at as well.
They are sleek, cool, fun, small, light and functional. My only gripe is that you need an allen wrench to loosen and tighten the mounting plate to your camera. The tripods come with the tool but I lost two of them already and on one occasion could not get the plate off of my camera because I did not have the wrench. Throwing on a hand tightening mechanism would be much better IMO. They do come with a carrying case to hold the tool but I always find a way to lose small little items and I never did use the carrying case as the tripod resided in my bag most of the time.
From tripod to monobod in seconds..
Besides that little niggle I love these things and not only are they great buys and a bargain for someone seeking a light and very portable tripod, one of these now resides in my own stable :) Good stuff and highly recommended!
Features and operation Breakdown: It is a tripod. You open the legs, attach your camera, set it up where you want it and shoot :) They are lightweight, have a built in bubble level, have an included very nice carrying case, 360 degree panning capability, two leg angle positions, a hook for adding more weight to the center for stability (or to hang your bag), easy twist leg locks. Great bang for the buck. You can see feature details HERE.
In use they are light and easy to carry (as mentioned) and even has a very nice carrying case that comes along with each and every tripod. I had no issues bringing any of these along with me. My son Brandon is using one for long exposures and even for his binoculars for night sky viewing. He really loved his time with the MeFoto as well.
All in all, a wonderful product that is very functional. If it had a finger screw base plate for attaching the camera it would be perfect!
So there you go..my quick look. There really is nothing to dislike about these.
I did take many more photos of the tripods in use but somehow the Fuji X-E2 and 23 1.4 I was using missed focus in half of the product shots. (focused behind the subject). That means I will be going back to my tried and true Olympus E-M1 for product shots in my reviews! :)
Specs and Cost:
Day Trip – Max Load – 8.8 Lbs. – Max Height 24″ – Min. Height 9.4″ – 1.8 Lbs – $119
BackPacker – Max Load – 8.8lbs – Max Height 51.2″ – Min. Height 17.3″ – 2.6lbs – $139
Road Trip – Max Load - 17.6 lbs – Max Height 61.6″ – Min. Height 15.4″ – 3.1lbs – $189 (the sweet spot in the line up IMO)
Globe Trotter - Max Load 26.4 lbs – Max Height 64.2″ – Min. Height 16.1″ – 3.7lbs – $209
How about some Canon or Nikon Coffee? Great deals on these LenZcups!
Just noticed that B&H Photo are now selling these famous lens cups/mugs and thermos bottles and at pretty nice prices. If anyone reading this is like me…then these may be something cool to grab (I ordered two t his morning). Every morning I wake up and within 2 minutes am at my machine making my 1st cup of coffee. Being such a photography and camera gear geek I wondered just today why I never picked up one of these cups! Especially since most of these are under $13!
I have seen these in the flesh before and they felt solid and nice. They are more of a conversation starter or for those of you who live to shoot. The thermos? Also very cool as you can bring it along on your photo journeys. Who here has ever left the house at 4Am in search of some nice scenery? I have and having a camera lens thermos would have pepped me up that extra percent :)
For enthusiastic amateurs and those with more than a snap shooting interest in Photography, I’d say no, not now, not ever.
There are certain things Smart Phones lack, and even if you gave a Smart Phone Full Frame and a gazillion Mega Pixels; it’ll still never pass the test – I consider Ergonomics a powerful feature no amount of technical advancement can compete with.
Anyway, this isn’t a discourse on Smart Phones and Photography, it’s about Hipstamatic on the iPhone.
Hipstamatic, in my opinion, is the best thing about Smart Phone photography – and unfortunately at the time of writing it is only (to my knowledge) available for the iPhone, so sorry Androids and Windows.
If you haven’t used it before, it’s a Square Format Camera Application which mimics toy camera’s and vintage snap shot cameras of yore, with choices of lens, Flash and Film which one can select for so many different combinations.
The combinations and options are phenomenal, brilliant in simplicity, ease of selection and results.
We have BW Films galore, colour, cooked ones, XP, IR, expired, different flash types, and lenses ranging from soft ones, to vignetting or ones giving an illusion of shallow depth of field, ones that leak light and others that are completely bizarre – and the range vast, with creative possibilities limitless.
Want moody black and white Noir-ish Film with strong vignetting? Want a platinum look print with soft tones? Want a punchy Velvia like look with sharp lens? A burnt out vintage 70s look with a multi hued flash effect? Or a Polaroid look with loads of colour? It’s all there – and to make things even more interesting, you can order prints on-the-fly, from within the Application.
It’s all great fun and has a superb interface – simply look through the square viewfinder (on the screen) and press the yellow button – and press a button to flip over so you can change film, lens and flash with a swipe.
And of course, you can buy more and more stuff.
With use you’ll start knowing which combination to use for which subject and have personal favourites, and to be honest, even the most mediocre snaps can be made to look superb with the colour and effect possibilities.
There is some creative control – touch a part of the Viewfinder image and it’ll focus and expose for that, move the iPhone up and down and you’ll see the exposure change in real time.
Anyway, that’s all the fun and funky stuff out-of-the-way, you can have all the funky effect things in the world but ultimately, if you lack even a microgram of creativity and talent, it’ll all look somewhat like a turd rolled in glitter.
What I really love about Hipstamatic, is the ability to work on composition using the brilliant Square Format, and this is what I use it for (apart from family and friends and such snaps).
The 6×6 Square is a great compositional aspect ratio – there’s no room for messing around, and the simplicity enables framing to be easier than oblong aspect ratios.
One, with the large square view finder of Hipstamatic, can really go to town on working on composition, framing, using key subjects, lead in lines, rule of thirds – and one can do it with the minimum of fuss and headache – just open the Application and off you go.
And the user can select the appropriate ‘Film’ to take the scene using the different creative Film/Lens or Filters available, and interpret the scene however they wish and easily.
I have been working on composition with this Hipstamatic for a while now, and I think it has improved my ability to see and express a scene more so than traditionally (with a real camera Film or Digital).
I don’t worry about sharpness or resolution – as such things really don’t matter one iota to me, sure to others they may well do – colour, composition, mood, tones and subject matter make sense to me and for this, Hipstamatic on the iPhone 5 is what I enjoy using as and when I require it.
I’ve included several shots here, just detailing the sort of things I tend to work on, composition, arranging elements in a scene, subject matter, colour, light and tone. With some studies of different places (Stone henge for example)
Three years ago I wanted to get a mobile phone which would take decent photos.
By chance I read David Bailey had done an exhibiton called Alive at Night using a Nokia N86.
Nokia N86 announced February 2009, has a Zeiss Tessar 28mm F2.4-F4.8 8MP with Auto Focus. It also has a close up capability which I find useful. There’s no touch screen which I prefer for photogrpahy.
