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Posts tagged “Review

Nikon Df review video

I finally got my Nikon Df review video online. It sums up those 5 paradoxical things about the camera and offers my thoughts about buying it. I really do love the Df. ๐Ÿ˜€ It’s a fantastic all-rounder camera despite it’s flaws. I got to try out my dads old school film lenses on it as well this past weekend. They work great! I was blown away by the old 35mm f/2.8 lens. It’s sharp with no chromatic aberration wide open. Not even one of my modern AF-S Nikon primes can boast that!

This video was my first kick at the cat trying “cinematic filming techniques.” I’m no videographer, that’s for sure, but I had fun putting the montage together. Although, I recorded the outdoor scenes at temperatures between -25 and -50C (no, that’s not a typo) which made it very tricky and somewhat miserable! And I didn’t even freeze to death. Yay! ๐Ÿ˜Ž


Expert Shield Part 1

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I remember watching Steve Huff’s initial impressions of the FujiFilm X100s on YouTube. It was a great video detailing this sweet little camera that I have fallen in love with. The image quality and color is superb, it’s tight compact size make it a dream to travel with. But I remember seeing one heinous thing about the video. Huff had put a nightmarish scratch into the LCD of his brand spanking new everyone-else-is-still-on-a-wait-list camera. ๐Ÿ˜ฏ That really, really sucks.

Jump to the 2:57 mark and get ready to cry. ๐Ÿ˜ฅ

It’s not the end of the world, but nobody likes scratching brand new gear, or any gear for that matter. You can’t really fix it so you just have to console yourself in living with it. “It’s Patina!” we say, trying to calm our troubled consciences. “Battle scars and history of where me and said piece o’ gear have been together. Remember that scratch? Got that one in Kuala Lumpur. That ding, got that one Gros Morne National Park! Yep, me and ol’ bessie been through a lot together.” So, sure scratches and dings can be memory collectors. But I’d rather just bring back photos, not scratches and dings. Huff’s video shows exactly how easy it can happen. Chuck a camera in a bag without thinking and viola! Scratches ahoy. Enter Expert Shield.

I got an email from Ed Tyson of Expert Shield UK asking me if I’d like to try their screen protector product on my X100s. I jumped at the chance because hey, who doesn’t like trying new products?! So they swam over to Canada from the UK via Royal Mail and I finally got the chance to check them out. I have had experience with screen protectors in the past. Not for cameras mind you, as all my DSLRs have built in plastic screen covers. But I’ve installed several of them on handheld GPS units. The other products I’ve used worked OK, but installing them wasn’t fun. You had to squirt liquid all over the device to line up the protector and then fight bubbles . . . it was a nightmare. And in the end, I still always had a couple imperfections. So when I got the Expert Shields, I was eager to see how it would go to install them. I’m happy to report, it was quick, painless and it worked like a charm! ๐Ÿ˜€

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I found the instructions were straightforward and easy to follow. The supplied cleaning cloth made getting the screen clean very simple and the application procedure was great. I didn’t even actually touch the Expert Shield as it was sandwiched between two easy to remove cling layers. Take the first layer off, line it up with the screen and stick it down. As I put the protector on, I followed the leading edge with a plastic id card to chase out any bubbles that might get trapped. For the last stage of the application, you simply peel off the top protection layer and you’re done. It worked perfectly and the X100s has some sweet new body armour to help keep it looking spiffy for years to come. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

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And Expert Shield was kind enough to send me an iPhone 5 and iPod Touch protector too. I installed the iPod protector and it went flawlessly as well. Despite the toughness of glass, my iPod has already got quite a few small scratches on it’s screen – and it lives in my pocket most of the time. I like the very slim form factor and the Expert Shield doesn’t add any bulk like a big case would.

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So this concludes Part 1 of my Expert Shield experience. I will do Part 2 in a few months time to see how they stand up to wear and tear and a wee bit of abuse. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thanks again to Ed from Expert Shield for the opportunity, I look forward to seeing how the product holds up.


