Archive for the ‘Apple iPad’ Category

Adequate packing material for safe shipping?

May 13, 2020

I ordered a Laowa 25mm Ultra Macro lens from B&H Photo on 10 March 2020. The parcel was delivered a few days later on 14 March.

The first photo shows contents of the larger cardboard box in which the lens was shipped.

The last photo shows the larger cardboard box after I removed the smaller box containing the lens.

Notice there was NO PACKING MATERIAL on four of six sides of the smaller box for the lens. That can’t be good for shipping a camera lens safely!

During limited testing of the new lens, I haven’t been completely satisfied with its performance. I can’t help but think, was the lens damaged slightly during shipping? I’ll never know but I’ll always wonder.

What are the take-aways?

I remember opening the box of my first order from B&H Photo many years ago. My first impression was something like, “Wow! The items in my order were packed carefully to ensure they arrived in great condition.” Those days are long gone.

The fact of the matter is the problem of inadequate packing material seems to be the new normal at B&H Photo, and that doesn’t work for me — photo gear is too expensive to cut corners on shipping! C’mon B&H, you can and should do better.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Five-flash studio macro photography rig

January 4, 2019

This blog post is a follow-on to a previous post entitled Studio macro photography rig. As you can see, my four-flash rig has been updated to include a fifth flash: a Godox TT685C Thinklite TTL Flash fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier.

Although it isn’t shown clearly in the following quick-and-dirty photo taken with my iPad 3, both the Godox TT685C and a Canon 580EX II Speedlite are mounted on the crossbar of my Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 Aluminum Alloy Tripod. Look closely — the tiny subject (a Stylogomphus albistylus exuvia) is positioned in the far-left corner of the white posing platform, in front of the Lastolite flash modifier.

The Lastolite flash modifier features a two-layer system of diffusers that provides beautiful soft light: the white square you can see on the outside of the collapsible box and another white square that you can’t see, located halfway between the flash head and the front of the box.

Another addition to the rig is my new 3 Legged Thing QR11-LC Universal L-Bracket. (Note: The camera body blocks your view of the L-bracket.) The L-bracket enabled me to mount the camera in portrait mode quickly and securely. Although the Manfrotto 405 Pro Digital Geared Head can be adjusted to position my camera rig in portrait mode, the heavy camera-lens-flash combo is unstable and can tip over easily.

New gear used for studio macro photography.

By the way, in case you looked at the preceding photo and wondered “What’s up with the crazy crop?” I used Photoshop to conceal some of the clutter in my kitchen. I set up my macro photo rig in the kitchen because it’s the largest uncarpeted area in my tiny apartment. Padded carpet is a poor surface for macro photography — the field of view from a tripod-mounted camera-lens-flash combo shifts noticeably (and unacceptably) as one moves around the rig.

More Tech Tips: A complete description of all of the equipment used in my studio macro photography rig is provided in a previous blog post entitled Studio macro photography rig.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Consistency and attention to detail

October 14, 2018

Fujifilm doesn’t make/sell any radio-controlled flash triggers and external flash units, so I was excited when I learned that Godox had released Fujifilm-compatible flash photography gear that fills the void. Better, the retail price-point for the Godox gear is quite attractive — about one-fifth the price of comparable Canon external flash equipment.

Buyer beware: You get what you pay for. In the case of the Godox flash gear for Fujifilm, it seems like you’re paying for a work-in-progress rather than a finished, market-ready product.

Fujifilm X-T1

The first two images show two screen captures from the flash-related “Shooting Menu” for the Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.

Flash-related Shooting Menu for Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.

Notice camera is set for TTL and high-speed sync is enabled (FP).

Flash-related Shooting Menu for Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.

Godox TT685F

The following graphic is an outtake from the Instruction Manual for the Godox TT685F external flash unit. The annotated image shows the LCD panel on the front of the flash.