Whereas for various scenarios a much larger sensor, far higher dynamic range, and high iso capability is significantly useful, I have found a small sensor useful in so many scenarios. Small sensor compacts may sometimes get knocked down, especially the megazooms with 1/2.3″ sensor and slow lens such as Sony X50V 24-720mm however they do represent excellent photo taking capabilities.
It really does depend on the way we photograph and our subject.
I checked out the images of it and said “THIS is what I need”. I really have no interest for the Olympus battery grip as it makes the camera bulkier and fatter..more DSLR like. But this J.B. grip looked cool..solid..sleeker. So I ordered it and Amazon told me it was set to be released and shipped ion November 14th.
I never had any contact with JB camera designs but have seen images of their previous grips and they looked great so I was excited to see if this one stood up to what others have raved about. Well, the grip arrived on November 9th, 5 days early along with a note from J.B. thanking me for the order and to let me know he is a fan of this website! How cool is that?
Anyway, the case came packaged in a nice box as well as a new shiny penny that is used to screw the grip onto the camera. The grip is HEAVY duty and EXTREMELY well made. I paid $46.95 for this and I have seen some Leica accessories, not as well made, sell for 5X this amount. If it were me, I would have priced it at $74.95. It is VERY well made, feels great and fits perfectly to the E-M1.
So at $46 it is a steal for anyone who wants a grip added to their E-M1 without adding bulk and fatness. This grip allows a place for your pinky to rest when holding the camera. It works very well. I HIGHLY recommend this grip!
I’ve been playing with flashes for a while now, and have been buying bits and bobs from ebay. The kit I have so far includes three Minolta AF4000 flashes (costing about £15 each), generic radio controllers from China (brand name – ‘Nice’! – £15 for a three of them), and a flash stand (I ended up spending more than I would have liked on this as I needed one quickly for a proposed shoot – which ended up being cancelled). I also have a couple of white umbrellas and a honeycomb grid, again cheapies from ebay.
I had put out an advert for a model simply to help me get used to using this kit, and after a while with no response, I was contacted on Thursday night by a model/actor called Tomasz looking for a shoot the following day. He lives in Nottingham and I was struggling to think of a location, but he said he was interested in shooting in some sort of derelict industrial place.
As luck would have it, I had found just such a place a matter of hours before he contacted me! On Thursday evening I had gone for a walk in some woods where I used to spend a lot of time as a child, and found that the old abandoned factories I remembered there had not been demolished, and even better, were easy to get into.
I showed some pictures of the location to Tomasz and he loved tit, and agreed to meet me there the following day.
It turned out he needed to get underwear shots to send out to an agency. Luckily I was so involved in setting up the lights and shot set ups, that I didn’t have time to get embarrassed.
I shot with my K10D and Tamron 17-50, and Pentax F 35-105mm. Generally I used two stobes either side, one above and slightly to the front, one a tad lower and slightly to the back. I also used a Sony NEX and lens turbo adapter and Pentax K 135/2.5 for available light shots
The shoot went very well, and ended up helping Tomasz get signed up to the modelling agency. We actually returned the following week to take some more creative shots with a ‘paint spatter’ theme – something I had never really thought about trying but I loved the results!
Some images from Photo Plus in NYC today. Sony, Zeiss, Leica…
What a day! Whew…
Yesterday I flew out of Sunny AZ at 6am headed to NYC for the Photo Plus show going on this week. When I arrived in NY I did a big “UH OH” because I realized I only brought a light jacket with me, and here I was in NYC in 48 degree weather! The good thing is that it was not THAT cold so I survived a short walk to dinner with some friends and had a great evening. As always, I had a camera with me so for the chilly walk back I snapped a shot or two..
This morning I woke up later than I expected, around 8:30AM. Had a business phone call at 9 through 9:30 and by the time I headed out to the show it was 10:30.
When I arrived to Photo Plus I saw a few familiar faces and made my way to pick up my press pass.
I ended up walking around and it seemed every few steps someone who knew me would walk up to me to chat! Was so cool to meet so many readers of this site today, all were super nice and wonderful people.
I eventually found my way to the most crowded section of the show (from what I saw) and it was the Sony Booth. They had the A7 and A7r on display, as well as the new RX10 (which is looking better and better to me the more I mess with it). I even had a chance to borrow a Zeiss 50 1.5 Sonnar from a woman who was testing some old lenses on the A7. She was kind enough to let me take a shot or two with her lens mounted on the A7.
I snapped a shot of a guy who was chatting with me (a reader here) at 1.5, wide open. Sony would NOT let me put an SD card in the camera (they are saying the camera is still not FINAL in FW, so pre-production) but when I saw the playback it had the full on Zeiss character and was beautiful. I am telling you this..the camera was a breeze to manually focus with this Zeiss ZM lens. No focus shift because you are using Live View, so what you see is what you get.
The OOF transitions were creamy, the color was nice for being indoors with horrible light and I can tell that this camera is going to deliver on IQ, no doubt in my mind at all. After more hands on time with the A7 and A7r I can tell you that yes, the A7r does have metal dials on top where the A7 has plastic. They both feel great and I noticed no difference in feel or build when in my hand. I have a feeling that the a7r is going to be the Godzilla of resolution. A beast.
Shot with the 50 Zeiss Zm Sonnar at 1.5
So after messing around and chatting with a few folks a woman walks up from Zeiss to show me the new Otus lens. This lens is a statement piece from Zeiss and coming in at $4000. The 55 1.4 design is gorgeous but man, this lens is HUGE (though light).
She wanted me to try it on the A7r and I used the Metabones Adapter to do so. When I looked at the results on the screen..WOWOWOWOWOW. This lens is something the perfectionist will want. Those who want ultimate IQ..this lens will do the trick and seeing that it is a pro manual focus lens (NO AF), it feels REALLY good in use. It is just large.
I HEARD MUMBLINGS…Sony was telling Zeiss..MAKE THIS FOR FE MOUNT! So we shall see. Below is the lens with hood attached and Metabones EF to E mount adapter. I may get to shoot with this lens on the A7r NEXT WEEK and this time, with an SD card in the camera :)
So as I left Sony I headed toward Nikon, Canon, Fuji and Panasonic. Not much new there. Saw the GX7 but I already reviewed it here. I saw the All weather Nikon 1 which was larger and much more solid than I expected and I saw a few other things around the convention center that were more interesting than what Nikon was offering..
I stopped by the Olympus booth and they were busy with everyone checking out the E-M1 and even E-P5. I saw quite a few walking around today with OM-D E-M5′s and E-P5′s. The woman above was doing an act for Olympus demoing their wifi smartphone/ipad remote feature. Before I shot this I cracked a joke which was probably not good because she could have lost her concentration :) But she didn’t. Behind here you can see every Olympus Micro 4/3 and 4/3 lens ever made.