My X100s Review

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I was super fortunate to be able to take my new Fuji X100s for an extended tour of duty as a travel & event photographer. It was precisely for these two applications that I bought this camera, but after using it, it is quickly becoming my “go to” camera. I’ve never owned or shot any traditional film rangefinder cameras and I’m coming to the X100s from a D800 and other Nikon DLSRs. So it was a new experience and a nifty learning curve but this camera fits like a glove. All the reviews of the internet celebrity bloggers like Arias, Hobby, and others have lauded this camera and all I can say is that everything is true. It is THAT good. Even if your friends accuse you of down grading from a DSLR, just smile and nod. ๐Ÿ˜†

You can look up the tech specs on Fuji’s website. This review is about the user experience and the pure can of whoop @$$ this camera packs into such a sweet little package. Firstly, it is a dream to use. It’s an extremely tactile camera, everything clicks. Nicely. The buttons have a great feel to them and are easy to use. The only gripe I have is that the on/off switch can easily be flicked unawares when putting the camera into a pocket. But that is an extremely minor gripe. The new “Q” button is really, really handy for making changes on the fly. Also the 3 custom user modes are perfect for events as you can switch back and forth to customized presets without having to burn through tonnes of menus. LOVE that feature. During my trip we attended a friend’s wedding and I shot the X100s in Black and White mode mostly because I love the look of the files (and being able to tweak the tonality of shadows and highlights is the bees knees). But, I could switch back to Provia colour in a button flick. It’s a really great experience all round in using the camera. The one fixed 23mm f/2 lens is super sharp and you don’t have to worry about changing lenses. Ever. ๐Ÿ™‚

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I found that the camera truly was ready for nearly anything. Not even once did I wish I had my D800. The low profile of the rangefinder style is really unique. I found that people were less nervous getting their photos taken by it. The camera changes the photographic relationship if that makes sense. It certainly makes you push in closer to get the shot, which was a bit uncomfortable at first for me. I’m naturally “telephoto eyed”. I love my 85mm 1.8 and I take mostly everything with that. So the 35mm equivalent made me get closer and in so doing created a photo and look that I really enjoyed. While at the wedding service, the paid pro was walking around with a loud Canon 5D Mwhatver and the shutter sounded like a Clydesdale horse plodding through the mud “Clug-clock, clug-clock, clug-clock!” Meanwhile my X100s set to silent mode was like a ninja’s shadow!ย Truly, it’s totally silent and unobtrusive. Thank you leaf shutter! ๐Ÿ˜Ž

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The image quality is outstanding. I shot the camera at 3200 ISO nearly the whole time I was at the different events on my trip and when I got home to look the files over, they blew me away. The files aren’t D3s clean but there’s no noise. It’s a silky grain that adds to the character and personality of the camera. The color. The color is unbelievable. I can’t get over how amazing and beautiful and rich and vibrant and . . . you get the idea . . . the color is. I love color and the Fuji files pop off the screen with scrumptious tonality. ย The photo of the roses was shot in a Costco under those heinous “sodium-vapourizer-punch-your-auto-WB-in-the-face” lights. Auto white balance and like all the photos on this review, SOOC JPG.

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This window light portrait was shot at ISO 400, f/2.8. I really love the over all look of the files. The skin tones are amazing, the colors pop. What more can I say?! The files are gorgeous straight out of camera, as is my smokin’ hot wife. ๐Ÿ˜€

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I feel about the X100s the same way I felt when I got my first DSLR (Nikon D40) – Romeo & Juliet. I’m in love! ๐Ÿ˜Ž But the best part is, we’re not star-crossed in any way. The camera is a finely revised version of an already great model. It brings the thunder in every way. It’s no nonsense. The user experience is great. The autofocus speed is slick. The files are pure awesome. It’s literally anything anyone would want in a compact travel/event camera in nearly any situation. If you are a rangefinder retro-style junkie, buy this camera. If you have an X100, buy this camera. If you want a camera that you can pick up and feel that it is an extension of your photographic creativity and skill, buy this camera. It’s a 5 out of 5 star camera only because I can’t give it 6 out of 5. It’s cooler than the other side of the pillow. ๐Ÿ˜€


X100s Boo Ya!