Godox TT685F Thinklite TTL Camera Flash | Instruction Manual

When the Godox TT685F is mounted on the hot shoe of a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera, the LCD panel looks similar to the annotated image in the instruction manual. Notice the icon that indicates the flash will fire using high-speed sync.

Godox TT685F external flash LCD panel display.

The next graphic is an outtake from the Instruction Manual for the Godox TT685F external flash unit. The annotated image shows the LCD panel on the front of the flash when the flash is set for either Master or Slave mode.

Godox TT685F Thinklite TTL Camera Flash | Instruction Manual

Finally, here’s the LCD panel display for the TT685F in Slave mode. Conspicuously missing is any indication the flash is set for high-speed sync.

Godox TT685F external flash LCD panel display (Slave mode).

Godox XProF

The following image shows the LCD panel for the Godox XProF radio flash trigger. Notice the display is somewhat similar to the TT685F display when set for Master mode.

Godox XProF radio flash trigger LCD panel display.

The next image shows the LCD panel for the XProF radio flash trigger, showing only a single channel and group. Neither view provides any indication the flash will fire using high-speed sync.

Godox XProF radio flash trigger LCD panel display.

Inconsistency seems to be a problem with Godox

It appears there is some inconsistency across the product line of TT685 flashes made for different camera manufacturers (Canon, Nikon, Olympus/Panasonic, and Sony). For example, some models of the TT685, such as the TT685C for Canon cameras, feature both optical and radio master/slave modes; the TT685F for Fujifilm cameras is radio only.

There is also inconsistency and inattention to detail across the LCD panel displays for the XPro controllers for different camera manufacturers. For example, notice that “SYNC” is one of the four function buttons on the XProC (press the button and the flash goes into HSS mode); the “SYNC” button is missing from the XProF, as shown above.

Godox TT685C Thinklite TTL Camera Flash | Instruction Manual

Most, if not all of these issues should be easy to fix by updating the firmware; hopefully updates are in the pipeline already.

And speaking of firmware updates, the firmware for Godox flash photography products can be updated using Windows-compatible PCs only. Really, you’re kidding me, right? Seriously Godox, many if not most “creatives” — including photographers — prefer Apple computers. It’s time to make firmware updates available for either Apple Mac OS or Microsoft Windows!

Post Update: It works, except when it doesn’t.

Further experimentation showed that the XProF LCD display can show the icon that indicates the flash will fire using high-speed sync, as shown below. Here’s how I was able to make it work, albeit temporarily.

  1. Power-on the XProF.
  2. Power-on the X-T1.
  3. Press the “Menu/OK” button and navigate to the “Shooting Menu,” specifically the “Flash Function Setting.” (Both menus are shown at the beginning of this post.) Cycle through the three options in the sub-menu under “Sync” (1st Curtain, 2nd Curtain, FP); select FP. Press the “OK” button.

As far as I can tell, the Sync mode must be set every time you power-on the flash gear and camera, including after the X-T1 goes into power-saving sleep mode. If you don’t, then HSS works but the HSS icon isn’t displayed on the XProF LCD panel.

It’s noteworthy that the HSS icon is never displayed on the TT685F LCD panel when the flash is in Slave mode — more evidence of inattention to detail.

Godox XProF radio flash trigger LCD panel display.

Godox XProF radio flash trigger LCD panel display.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Studio macro photography rig

September 12, 2018

This blog post features a couple of quick-and-dirty photos that provide a behind-the-scenes look at some of the photography gear I use for studio macro photography.

The following equipment is shown in the first photo, taken using an iPad mini (with retina display): Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Kenko 20mm macro automatic extension tubeCanon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens (set for manual focus); Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite set for “Master” mode, and Canon 580 EX- and Canon 580EX II Speedlites set for “Slave” mode.