The Leica booth had a few gawkers but they were not showing anything new besides their “Glossy Black” D-Lux 6. Yet another refresh of the same old D-Lux 6 which appeared to be slapped together just for the show..I mean, they had to have SOMETHING new right?
They did have this on display…
I stopped by Fuji as well and took a look at the new X-E2. Looks and feels like an X-E1. Same build. AF seemed faster but not a dramatic difference. The new 23 1.4 was fantastic though. This is a lens I would buy if I owned a Fuji. Smaller than you think as well.
So after the show I walked back to my room, stopped off at B&H Photo once again and am now laying in my hotel bed writing this update. What I learned today from Photo Plus is that there is MASS interest in the Sony A7 and A7r as well as the new RX10. Olympus is hot with the E-M1 and Nikon and Canon are still Nikon and Canon with their usual DSLR updates. (yawwwn)
Leica is holding steady with M sales doing very well for them and Panasonic had quite the crowd as well.
So without a doubt, the biggest thing here this year is the Sony A7 and A7r. Sales are STRONG, results are looking AMAZING and the camera is well made, solid and has very fast AF. When something this good comes along, it gets noticed and the people I spoke with today who were giving it a spin all said the same thing..”I pre ordered one already”. They were all happy with the fact that they did.
Remember, starting on the 28th I will have loads of samples and news and videos on the new A7 and A7r and RX10, so bookmark and come back because you will NOT want to miss it.
For those wondering, all photos posted here were shot with an Olympus E-P5.
I will beheading back to the show tomorrow morning to throw a Voigtlander 12mm on the Sony A7 and A7r and to see what I see on the LCD. Of course, what I see you will see here right after :)
The Nikon D700 is, quite simply, a legendary camera. Released in 2008 it is still preferred by many over the current D600 due it’s more pro-oriented ergonomics, faster shutter speeds and proven field-tested ruggedness and reliability. Its thrifty 12MP sensor still, yes STILL!, ranks in the Top-10 for low light photography at DXO Mark (almost unthinkable for a 5-year-old sensor in today’s world!)
But this review isn’t about the D700. Rather, this review is about how a $25 piece of equipment re-united two old friends. This review is about the B-Grip Camera Holster. And don’t worry, we’ll get to that… in due course.
The D700 (affectionately known hereafter as ‘Dee’) and I grew-up together in a sense. There was a time when the two of us were inseparable. We did everything together. But as early relationships often do, we began growing apart over time. As my interest grew in taking long trips, full-day excursions, 8 hour walks and 16 hour events Dee became… well… a bit of a pain. Dee’s thing seemed to be more scheduled shoots, road-trips, and shorter outings; not long marches or laying siege to a convention centre.
We tried to bridge the gap, to find some way to make these two worlds one. I started with the classic Domke Gripper strap, but alas, I still felt Dee slipping away (BTW, I think her 5lb decked-out weight is just perfect, and ‘no’, the 80-200mm does not make her look fat!)
The BlackRapid strap made me feel like a kid again… in the sense that it was like trying to remove your girlfriend’s seemingly unnecessarily-complex bra… for the very first time… subtly… with one hand… quickly before the movie ends and the lights come back on… but instead just end up spilling your popcorn.
The highly regarded Lowepro Flipside Sport (which I love) works well in those situations where a backpack is an almost-necessity, but is too cumbersome for crowded shoulder-to-shoulder events and doesn’t provide enough air-flow when exerting yourself in the disparaging heat and humidity of the tropics despite the fact that it comes with a Smirnoff Ice Hydration Pocket.
The Tamrac sling pack is a nice design, but just isn’t secure enough when hiking up steep inclines, climbing fences, or doing even moderate activity where it would always swing free, to-and-fro, and bounce around everywhere (for some unknown reason, the AC/DC song ‘Big Balls’ would continually play through my head when wearing this pack)
The Think Tank Speed Demon belt pack fit securely, and distributed the weight nicely, but even that was a little bulkier than I’d like when walking in the hustle and bustle of some streets or in crowded areas (a great feature for this pouch in future would be a touch/bump activated “Excuse me, I’m sorry” sound… maybe with an alternate Tickle Me Elmo setting just for fun)
Having tried all these things, Dee and I just couldn’t seem to make things click, and it was then I admit that I began spending more time with other cameras. “Hello Micro 4/3, you have such beautiful eyes!” “Hello NEX, I love your exotic look.” and even… “Hi, Nikon1 – you’re D700′s younger cousin, aren’t you?”
And then one day, a bit of serendipity happened. While I wasn’t planning on buying/trying another carrying system, I none-the-less came across one when rummaging through the discount bins at a photo show. It was the B-Grip holster system (1st / original version), and it was marked-down to $25!
I had seen holster systems before (such as the Spider Holster) but they were expensive, and having invested in and tried so many other solutions I wasn’t willing to put out that much cash on yet something else that probably wouldn’t work. But $25?? That was worth the gamble, especially considering all that I’d vested in Dee over the years, who, sadly, in Howard-Hughesian fashion, had become quite reclusive lately. So I made the purchase if for nothing else as a ‘proof of concept’ (if the belt holster concept worked for me in general, I could always buy a more deluxe one in future if need-be).
At that same event I also had the opportunity to meet and speak with Peter Dering, a very nice guy, and the founder and creator of the Peak Design Capture system (which looks amazing). The Peak Design system is, without a doubt, a top-notch, high quality mount and bracket that I’d consider in future, IF a belt system worked for me. And that was the ‘$25 Question’ – would a belt holster work for Dee and I??
Peter Dering from Peak Design? Or Jim from ‘The Office’??
The B-Grip system came complete, with everything I needed. The ‘base’ and ‘quick release plate’ which is the heart of the system, a nylon-webbing tactical belt with (plastic) quick release buckle, and even a rain cover! I liked that it came complete and ready-to-use out of the box, and the rain-cover was a very nice touch.
The build materials are nothing ‘fancy’ or expensive (especially compared to something like the Peak Design Capture system) – the belt being made from (heavy duty) nylon webbing, and the buckle and quick release from (high impact?) plastic. However, from the materials to the design it has a very practical and utilitarian feel which really appeals to me. It absolutely has a ‘real-world-use’ vibe, and not a ‘Barbie-fashion-accessory’ one.
You attach the camera to the ‘quick release’ plate via the camera’s tripod socket, and then the plate clips in (using a quick release lever mechanism) to a bracket attached to the belt. The lever on top is very easy and smooth to operate. The newer version also has a ‘safety lock’. This version doesn’t, nor have I ever needed it.
As stated in the ‘Reviews: Introduction’ I won’t go over the technical specs of the products in detail here – there are a lot of other places where you can find that info. I will say that there are accessories you can get for the B-Grip to allow you to attach it to your backpack strap for example, as well as a hand grip… and that although I personally like the belt provided – the plate and bracket can be easily removed and attached another belt of your choosing. Also, the newer / current version (the “B-Grip EVO”) retails for about $50. I’ll cut-to-the-chase now, and the ‘big question’ which is… does it ‘work’? (and by that I mean, does it work to MY expectations – does it work for ME?)