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My new toy finally arrived from Pre-Order. The Camera Store in Calgary surprised me by saying my order wasn’t included in their first shipment of cameras, but then someone cancelled and a I got one! ๐Ÿ˜Ž That person’s loss is my gain! ย This camera is INCREDIBLE! ย You’d think it was coming from a full frame DSLR! The ISO performance is great, the color is exquisite. I’m really not kidding here, this camera brings the thunder. I’ve got just a couple of test shots of it here using some of the film simulator presets. I’m going on a little road trip right away so I will test it further but suffice it to say, I’m having fun learning how to use a rangefinderesque mirrorless camera! ๐Ÿ˜€


Hands on with the Canon 1D-X!

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Ahem. I humbly start this post, firmly entrenched in the Nikon camp, but I have to say it: I formally recant pretty much every negative thing I’ve ever said about Canon. Ever. ๐Ÿ˜ณ

Pa got his new toy, the highly coveted Canon EOS 1D-X camera. For those who don’t know (where have you been?!?), it’s Canon’s flagship, top o’ the line, best camera ever. And it is, most definitely Canon’s finest camera to date. This camera is a beast! It’s nothing short of amazing. My chief complaints about Canon have been 1) Crappy Focusing and 2) Crummy LCDs. This camera addresses those issues and then some. This is not an in depth Camera Scientist review by any means, rather a quick 1st impressions post. And, the impressions are good. The focusing is incredible! Check the specs and see, there’s an entire processor dedicated to focusing alone. And it shows. With oodles of programable modes, you can tell the 1D-X exactly what you want it to do and how you want it to behave. It’s positively awesome.

“Hummingbird Focus Mode”

Just check this out – you can customize the focus settings for several different cases, depending on what you’re photographing. In this case, Dad had a hummingbird setup in the back yard and so he went with this “Bring it on, sucker” focus mode. It’s unreal. The birds came into the frame and boom shakalaka, this camera nails the focus again and again and again. Check out one of his photos from his Flickr stream. There’s a whole set there of tremendous shots with more to come.

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Certainly, you’d come to expect this kind of performance from a camera setup of this calibre. With the 500mm lens, it’s nearly diabolical! The shots are sharp and the focus is . . . fixed! ๐Ÿ˜‰ And, the LCD on the back of the camera is more like an HDTV instead of watching colecovision. (Google it if you don’t know).

Canon 1D-X with Sinister Lighting

If you are a Canon fan and you’ve been waiting for this camera, it will be everything you’ve dreamed of and more. You’ll probably curse Canon a bit for moving the tried and true traditional button configuration around – (even I found that annoying as now it’s quasi counter intuitive). But the performance of this bad boy more than makes up for having to learn a new button liturgy.

I told Dad that he should go out and satisfy my curiosity about the focus system and shoot some motocross. If anything will stress the tracking features, MX certainly will. ย Being that he’s primarily a wildlife shooter, perhaps getting my brother to chase a herd of pronghorn antelope in front of the lens may be a more fitting focus test. I suspect that it won’t be much of a challenge anyways, the focus is just that good. During the hummingbird setup, we slapped on a teleconverter and I simply watched the wind flicking the honeysuckle blossoms in the wind through the viewfinder. The focus points tracked it back and forth with no intervention from me. It’s sweet!

Canon 1D-X: Lord of the Garden

So basically, that’s all I’m gonna touch on in this post. The Canonista Camera Scienticians will soon have incredibly detailed reviews out about this beast. I’m sure it’s ripping up the olympics right now too. Oh, one last comment, the ISO performance is awesome too – another great improvement. Being 18MP, it’s just about a perfect blend of resolution and noise performance. That extra bit of crop-ability is appreciated and the high ISO stuff looks good. 6400 was totally usable in my books and it goes up from there, waaaay up. But the image quality similarly decreases too. Can’t wait to see some head to head tests with the 1D-X & the new D4 from the good guys Nikon! ๐Ÿ˜Ž

You’re jealous. Just admit it.