The Canon DSLR is mounted on a Neewer Pro 4-Way Macro Focusing Rail Slider using a Manfrotto quick-release plate. Although the quick-release plate isn’t essential gear, it makes set-up and tear-down easy and fast. The focusing rails are mounted on a Manfrotto 405 Pro Digital Geared Head, connected to a Manfrotto 055XPROB Pro Tripod [discontinued].

Photography gear used for studio macro photography.

A Canon 580EX II Speedlite is mounted on a Manfrotto 054 Magnesium Ball Head with Q2 Quick Release [discontinued], connected to a Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 Aluminum Alloy Tripod. A Canon 580EX Speedlite is mounted on a Sunpak 8001 UT medium duty aluminum tripod.

The last photo, taken using a Panansonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom bridge camera, shows the “stage” used for posing subjects such as the Zebra Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus scudderi) exuvia shown in the preceding photo. A Tether Tools “Rock Solid Master Articulating Arm & Clamp Kit” connects one end of the articulating arm to a leg of the Manfrotto tripod; a Manfrotto 2909 Super Clamp is connected to the other end of the articulating arm and used to hold a piece of opaque white plastic that is 12″ square. (Yep, that’s a folded paper towel used to prevent the clamp from scratching the plastic.) The plastic has a smooth side and a textured side; I prefer the textured side. An Opteka Triple Axis Spirit Level is used to level the “stage.”

Macro photography “stage.”

Product Reviews

See “Good news, bad news,” a related blog post in which I reviewed the Manfrotto 405 geared tripod head and Neewer focus rails.

Manfrotto makes an articulating arm that is similar to the one made by Tether Tools, shown above. The Manfrotto 244N Variable Friction Magic Arm is more expensive than the Tether Tools “Rock Solid Master Articulating Arm,” so I chose the less expensive arm. I’m reminded of the old saying “you get what you pay for.” In retrospect, I don’t recommend any of the articulating arms and clamps made by Tether Tools.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

More focus stacking with CamRanger

April 10, 2017

When I started experimenting with completely automated focus stacking using CamRanger, I couldn’t tell what, if anything, was happening. In fact, I wasn’t sure the process was working as advertised. So I devised a plan to photograph a simple subject (a six-inch ruler in this case) and use “focus peaking” to track what happened. By the way, it’s worth noting that my Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR camera doesn’t feature focus peaking, but the CamRanger app does!

During initial testing, I shot several small focus stacks. The following screen capture shows the display on my iPad mini (with retina display) running the CamRanger app; the focal plane of the lens is highlighted by red focus peaking.

Here’s a screen capture from another test, showing the final location of the focal plane (highlighted in red).

I made a movie that demonstrates what happens when CamRanger creates a focus stack. It was fun to watch the focal plane advance along the ruler as CamRanger captured the shots automatically!

The movie begins with a small focus stack using a “Large” step size (the largest increment of three options). When focus stacking is active, notice that most of the screen is covered by a translucent gray layer that prevents the user from changing settings accidentally. I cancelled the focus stack after two shots. Next I changed the step size to “Medium” and started a new stack. Notice that the focal plane of the lens begins where the last focus stack ended. The new step size is noticeably smaller.

Automated focus stacking using CamRanger (2:12)

As shown in the right side bar of the CamRanger app, I set the camera to shoot RAW plus small JPG. Both file types are recorded on the memory card in the camera; thumbnail versions of the JPG files are displayed at the top of the iPad screen. Although I usually shoot RAW only, JPG files can be transferred via WiFi faster than RAW files!

I set the CamRanger app to wait 10 seconds between shots, in order to allow adequate time for the camera to write the image files to the memory card, transfer the JPG thumbnail from the camera to the app, rack the lens to the next focal plane, and for the external flash units to power cycle.

My first finished automated focus stacks

I created a 30-layer focus stack using a medium increment. The following photo shows the JPG version of the first layer.

I used Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 to create a medium-increment focus stack using the small JPGs because they can be processed faster than RAW. The resulting composite image is shown below.