DOES IT WORK?
The answer to that is… yes – it works beautifully. It’s a life-saver or, at the very least, a neck and back saver. I’ve used it when walking on busy city streets for hours on end. I’ve used it at shoulder-to-shoulder-events such as the Photo Exposure Show, and Fan Expo. I’ve walked with it, I’ve run with it, I’ve climbed hills with it. Carrying the ‘weight at the waist’ is absolutely the way to go in my opinion. I’ve worn the belt (camera attached) for 12 hours straight with no fatigue. The quick release mechanism is easy and quick to use, and holds the camera with heavy lens securely. Batman could wear this while fighting crime.
You do HOWEVER need to ensure that the plate is very tightly screwed into the tripod socket.
There was one time when mine was attached ‘finger tight only’, and after walking and jostling for a few hours it worked its way loose, the D700 and 80-200 falling from waist height onto the concrete sidewalk – OUCH! Luckily both the body and lens survive without so much as a scratch. Since then though, I always make sure to tighten it super-tight, using a quarter in the slot to get that extra torque, and checking it periodically to make sure it’s still snug (common sense really, which apparently I lack along with the ability to read instruction manuals). And of course if you’re taking more than one lens, or any other gear, you’ll need a lens pouch or some other way to store and carry it (along with your spare battery, cards, etc.) With those two minor points noted, I’d say the B-Grip was a very worthwhile purchase.
And as for Dee and I? We’re now reunited… and it feels soooooo good.
- Great utilitarian design
- Looks kind of cool
- Comfortable to wear, even with heavy gear for long periods of time
- Quick and easy camera access for rapid fire
- Reasonable price
- Make sure the plate is very tightly threaded into your camera socket
My name is Jason Wang and I live in Shanghai, China.
I write this mail to you because I am a fan of Mirror less Camera and I am a fan of you too! There is an optical factory in China they made their own Lens Convertor for Sony NEX system recently and this convertor is called ‘Lens Turbo’, almost the same like ‘Metabones Speed Boster’ which you might heard about it before.
The ‘lens turbo’ mounted between NEX and a SLR lens, it increases maximum aperture by 1 stop, increases MTF and makes lens wider by a factor of 0.71x. So if you mount a Nikon full frame lens on the NEX, it will make the NEX have the same angle of view and the same field of depth like a full frame Nikon camera. No 1.5X any more.
It is also at a very low-cost level, only about 130 USD here in China market. And after I tested this product today, I am very pleased for the image quality it brings to me!
Here is the image of my own NEX-6 + Lens Turbo + Nikkor 35mm F2D
Check this images below of my test for this converter using Nikkor 35mm F2D & Nikkor 50mm F1.4D.
Two old enough Film Camera Lens. All of the pictures are OOC JPEG and did a little bit adjustment for the exposure only.
Two of my colleagues, 35mm F2, wide open @F2, finally I could enjoy this 3D feel on such a wide-angle lens. To be honest, even with Sony Zeiss 24mm F1.8, I could not have this 3D feel @F1.8.
BELOW: 35mm @F2 wide open in the restaurant, one of my colleague. I will show you the 100% crop next.
and the 100% crop – very sharp
BELOW: And mounted on the 50mm F1.4D, @1.4 it is soft, but could make the background blur enough
This lens converter really could make those SLR lens to be fully used on current mirrorless camera.
From my test, I found it only suffer a bit for the corner image solutions wide open. For normal use, it is really great and I really enjoyed to use it together with Sony’s peak focusing functions.
The Canon 50 1.8 LTM & W-Nikkor 35 1.8 LTM Lens on the Monochrom – Character galore!
Ahhh, old classic lenses. Sometimes you just gotta love them, sometimes you just gotta hate them, and other times you just want to use them for their unique classic character to inject something cool and different into your photos. True, some of these lenses are gorgeous and some are not so gorgeous but the fact remains. You can get a classic unique rendering and many times on the cheap, especially when compared to big money Leica modern glass.
Since shooting the Leica Monochrom I have discovered, thanks to Ashwin Rao, that sometimes old classics will perform better on this camera than the newest ASPH versions. When I say “perform better” I do not mean “technically” because in that area, the newest lenses from Leica are tough to beat, by anyone. When you want perfection, sharpness and amazing micro contrast it is tough to beat modern Leica glass. Lenses like the 50 Lux ASPH and 35 Lux ASPH FLE are just plain perfection but I remember Ashwin telling me months ago that the modern Leica glass can (at times) look harsh on the Monochrom and that old glass is where it was at for this camera.
My 1st thoughts were..Hmmm, what about the Leica 50 APO masterpiece? I know that lens rocks on the MM but the more I thought about it the more I was intrigued simply because old classic lenses are MUCH cheaper (usually) than the modern counterparts. A few months ago I was using the beautiful Leica 35 Summilux ASPH FLE on the MM exclusively and did think that some of my results were harsh, mostly the ones in high contrast situations, which makes sense. High contrast lenses like those Leica ASPH lenses can be a bit too much contrast in bright conditions.
When the MM arrived in my hands once again a few weeks ago I was off to KEH, looking for some good cheap glass that I could use on the MM. The hard part is finding it though as many shooters out there buy these lenses up as soon as they appear on the site, but if you check every day you may just find something. I managed to find a Canon 50 1.8 LTM lens for $250. Yep, a teeny tiny fast 50 for $250. Much smaller than my Summilux but I just knew there was no way in hell this lens would even come close to the Lux. I imagined soft wide open, hazy and nasty Bokeh. The lens is a LTM” (Leica Thread mount) so it is not compatible with a Leica M camera as is but a $10-$20 adapter will solve this easily. In the video above I show the adapter and take it on and off. You can see how tiny it is.
So..how did the 50 18 work out for me? I will let you know in a bit but also wanted to talk about another little gem of a lens..a rare gem indeed. A Nikkor 3.5cm 1.8 LTM lens, which is rare and damn expensive for being so old.
The W-Nikkor 3.5cm 1.8 LTM
I was not aware of this little lens until an e-mail came in from Ashwin where he mentioned that once again, KEH had it. Curiosity got the best of me and there it was..a classic Nikkor 3.5cm 1.8 LTM lens but man, it was $1599! It was recently reduced (I was told) from $1799 so this is considered a “deal”. Why so high for an old and aging 35 1.8 lens? Well, this one was rated as “EX” and I guess it is a legendary lens with only 1600 copies ever made worldwide. Before purchasing I made sure I knew the return policy because spending $1700 on a classic old lens is not something I take lightly. If the lens arrived in “BGN” condition or had issues with focus I wanted to make sure it could be refunded. Luckily, KEH has an excellent return policy so my worries were gone. KEH also has a great rep so I was not worried anyway, but still, $1599 for an old lens is nothing to scoff at.
