Skip navigation

Tag Archives: imaging

I nearly started this entry with a few comments about the absence of some companies from the Expo this year and the scaled back presence of others.  I stopped because I realized that this is not the story I wanted to tell.  I will leave that to others:  The real story is about who is there and the products and events that made me pause to find out more.  I call them the “Floor Stoppers!”

 

My first “Floor Stopper” is courtesy of Sony and photographer Matthew Jordan-Smith.  Smith, who shoots with the A900, presented “Finding Your Inspiration.”  It is an informative, visually stunning, and inspiring discussion which addresses an issue that many photographers deal with at some point in the pursuit of our craft.  It is a presentation that should not  be missed!

mj-smith

 The next floor stopper is courtesy of Hensel USA.  The AC Adapter for the Porty Lithium 6 and 12 packs has arrived.  The availability of the adapter makes the Hensel Lithium a one-stop studio and location tool.  Price TBA.porty-L-ac-1

porty-li-ac-2

Another “Floor Stopper” is a new product from Cameron Products called the SteadePod.  The SteadePod attaches to the camera tripod socket  It is essentially a retractable steel cable that uses a locking mechanism and foot pad in concert with the tension created by holding the camera to stabilize it.  It will undoubtedly remind many of a tape measure.  It fits in a pocket or camera bag, and could be of value in situations where you need support, but cannot use a monopod or tripod.  It’s priced under $30.00steadepod

Massachusetts-based LensPro to go and its sister company, Studioshare.org are my next Floor Stoppers.  Lens pro to go rents Canon and Nikon cameras, lenses, flashes and other camera accessories and will ship them to you anywhere in the United States.  This is a wonderful service for people who are traveling or people who live in areas which are not served by rental houses.Studioshare.org is an on-line collaborative resource which allows members of the photographic community to connect for services, equipment and/or studio space.

 lens2go

So those are a few of the products, events or services that caught my eye today.  I’ll admit, they are different from what I imagined would catch my eye this morning as I was getting myself organized to leave, but perhaps is a reflection of where we are; or heck, maybe it is an indication that I am less of a “gear-head” than I thought!

My Photo Plus Expo day 2 Floor Stoppers are hdslr related, so they have been posted in a new Blog dedicated to the ever increasing number of motion capable cameras.  Click here to visit H(d)SLRs in Motion!

coollights

One of the reasons I decided to undertake a series on lighting for still and motion at different price points is to underscore the fact that there are lighting solutions for every wallet and pocketbook.  While a lot of the outdoor footage which is being shot with HSLR/HDSLRs which include cameras such as the canon 5D markII  and the 7D and Nikons D90 and D300s, makes use of available/ambient light, indoor motion recording often requires a different approach.  While some of the products offered by the big names in professional lighting for stills and motion may cost more than many people can or are willing to spend, there are lots of options for those just getting their feet wet experimenting with the dual mediums as well as for the “seasoned” dual medium shooter.

 For the under $500 off-camera solution while high power, low heat production, and low wattage were still priorities, I also wanted a solution that had multiple power options.  I decided that I wanted to go with LEDs.  The bad news was that I could not find a solution in my favorite brick and mortar stores in the target price range.  The good news is that I found what I was looking for online!  My search led (no pun intended) me to, Nevada-based, Cool Lights USA.

The lighting unit of choice was their CL-LED600.  I choose the 5600k flood model with a 60 degree LED beam angle, over the spot (40 degree LED beam angle) and 3200k degree models.  I thought the 20 degree beam angle advantage that the flood had over the spot would produce a broader and more flexible light for my shooting needs. 

The Cool Lights Website indicates the LED600 has a lot going for it and after using it, I have to agree that it does.  The unit is approximately 10”x10”x3.25” and weighs about three pounds.  The unit is shipped with a set of barn doors mounted, which increases the weight to 6 lbs or so.  The LED600 is solid, well-made, well-finished, and offers a lot of lighting control:  There is a master switch and a dimmer as well as five bank switches which allow you to select and brighten or dim various bank combinations from zero to 100% of the fixture’s LEDs.  While the CL-LED600 ships with an AC cord, its rear panel has a 4 pin XLR outlet, which allows the unit to be run off a 12-18 volt battery.  As an alternative, you can purchase an optional battery adapter plate, either Anton Bauer or Sony “V” mount, and attach the appropriate battery directly to the rear of the unit.  Three power options: how cool!  This makes the CL-LED600 a versatile tool. 