Gear Review: Photoflex Octodome NXT XS

Ok Photo Geeks, here’s one for ya! ย My long overdue video review of the Photoflex Octodome NXT XS soft box. This thing is the bomb! It’s a really well made, super sweet portrait soft box that gives awesome octagon/round catchlights in the eyes. Gotta love that! Check out the vid and the samples below where it was used on photo shoots.

PS: I also added a new page at the top of the blog for gear reviews. The page has links to all the gear reviews and recommendations I’ve done on the blog, including books, lenses, lighting gear, organizing gear and D.I.Y. gear projects. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

Samples of the Octodome in action!


Gary Fong Dong

I’m now officially addicted to light modifiers. I can’t stand bare flash and I want to control and shape the light. Make it work for me. I’m open to just about any kind of solution and option available too. I don’t discriminate that much. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Enter, the Gary Fong Lightsphere. It’s been around for a number of years now and had several updates and redesigns. The latest is the collapsible version. Before, you had to carry around an awkwardly sized tupperware bowl with you. They don’t fit well in your camera bag. They don’t fit well anywhere. So, the newest version remedied that problem. It collapses down to only an inch and a half in size. Pretty slick. That fits in the gear bag easily.

The general concept with the Lightsphere is to take the light from an external flash and make it bigger. Bigger light is softer light. More diffused light. More even light. Think of clouds in front of the sun. Light is softer and more diffused because the light source got bigger – instead of the 93,000,000 mile away sun (a huge light source, but so far away it’s small — like the light from a flash) – you have clouds becoming a giant soft box. The Lightsphere takes the small light and makes it bigger and spreads it out. That’s basically all it does, no magic. But it’s handy in SOME circumstances.

Hardcore strobists and professionals may poo poo the Lightsphere, calling it the “Fong-Dong” (due to its, *ahem*, Phallic ย design). And as a directional light shaping tool, it’s not that great. In fact, it’s downright poor. But, as a solution for on the move, candid “I need some soft diffused light and don’t have no time for off camera flash solutions” it rocks the set giving you really soft, flat, even, boring, light. Plus the new version collapses down flat-ish so it fits in your bag nicer. Did I already mention that?! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Don’s Photo sells this thing for $90 Canadian Bones. That’s a bloody ripoff for this thing. You can seriously get similar results by plopping a $3.00 tupperware bowl over your flash head. It’s not worth $90 bucks. B&H Photo sells it for $56.00. Any of my border folk friends reading this, have it shipped to Donna’s and save the mad cheddar on this. Even at $56 US bones, it’s still pricey. But then again, everything in photography is an overpriced ripoff.

Final Verdict:

Buy the Gary Fong Dong Lightsphere Collapsible if you: a) need a quick on-camera light solution b) don’t have time to do a much nicer off camera lighting setup c) have an extra $90 bones you don’t mind parting with.

Don’t buy the Gary Fong Dong Lightsphere Collapsible if you a) want/expect cool & nicer directional off camera lighting b) will lose sleep over losing $90 bucks.

In the gallery below are pictures of the Lightsphere Collapsible product itself, as well as sample shots from it being used in a real life lighting situation – candid shots from Ethan’s Birthday party. All those B-Day party shots are on camera in TTL mode. Finally there is a comparison shot of off-camera light modifiers using a bounce umbrella, shoot through umbrella, Lightsphere and a Soft Box, so you can take a look and see for yourself the quality of light that is produced.

Go Go Gadget Fong!


Expodisc Part 2

I was able to nab some sunlight expodisc shots today at lunch. We finally had a nice day! ๐Ÿ™‚

The full sun results were more subtle as to be expected.

I also did some test shots in the shade. Click the pictures to embiggen.

The shade white balance was more easily detected.

So there you have it, aside from a cloudy white balance test which will have to wait for another day. Unless you live in Arizona sunshine, the Expodisc pays off in nearly all white balance situations!