I took it out and tested it out with an ND filter to tame the AZ sun. I wanted to see what this lens would do wide open in regards to Bokeh and character. If usable at 1.8, I would most likely keep it. Below are some samples, click them for larger. The Bokeh is interesting to say the least. VERY classic. When shot in B&W it gives off a nostalgic feel and vibe and on the Monochrom it can indeed take you back. Check out the images below and look at the tones in the image. The contrast with this lens is about perfect.
As always, click on the images for larger 1800 pixel wide versions
One side of the immigration reform fence…
I did some research and could not find too much but did see some on e-bay listed at over $2000 so I guess the pricing was on par, if not better at KEH.
So what did I have to lose? Nothing. What did I have to gain? Maybe a kick ass vintage lens that could indeed be quite special. I took the risk. Besides, my taxes are paid. My new iMac is installed and all paid for, and I just made the last payment for my Son’s Japan trip. I had a little left over to play with so why not? I placed the order and waited. When it arrived I was shocked at how tiny it is..man, it is SMALL. Much like the old Summilux PRE-ASPH lens from Leica, a lens I have always wanted to own but never could muster up the courage to spend $2300 for a decent copy of. I love the old lenses that have some glow and flare..I call it “character”. The old pre-asph Lux has it in spades but does the Nikkor? Not so much “glow” but it does have a unique rendering that is plenty sharp for what I shoot.
Fast Fact: The Nikon W-Nikkor.C 1:1.8 35mm uses a 7 element 5 group design. The lens also uses rare earth Lanthanum glass to improve performance, which is supposed to help with sharpness and flatness. Pretty cool huh?
…and the other…
In use the lens is very small and compact, much like the classic Leica Summilux Pre-Asph. It is chrome, solid and beautiful to look at. The image quality is indeed different from ANY modern Leica but that is what I like about it. It has some serious character and works very well on the Monochrom. One thing to note is that the aperture dial is in reverse from your normal Leica lenses so you will be twisting the aperture dial in the opposite direction to change the aperture. Doesn’t bother me at all though, especially when I mainly shoot wide open. That is where most of the character lies with this lens, between f/1.8 and f/2.8.
Damn, this lens got me…
So is the lens staying with me? Most likely as I feel it renders in a beautiful and unique way, especially for B&W. It is gorgeous to look at, gorgeous to use and it gives me something totally different from something like a 35 Lux, 35 Cron or Zeiss 35. It gives me a classic look to the images that I quite enjoy. May not be everyone’s cup of tea but for me, it is a winner. Ashwin Rao is also getting to play with one of these this week. I will be looking forward to his shots with this lens. If there is anything I can say about this lens that I am not a fan of..and could be a “make or break” thing for many is that it has a minimum focus distance of 1m like most older RF lenses. The newer 35′s from Leica, Voigtlander and Zeiss focus to .7 meters and allows you to get close. Something to keep in mind.
*If you find one for sale be aware they are sort of rare and do not show up often. Also be aware there are TWO versions. An “S” version for a Nikon Rangefinder and the LTM version. You can not use the S version with your Leica, so if you buy one for your M use be sure it is a LTM version.
The Canon 50 1.8 LTM on the Monochrom
The Canon 50 1.8 LTM is a double whammy lens because is gorgeous AND cheap! Teeny tiny, solid, metal build, and pretty fast at 1.8. No, it is not a 1.4 but Canon also makes a 1.4 LTM that is supposed to be superb-o. But I am not disappointed in the slightest with the 1.8, in fact, I am beyond thrilled. For $250 plus adapter cost I have a lens that renders beautifully on the MM. I also tried it on the M 240 and found it to be nice there as well, but the color was a little different from what came from the Lux. The contrast is softer but the lens is still sharp. Below are a few test snaps I shot, you can click them for larger views. I do know the last two were at 1.8 and the 1st one may have been at f/2 or 2.8. At $250 this lens is a no brainer if you want to test out some vintage glass.
I find the Bokeh pleasant, the lens is plenty sharp enough wide open and it gives us a little of that classic MOJO many of us like from time to time. Even shooting at night at ISO 1600 you can get a very nice look and honestly, not far off from some much more expensive glass. The 1st image below is an OOC JPEG from the MM at 1.8 using the Canon 50 1.8 LTM, the 2nd one is wide open at 1.8 from my “glasses” series using the same glasses on all who I meet or can talk into wearing them for a snapshot :)
So as you may have guessed, I highly recommend this lens on the Monochrom. It has character (but not too much) and it has most of the things we look for in a Leica lens. Small size, quality build and feel, sharpness, contrast and pleasant bokeh. In fact, I find the bokeh to be gorgeous. Maybe I got a good copy but I hope they are all like this one. At $25o I find it the Deal of the Century in the world of classic Leica glass.
On the Leica M 240:
The lens on the M 240 will give you a low contrast look with decent sharpness and a more “vintage” type of color, which is usually more washed out. But I find the results pleasing and a break from the “Hyper Contrast and Color” norm:
But do not take my word for it, hear what Ashwin Rao has to say as he has been shooting this lens much longer than me…
Words on the Canon 50 1.8 LTM by Ashwin Rao
Hi everyone, I wanted to provide a second perspective of the diminutive but fantastic Canon 50 mm f/1.8 LTM lens. I have become a huge fan of Canon rangefinder lenses in my journeys with the Leica M Monochrom, and the Canon 50 mm f/1.8 LTM is no exception. This particular lens was designed by one of Canon’s legendary lens designers, Hiroshi Ito, who is credited with many designs that rivaled or even surpassed the performance of Leitz glass of the same era. The Canon 50 mm f/1.8 LTM remained in the lens line up for many years, undergoing cosmetic changes while the optical formula remained the same. For those of you who care about such details, The Canon 50 mm f/1.8 LTM is a double-gaussian design, which is also today called a “Planar” design. While the glass used and exact placement of lens elements varies a bit from lens to lens, planar lenses retain a certain look and richness that’s a product of their formulation.
In considering my options for the M Monochrom, I wanted to build a stable of vintage lenses through which to see the world in black and white. Whenever I used more modern lenses, I found their character to be too clinical or too contrasty on the monochromatic sensor. While others have been able to make this combination of modern glass and monochrome sensor work, I have had a harder time, and so I turned to older lenses. What I have discovered has been a revelation to me. These older lenses often resolve quite well, in fact impressively well, while imparting a wonderful character that’s more classic and filled with character than their modern brethren. Sometimes, the character is harsh, and at other times, it’s surprisingly pleasant. Such is the case with the Canon 50 mm f/1.8 LTM, one of the most pleasant rendering lenses on the MM. I have really enjoyed how the lens renders skin tones (almost looks like silver halide prints, where skin tones really shimmer). Out of focus elements (i.e. “bokeh” ) can be fantastic or jarring, depending on the context, but more often than not, everything is quite pleasing in a vintage sort of way. One of the biggest surprises that I experienced with this lens on the MM is how well it resolves. This is a lens that keeps up with the sensor, even when used wide open. It’s really incredible, and one of the mysteries that I have discovered with the Monochrom’s sensor. Some lenses that appear to perform poorly on the M9 really impress on the MM’s sensor, and I would put this lens in that category.