Finally, here’s the resulting composite image of a five-layer focus stack created from large increment/medium JPG photos. In my opinion, the output looks almost as good as the composite image created from five times as many layers.

Lessons Learned

  • Given a choice, run the CamRanger app on the most powerful tablet you own. I use my iPad mini rather than iPad 3 (with retina display). Although the iPad 3 screen is larger than the iPad mini, it features a slower processor. That being said, the iPad 3 is perfectly suitable for using the CamRanger app for other less processor-intensive tasks.
  • Some lenses, such as my Canon EF100mm macro lens, can be set for manual focus and the CamRanger app can still rack focus automatically. It may be necessary to set other lenses for automatic focus in order to work with focus stacking in CamRanger.
  • If possible, use continuous light sources rather than external flash units. I love me some flash triggers, but they’re not 100% reliable. If you’re shooting stills and the flash fails to fire, it’s no big deal — just shoot another shot. Not so when you miss a critical focus layer. I use a combination of two small LED light sources and a Canon Speedlite tethered to the camera by a Vello flash cable; the Canon flash optically triggers a small Nissin i40 external flash (in SD mode) used for backlight.
  • Turn off “sleep mode’ for my Canon 580EX II Speedlite. (C.Fn-01 set for Disabled.)
  • It’s challenging to determine how many layers to shoot for a given focus stack, especially when using smaller step sizes. Don’t sweat it! Simply shoot more layers by starting where the focal plane is at the end of the last focus stack. Repeat as necessary until you capture as many layers as needed.

What’s next?

Going forward, my plan is to experiment with automated focus stacking using subjects that are more complex than the ruler featured in this post. Preliminary testing suggests it could be challenging to create perfect composite images of objects that are more three-dimensional than the ruler.


I used QuickTime to create the embedded movie (shown above) by tethering my iPad mini to a MacBook Air laptop computer and following the excellent directions provided in How To Display your iPad or iPhone on your Mac (9:44), a tutorial video by Terry White, Adobe Evangelist.

Related Resources

Full disclosure: There are hardware/software solutions for wireless tethering and automated focus stacking that are less expensive than CamRanger. Remember, you get what you pay for!

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Another foray into focus stacking

April 2, 2017

I used CamRanger to remotely control my Canon 5D Mark II DSLR camera with an Apple iPad 3 (with retina display). The camera was set for manual exposure and One-Shot AF. I used an aperture of f/5.6 with my Canon 100mm macro lens; I think I’ll use f/8 next time.

Apple iPad 3 (with retina display) | screenshot of CamRanger app

The CamRanger app for Apple iOS can be used to set the focus point by tapping on the iPad screen. I focused on the toy dragonfly in approximately 10 places and tapped the “Capture” button to take a photo. The following photo shows one of the resulting images, focused on the head of the dragonfly.

ISO 100 | f/5.6 | 1/200s | Manual White Balance (Flash use)

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create a “focus stack” composite image. As you can see, most of the toy dragonfly is in focus but there are some places that are slightly blurry/ghostly. The obvious solution: Focus on more places (that is, take more pictures), although that might be unnecessary using an aperture of f/8 or smaller.

Composite image created using Adobe Photoshop CC 2017.

Going forward, my plan is to progress from manually setting the focus point by tapping on the iPad screen to using the automated focus stacking feature in the CamRanger app. Baby steps, Bob!

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot all of the photographs in the focus stack: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens (set for automatic focus); Canon 580EX II external flash, off-camera, in manual mode; Canon 580EX external flash, off-camera, in manual mode; and a Yongnuo YN-622C-TX E-TTL II Wireless Flash Controller for Canon plus a two-pack of Yongnuo YN-622C II E-TTL Wireless Flash Transceivers for Canon. Additional backlight was added to the scene using a Nissin i40 external flash unit (off-camera, in SF mode).

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create the focus stack and post-process the composite image.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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