According to Cool Lights’ Richard Andrewski, the CL-LED600 puts out the equivalent of a 650 watt incandescent light but uses around 50 Watts of power.  As you can see from the images below, the unit does indeed put out a lot of light.

cool-lightsbw-copy cl-led600-as-main-flashpoint-camera--left-as-fill-2

In addition to the AC cord and barn doors, the unit also ships with a shoulder bag, directions, and four filters for use in the built-in filter holder:  Two minus green filters of different strengths, a full CTO filter and a diffusion panel. 

For those looking for a lighting solution which offers a lot of power, tremendous control, and AC/DC flexibility, the CL-LED600 is definitely worthy of consideration.  For more information on the CL-LED600 visit:   http://www.coollights.biz/

I often look at equipment with an eye on whether it will allow me to accomplish a task more efficiently:  More efficiently for me usually translates to mean easier to carry and easier to set up, as most of my work is on location.  So it was with great interest, and I’ll admit a healthy dose of skepticism, that I went to the Calumet Photographic Store on West 22nd Street here in New York, to spend some quality time with their Portable On-Site Background System (PBS).  I say skepticism because I have tried collapsible 8′ muslin systems, as well as the more traditional crossbar type background support systems and have yet to find one that has impressed me enough for consistent use. In fact one of my more embarrassing photo shoot  related stories centers around the difficulty I had trying to get a collapsible background back in the bag.

 

When I arrived at Calumet, I was greeted by Ron Herard.  Ron handed me the bag which housed the Calumet system and we headed upstairs to their second floor gallery space.  While Calumet lists the kit as weighing 12 pounds, it did not feel that heavy.  When we got upstairs Ron asked me if I would time how long it takes him to get the system out of the bag and up for use.  One of his colleagues doubted it could be done in less than five minutes.  Well for the doubting Thomas, it took Ron a grand total of 2 minutes and 40 seconds.  I watched in absolute amazement:  An adjustable stand, a central cylinder in which you insert 4 flexible rods with round ends, 4 flexible extension rods, an 8×8 sheet of muslin which fits on the “arrow” tips of the extension rods, and you are good to go!  It is simple and intuitive.  It took me 3 minutes and 12 seconds to take the PBS out of the bag and erect it.  Not bad for a first timer!  I was able to dismantle the frame as quickly as I erected it.

Also surprising to me was the fact that the system does not require any additional clearance beyond 8 feet to erect.  Unlike the traditional cross bar support systems which require additional space on each side to accommodate the footprint of each stand, the Calumet PBS does not.  This is one elegant and efficient solution.  The muslin sheets have pockets on each corner which fit securely on the rod arrow heads.  The pockets are well reinforced.  Additionally the tautness of the fabric and frame interface, acts to stretch the fabric:  This resulted in a substantial number of wrinkles and creases in the folded sheet that was used either being reduced significantly or eliminated.  If you are getting a sense that I like this system, it is because I do. 

 

One of the downsides to this system is that you may not want to use this system against a window or with a light source  directly behind it as the stretched muslin is thin enough that the x frame may be seen.  Others may find the lack of availability of a floor apron as a drawback.  But all in all I found the system superior to the other alternatives I have tried and yet competitively priced.

I thanked Ron and Store Manager John Dessereau as I left, but not before placing an order for my very own.

For more information on the Calumet PBS, click on the blue highlighted text in this entry.

One of the most significant products that I have come across in my examination of stabilizers for hslrs is the U-Boat Commander.  The Commander, as I will refer to it, is an innovative product developed by photographer/director Bruce Dorn, a Canon Explorer of Light, writer, and gadgeteer extraordinaire.  I call him a gadgeteer because Bruce has a wonderful ability to craft solutions to meet his shooting needs.  A visit to his site www.idcphotography.com/blog/  is extremely enlightening.