I find it to perform adequately on my M9, but it’s not a lens that I’d typically reach for on that camera. On the MM, it’s almost always one of the first lenses that I consider. The fact that it’s tiny, well-built, and images on part with such legends as the Leica and Leitz Summicron lenses makes it a worthy companion for the MM. I picked mine up from KEH for less that $250, and my copy is a later design with a black and chrome coloring (rather than all chrome). So for those of you who are looking for a bargain now that you may have invested heavily in the M Monochrom, this is most certainly a lens to consider adding. I have enjoyed it more than Canon’s more extensive faster offerings (50 mm f/1.2, 50, mm f/1.4, and 50 mm f/1.5), and it can be had for a very pleasing price. Pleasing images & pleasing price: what more could one ask for?!?
Site Sponsors that keep this site going, I thank them all! Plus some Leica used deals…
It is no secret that in the past few months that Leica gear has been in stock at most dealers in the USA. Just about any lens or camera you want (besides the Monochrom and new M) are available right now, brand new. You guys know who the sponsors of this site are and I can highly recommend ANY of them if you want great service, great pricing and no hassles. It is because of these guys below that this site continues to rock on day after day. Without them it would really be tough so I wanted to thank them and let all of you guys know once again that these three dealers below are all TOP NOTCH, best of the best .
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Just so everyone knows, YES these are site sponsors but what you do not know is that I do not take ANYONE as a site sponsor. I have turned down 4 other stores/dealers in the past even when I needed them. Why? Because I will only recommend to YOU the best of the best, and to me, these guys are the best there is when it comes to Leica.
Other shops I HIGHLY recommend for everything and anything else
Other shops I recommend are B&H Photo, Dale Photo and of course, Amazon for just about anything you could ever need. I use Amazon every week and even have home necessities on subscription. Every months I get a case of dog food delivered, cat food, paper towels, dishwashing soap and laundry detergent and more. This cuts down on my grocery trips, saves me money and is super convenient. So while I recommend the guys above for anything Leica, I recommend B&H photo for all other photo needs and Amazon for just about anything you could ever want. Cameras, electronics, music, and everything in between. When you guys follow my links on this site to these shops and make a purchase of ANYTHING I will then get a small commission, a few cents when you buy some diapers for example. Over time it adds up and helps this site to keep expanding and going.
SO FOR THAT I THANK ALL OF YOU! Without the readers, all of you, even those who disagree with me…well, this site would not be able to go on. So thank you all.
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HOW TO: Wide Field Astrophotography With a Camera and Tripod
Shooting with the Sony RX1 and Olympus OM-D
By Chris Malikoff
Hi Steve, I’ve been enjoying your site now for some time. Your reviews helped me change my mind about my heavy DSLRs, and as a consequence, I’ve bought into the Micro Four Thirds system with an OM-D. I couldn’t be happier. Recently, I’ve gone and taken the plunge and bought a Sony RX1 based on your reviews as well. Perfect!
Having now dropped my Canon 5D Mark-II and 40D, I thought that my astrophotography hobby was probably over. It’s pretty-well accepted within the general astro community that if you don’t use a high-end Canon you should forget it. Astrophotography needs cameras with super-sensitive sensors that display great high ISO performance and very low noise characteristics. None of the mirror less cameras are ready, say the pundits. I say, in response, not true.
1) What We’re After
The secret of taking decent wide field photographs of our night sky is TIME, and lots of it. You need to expose your sensor to very feint light coming in through your lens’ aperture and let the sensor wells soak up as many photons as possible before writing the data out to the processor and on to your memory stick as an image. The only way to do this is by employing bulb mode and letting the camera sit there for up to tens of minutes at a time – depending on your intended object or part of the sky. Throwing a spanner in the works, unfortunately, is this little problem we have with the sky at night. It, and everything it contains, seems to revolve around us as the Earth spins underneath it on its 23 degree axis once every 24 hours. This poses a curious problem to the average photographer – how long can I expose an image for before the stars and my brighter objects, such as “emission” nebulae, start to show blurred trails in the photo instead of presenting a nice clear image? This depends on a number of factors.
2) The Problem
First: The quality of your overhead sky really matters, especially down near the horizon if you want to incorporate a foreground in your shots. By this, I mean that the more light pollution there is in your neck of the woods, and as a consequence your contrast ratio is low. This means that in city areas the night sky is so bright from light reflected off the ground due street and other lights, that you’ll have almost no stars in view let alone the lovely wisps and gaseous tendrils of something as beautiful as the Great Orion Nebula or band of the Milky Way. From a location that suffers from a brightly-lit sky, you can’t expose for long periods of time because you’ll only get a washed-out white mess as a result. The tip is to get into your car and drive away from the city – as far as you can. Typically, I use a 100 kilometre (60 mile) rule that says you should be no closer to a city than this to see an “acceptably darkish” night sky in order to obtain a decent result. The further, the better. I’m lucky here in Australia – we have a lot of room. In the southern hemisphere we also have an advantage over our northern cousins in that our position on Earth lets us look in towards the galactic centre of our Milky Way galaxy, rather than seeing out towards the thinner edge. This means that our Milky Way is generally brighter than that which you get to see in the north.
Second: The moon is your enemy. Depending on what part of its cycle it’s at, it can range from nothing at all because it’s below the horizon, a dim sliver of light to a full-blown angry ball of white light. A full moon simply paints the atmosphere in visible white light that, like the previous point, serves to wash you out. Download a moon calendar app for your mobile device or computer which can show you what nights the moon is at its lowest output – and the best is when it’s not around. This is called the “new moon”. This phase lasts for two or three days every month. You really,really need to try astrophotography on these nights to get a good result. The moon is pretty – but it kills your chances of capturing decent photos of the night sky.
Third: The Earth’s rotation. Herein lies a choice you need to make, as you can take two distinctly different types of image of the same night sky.
3) Type of Image – Your Choice
The first, and most common images taken by astrophotographers, are of star trails. All you need is a statically positioned tripod and a camera fitted with a remote release or intervalometer to give you long (one minute) exposures. Simply point the camera towards either the north or south pole, depending what hemisphere you’re in, and watch as long trails of light start to appear in your images as the Earth rotates. Bright stars literally draw circular lines of coloured light on your sensor or film as they move around your local celestial pole within frame. There is freeware available called “StarTrails” that lets you stack these one minute images together which joins the sixty-second trails together into a circular mass of lines. These are great images, but they’re not what I’m after.
I prefer to see a still set of stars that show the bright patches of iridescent gas that burns as nebulae in between. To do this, you need to be able to counter the Earth’s rotation by moving your camera’s lens around the pole at what is termed the “sidereal” rate. By mounting the camera on a device who’s rotating axis is pointed directly at your local celestial pole, and that rotates in the opposite direction to the Earth’s spin at EXACTLY the same rate, you can “hold” the night sky still. This device is known as an “equatorial” mount. Normally, a decent computerised equatorial mount will set you back many hundreds or even tens of thousands of dollars. These are designed to carry a telescope payload that may or may not include a camera mounted at “prime” focus on the telescope. By using an equatorial (EQ) mount to place your camera and lens combination alone on, one can shoot the same patch of sky, literally all night, depending on the quality of the mount and how well it’s been aligned to the celestial pole in your region. There are usually, and necessarily, complex procedures involved in “polar alignment” that would take a few pages to explain. Unless your system is perfectly aligned with the pole, you will never see round stars appear in your long exposure images. Fact of life – nothing you can do except do the work.
Sony RX1 – 518 Seconds – f/4 – ISO 800
4) The Equipment
OK – so I don’t have a gazillion dollars to throw at a full-blown telescope EQ mount, but still want to take photos of the night sky without any star trails in evidence. Answer – purchase a portable EQ mount designed to sit on a common tripod. There are several varieties and brands available, and these are a fairly recent addition to the astrophotographer’s tool kit. They range in price from three hundreds-odd dollars to just over a thousand if you buy all the options. The unit I chose is called the Vixen “Polarie” – made in Japan by Vixen – a long-time supplier of premium telescopes and mounts. The Polarie will set you back around the $400-500 mark, depending on where you are. Others are “AstroTrac (UK) for just a little more, and the new iOptron SkyTracker which will cost you a fair bit less. Quality differs, but they’ll all do the same thing in the end – spin your camera around your polar axis.
Once you have attached your chosen device to the top of your tripod using a geared head or very solid ball mount, you need to do two things. You must point it in the right direction relative to the horizon, and then you’ll need to point it up into the sky to the right elevation so that the central rotating axis of the unit is pointing as close to either the north or south celestial pole depending where you live. In the north – you have it easy. All you need to do is find the Pole Star, Polaris. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polaris) This star is easy to find and closely marks the north celestial pole. All you need to do, with the Polarie for example, is use the sight tube built into the casing of the unit to sight this star through it. Lock your ball or geared head. Mount the camera and lens to the front of the unit on a second ball mount and point your camera to where you want to start shooting. Fire away. If you live in the south, as I do, then it’s a little more difficult. There is no star handily pointing out your local pole. You can use the optional “polar scope” to fine-tune which way you’re pointing after you use a compass (set to point to true south, not magnetic) and inclinometer (angle meter) to set the square faces of the unit in the right direction. If you’re in the south, then you have to know what your position’s latitude is, and use this to set the inclinometer so that you point high enough off the horizon to see the pole. I live in Sydney, which has a latitude of 34 degrees south. I set my inclinometer to 34 degrees and then set it against the front face of the Polarie so the it tilts back at 34 degrees. Then use the compass to point the front of the unit to true south. To do this you’ll need to know what the offset from magnetic south is for your area – it differs greatly depending on where you are. Use your smart phone and set it to show true, rather than magnetic south and it’ll work it our for you.
OK – so we’re nearly there. You now have your EQ mount sitting on your tripod and its main axis is pointing at your local pole. You’ve mounted your camera on the rotating front ring and it’s pointed somewhere interesting in the night sky that you’d like to photograph. What next? You need to set up your camera and decide on a field of view. Tip: The shorter the focal length, the wider the image and consequently the less critical your tracking needs to be.The longer the lens, the more critical your tracking is. My ideal length falls in the range 24mm to 50mm. Any longer and it’s starting to be a world of pain. Don’t be tempted to stick a 300mm tele on, because unless you have one of those huge telescope-grade EQ mounts, you’re going to end up with fuzzy, out of round stars. There is a weight limit on these small EQ mounts of around 2.5kg (6-7lb).
Deep-sky wide field photos require exposure time. A few seconds simply doesn’t do it. You’ll capture a few of the brighter stars, but that’s all. You need to take exposures of two, three, five and even seven or eight minutes to get the “fluffy” stuff. Set, as a starting point, place your camera in full manual mode.
A) Focus: Set your ISO to 1600 or higher if you can. This is only temporary, and is needed to show you stars as bright as you can possibly see them in live view if you have it. Set your lens to manual focus. If you don’t have live view, set your focus to infinity as a starting point. With live view, you should be able to see these stars with your focus set to infinity. Adjust focus with live view’s zoom feature set to as close in as you can get. Canon gives you 10x, if you run an OM-D it’s 14x. You’ll see the star focus to a sharp point, with it becoming a soft disk either side of proper focus. Take it out of live view. Take a 10 second exposure. You should see sharp stars in your image.
B) Set your aperture to around f/2.8 – either via the lens or from a menu if it’s entirely electronic and fly by wire. Fast lenses are good here, as long as you don’t open them right up as you’ll start to see vignetting and/or spherical aberration creeping in. Stop it down a stop or two and just expose for longer. If you have a slower lens then don’t panic – time will fix it. I have an old f/4.5 tele that I use regularly and it works beautifully.
C) Switch on your EQ mount so that it starts moving at sidereal (star) rate – not lunar or any other rate that you may have on the dial.
C) Take a 30 second exposure. If you see round stars and no obvious trailing, then you’re good to go.
D) Now set your ISO value to around 400. Turn on ICNR (In-Camera Noise Reduction). This will help mitigate thermal noise in your image.
E) Set your exposure to 30 seconds and see what you get. If your camera can expose for longer than 30 seconds, like the OM-D at 60 seconds, try that. The OM-D’s brilliant “LiveTime” feature is phenomenal here. It will let you start exposing and you simply watch the image form on-screen in real-time. Brilliant for this job.
F) Now step up your exposures(if you don’t have LiveTime) to 60 seconds and beyond, with a cable or remote electronic intervalometer or release. I’ve managed 15 minute exposures with this setup, but you need REALLY dark skies to pull this off. Otherwise, you’ll start to get white-outs. Speaking of which, if you start to see this, simply decrease your ISO, step down the aperture another stop or two or reduct the exposure time. You’ll find a balance.
Once you have a bunch of successive images of the same area, you can use any number of stacking programs, including Photoshop CS4 or newer, to stack them which results in better signal to noise ratio. This means that, by averaging-out the noise between stacked images, that you can push the levels of the image to increase the dynamic range – and suddenly your images will start to pop. That’s an entirely different subject for a different day.