 

I consider the Commander significant because it is, to my knowledge, the first stabilizing rig developed from scratch to accommodate the Canon 5D Mark II for video capture.  The other rigs which I looked at were existing products.  I have had use of the Commander for the last five days, and I will admit that as I boxed it up this morning to send it back to Arizona, there was a bit of mist in my eyes.  Nikon D90 users do not feel slighted:  I encourage you to read on.

Canon 5D Mark II mounted on the U-Boat Commander

Canon 5D Mark II mounted on the U-Boat Commander

 

The Commander offers something for lots of people due to its modular nature:  In its most basic form it is a two-handled platform; the intermediate configuration adds a plate on top (bridge) as well as a handle and cold shoes, which allows you to mount a microphone and/or lights, as well as facilitating low angle shooting; and in its most complete form it adds a shoulder stabilizer, which can also aid in table top stabilization and or panning and tilting movements.)  The anodized aluminum plates and bars are beautifully finished.  I do want to note that the knurled handle grips come without handle pads:  They will take standard bike handle grips (I used weightlifting grips.)

 

In many respects, the Commander reminded me of shooting with the Fig Rig, in that the unit is held out in front of you and the body acts as a shock absorber when moving. I also found that there was tremendous mobility although the Fig Rig does enjoy an edge here due to the circular frame.  Unlike the Fig Rig, since the bottom plate of the Commander is flat, the camera can be safely placed on a flat surface when not in use.  The 5D Mark II can be mounted directly to the commander base or attachment can be achieved via an optional quick release assembly.  Either way, you have access to the 5D Mark II battery door.  u-d90For those shooting with the Nikon D90, the battery door of the camera is also fully accessible when it is mounted to the Commander base.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The modular nature of the Commander brings together the best aspects of many of the other products I own/have used and/or considered, both less expensive and more expensive.  It offers good range of motion, and shoulder stabilization on demand, the ability to mount accessories such as lights, microphones and monitors.  The low angle shooting ability is a functionality that can be very costly with other systems.

Low angle shooting with the Commander

Low angle shooting with the Commander

 I found setting up the Commander pretty intuitive.  There is, however, an excellent video demonstration on Bruce’s site for those who want an understanding of how all the pieces fit and work together.  While I spent most of the time with the Commander in the intermediate configuration (Kit 2) with the bridge and handle attached, there is a lot to be said for attaching the shoulder stabilizer.  I found it much easier to access camera controls while moving around with the shoulder stabilizer than without it.  I liked the option of being able to use the stabilizer either over my shoulder or pressed into my shoulder.  I also “pimped” the Commander and discovered that with the addition of small furniture gliders on the bottom of the base plate that I could achieve similar action to a dolly and track system on flat surfaces.

 

As I was mulling over my thoughts, I realized that most equipment reviews/commentary are written by men.  I asked my sister to try the stabilizers out and share her reactions.  Of the three pieces of equipment, her hands down favorite was the Commander.  For her use, the Commander offered the best balance, was lighter than it looked and than she thought it would be, and she liked the over the shoulder stabilization option as opposed to the into the shoulder bracing.

 

The Commander kits are not inexpensive:  While the intermediate configuration (Kit 2) exceeded the $300 budget I set by $69, the basic configuration (Kit 1) at $239 would have been within the parameters.  The Works (Kit 3) would have been way out of range.  The good news is that very soon there will be upgrade modules available for purchasers of Kits 1 and 2 so that you can add on as you need to and/or grow.

 

In looking at the options for products, I always suggest to the extent possible that consumers not only look at how they think they are going to use a product, but to try to look at the versatility and the range of applications for which a particular product can be adapted or used.  I think that this is the most appropriate way to consider a tool like the U-Boat Commander.  When I look at its functionality, and modular nature relative to the universe of available tools and add ons, the U-Boat Commander looks very, very good. 

 

Don’t be surprised if you see one of my cameras mounted to my own Commander in the near future!