Sony RX1 – 446 Seconds – f/4 – ISO 800
Have fun – and post your images somewhere where we can all see them.
Quick Tip for Sony RX100 and RX1 Owners: Nice external charger and batteries
Hey hey hey! Happy FRIDAY to all! Just a quick note to let all of you Sony RX1 owners out there know about an AWESOME external charger for your RX1. Since Sony did not include a proper charger with the camera for some reason we have to search for an external if we want one. That means if you want a real charger..as in one that you do not have to plug into the camera itself to charge the battery then we have to find one that works well and is not going to cost an arm and a leg.
I found such a charger and it is superb! I love it. Small and travel/bag friendly and it even has a digital display showing the charge progress. You just slide the battery up inside the unit and it charges it fairly quick. It is nice quality as well. This is the charger I chose for my RX1 batteries (I have 4 batteries total).
Just wanted to pass along this tip as I own and enjoy this charger and know a few of you were looking for a good external charger. This one is great and works 100% with the Sony RX100 and RX1 batteries.
SITE UPDATE:The site should be running much faster for everyone now. A few days ago I had some hiccups and the site was down for most of the day but as of today the site should be running VERY fast for everyone that has a high-speed connection. I am currently working on the SLR Magic 35 T 0.95 review and part one should be up by Monday. After that I will have the Fuji X-E1 review up using the 18-55 Kit Zoom and SLR Magic 35 T 1.4. I will also be at CES with Todd Hatakeyama from Tuesday to Thursday and will be doing reports from the show! Can’t wait!
A quick look at the “new’ Polaroid Z340 instant print camera by Amy Medina.
So my quick thoughts on my new Polaroid camera…
It’s a “new” Polaroid. I do have a few old-school “real” Polaroids… this one is not that. This is the z340, which is a digital Polaroid and instant printer. It uses something called Zink (Zero Ink) technology (uses heat on special paper) to create a smudge-proof 3×4 photo.
It is also a 14mp digital camera that saves to internal memory or an SD card. The files are somewhat like you’d expect from a half-way decent point-and-shoot, with usable results up to ISO 800 (mostly), though it does shoot at higher than that if needed. I like having the digital “negative” but at the end of the day, this camera is really about instant-printing… and that’s the fun of it.
What I like:
The instant printing. Duh! LOL
You have the option to do it without borders or with the traditional Polaroid border (as seen in earlier examples from today – and below). There are also some other cheesy borders, but they are pretty useless. You even have the ability to upload two of your own custom borders to the camera (via SD card).
It takes about 45 seconds to print. It doesn’t spit the photo out as quick as an old Polaroid does, but it takes less time to “develop”… once it’s out, it’s done, dry and will not smudge. I ever had two of my prints out in the rain today and they are 99% of what they were before they got covered with water-droplets.
Physically, It looks like an old Polaroid camera, but has a nifty digital screen on it. Wish it had a viewfinder thought. It reminds me of the old Polaroid Spectra.
It also has built-in editing, so you don’t HAVE to print the second it takes the photo, or exactly what you already took and see on screen. You can shoot directly in B&W or some vintage color mode; You can also shoot in normal mode and then edit the picture after you shoot it and convert to B&W or one of the vintage color modes. You can also crop and reposition.
There are some basic camera functions… choose ISO or select auto, there’s different metering options, EV compensation and bracketing, different focus modes, different size options, a macro mode, different flash settings, and there’s also a digital zoom or intelligent zoom to choose from.
You aren’t going to use this to get the sharpest, most color accurate photos. The idea of it is to mimic an old Polaroid camera. Even when you shoot normal color prints (and the digital files will look typical to any decent pocket camera), there can be some odd color shifts. I’ve heard there is old paper and new paper but I don’t know much about that yet… I used what came with the camera. Sometimes you get streaks. Extreme heat or cold will affect the paper.
I would call the quality of the prints somewhat unique. They have a pleasant soft appearance (that is still somehow sharp, if that makes sense) and reminds me of an old Polaroid film print. The black and white prints truly look like something out of the 60′s or 70′s (and there are two B&W modes… one more contrasty than the other). There’s also a “LOMO” setting to get more saturated colors and a pin-hole effect, which is rather cool if you like that sort of thing ;)
What I think could use improvement:
Needs a real battery charger. The battery charges inside the camera and the whole camera has to be plugged in. However, I wouldn’t lose this feature as it’s nice if you’re just printing (which eats up battery life). It just needs a separate battery charger too. And while Polaroid is at it, they could make the battery and battery compartment a little easier to deal with. Getting the battery out isn’t all that easy.
Zink paper could be a little cheaper I think, even if the camera is just a bit more upfront. Currently, they end up costing about 60 cents per print.
I’d love to see a viewfinder on the camera. The camera is shaped to hold up to the eye, but you can’t really do that.
More “vintage” color options. The ones to pick from are a bit limited. Some customization of them would be nice.
Make the AUCTION MODE shoot at a higher resolution, and call it PHOTO BOOTH. People aren’t going to use this camera for product photography… that’s not the audience. Being able to use it like a photo booth with proper size photos would be AWESOME! If you’re wondering what I’m on about here… easy. This “Auction Mode” shoots 3 or 4 images and combines them onto one photo. Their idea in the manual is for selling stuff on ebay, so they limit the resolution to 640×480 for each photo. I instantly saw this as a photo booth opportunity… and it can work that way currently, but the photos aren’t clear enough when printed because of the resolution limit!
It needs a proper power button. The one on the camera doesn’t feel like it will hold up to the test of time. The other buttons all seem fine.
And lastly, if I choose to shoot with the official Polaroid border, the LCD should show me that, or at least the correct crop. Now, I’m pretty good at judging and guessing, but it doesn’t ALWAYS work out 100% of the time. When the paper costs what it does, I’d like to know what it’s going to look like ahead of time. At the very least, they could offer an option to turn on guidelines in the display (they already have an option for a rule-of-third overlay).
It’s just a FUN camera… which is really what it’s meant to be. I posted some photos earlier today which I’ll include again at the bottom of this article to give you an idea of how it might be used in today’s modern age. I can also imagine at a family gathering it’s going to be a blast. I can’t wait to bring it to my in-laws in a couple of weeks! I also like the idea of giving photos to random strangers (which I did today). I’ll be giving more thought on other ways to use it creatively, but I’ve already had a great time using it in just 24 hours. We are a society losing tangible things — mp3 instead of CDs/tapes/albums — PDFs instead of books — and digital files instead of printed photos — I like the touchy-feeling instant nature of this, married to modern technology. It’s just neat.
First shot is just a picture of some of the prints I made, followed by a collage of the digital files straight out of the camera.
Printed Photos (no border)
The digital “negatives” that came straight out of the camera, most at ISO 800
The next two are photos I took today with my Fuji XE1, incorporating the Polaroids I had taken into the shot.