Early last August, I had an opportunity to shoot wedding pictures for a couple in New York’s Central Park.  As my assistant and I were walking a few hundred feet behind the happy couple, and I looked at them leaning into each other as we moved to another location, I remarked how we were witnessing a video moment!  The problem was that I had no video camera:  Just two dslrs, one a Nikon and the other a Canon.  Just a few short weeks later,  Nikon and Canon announced the D90 and the 5D Mark ll respectively, both of which would have high definition video capability, and in many respects will alter the feature set of still cameras going forward.

 

Now the reaction to video in dslrs has been mixed to say the least.  Some people both professional and enthusiast, embrace it, and others call it a gimmick.  Funny, I think back to only a few short years ago when Olympus put a dust shake system, and live view in their cameras.  Features which many marginalized then have become the expected norm today.

 

After experiencing that “Ah Ha” moment in Central Park last August, I am happy that I now have the option to shoot a little video and stills in a single package.  We do live in a multimedia age.  With the rise of YouTube, Vimeo, social networking and image sharing sites such as My Space and Flicker, as well as commercial product advertisement and news sites, the importance of video capture capability in any imaging device, should not be lost or minimized.

 

These hybrid cameras, as I refer to them, are not meant to replace dedicated hi def video cameras nor are they intended to shoot a box office blockbuster; but for clips and  even shorts, they are indeed valuable and intriguing tools.  I can tell you in shooting with both available options, that there are things I like about both and things which I don’t care for!  Each manufacturer could learn a thing or two from how the other has incorporated the video feature for future refinement.  The most important thing for those of us who are embracing the feature is to learn how the system of our choice operates and to exploit it to the fullest. What is clear is that the technology will develop and develop rapidly. A year or two from now the amount of control and flexibility in shooting speed will make today’s groundbreakers seem crude.  But for now I encourage all who have purchased them to enjoy the feature.

Coming next week – Part 2:  Mounting the Hybrid Camera for Movement

 

Resources for learning more on shooting video with dslrs:

http://www.usa.canon.com/dlc/controller?act=GetArticleAct&articleID=2186
 
http://cpn.canon-europe.com/content/masterclass/eos_5d_mark_II_masterclass.do
 

 

rear view-d90-left-5d2-right

When I decided to blog on photographic equipment,  I did not want to end up doing what is becoming  typical in reviews,  where products are evaluated as if they are an “Immortal”  from  “The Highlander” movie or series, “where there can only be one!”  Frankly some of the language used by reviewers such as “category killers” or “brand/product  slayers”  is plain juvenile!  The state of equipment reviews and previews, had a lot to do with my decision to move forward here.  I also did not want to write lenghty pieces  which combine lots of information,  diagrams, and images available through the manufacturer, with  impressions after using something on a limited basis, to come up with  sweeping endorsements or pans.  Far too much of what is in print and available on the internet already does this. 

   I think you can effectively take great images with just about any camera or using just about any brand of lighting.  And frankly, control, layouts and ergonomics is a very personal thing:  While some prefer how one brand works over the other,  so many reviews are written with a sense of one company’s approach being definitively better than another!   The fact is that there is a lot of variety out there, and consumers have tremendous choices.

The real key is learning how to use your imaging  equipment, and learning what its’ strenghts and limits are.  Often reviews  talks about what the equipment  can’t do, or what it should have done as opposed to what it can do.  A 21 or 24 mp dslr is a very different animal than a 39 or 50 mp digital back, but there are lots of situations where the operating environment would make the dslr a more appropriate choice than the resolution king: a dslr with video capability is not a replacement for a dedicated high definition video recorder.   There are very few all in one solutions in imaging!  In fact the all-in-one printer where fax, phone and printer functions have been combined, is the exception rather than the rule. 

So with tremendous excitement I am launching this blog, HDHD, which stands for High Definition-High Drama, to discuss aspects of imaging products that I find interesting and discussion worthy.  Sometimes I will discuss products which are well known, and sometimes they will be less recognized, but all in all I am hoping to provide you with an informative read on a regular basis.  The first product post will be up on Monday,  January 26.

Regards,

Byron