Archive for the ‘Canon PowerShot G9’ Category

You complete me

February 19, 2016

Nearly two years ago, I bought into the Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera system. I was looking for a smaller and lighter camera than my Canon EOS 5D Mark II that produces imagery of comparable quality. In addition to the Fujinon XF18-55mm kit lens that was bundled with the camera body, I bought the Fujinon XF55-200mm zoom lens. I also bought the Shoe Mount Flash EF-42 — the only TTL-capable external flash unit compatible with the X-T1 that was available at the time.

After several days of field-testing, I realized I’d need to add two items to my X-T1 “kit” in order to be completely satisfied: 1) a telephoto zoom lens with more “reach” than the 55-200mm lens; and 2) a TTL-capable, high-speed sync compatible external flash unit that would enable me to use flash at shutter speeds faster than the 1/180s default flash sync speed of the X-T1 (actually, up to 1/250s works).

Item No. 1 became available for pre-order in mid-January 2016 and shipped in early February. When the parcel was delivered, I looked at the unopened box and thought “You complete me.” [They had me with its 600mm reach (35mm equivalent).] Then I opened the box. I was shocked by the size and weight of the new lens — it’s much larger and heavier than expected, and unlikely to be the sort of lens I’m going to like lugging around on long walks in the field.

The following photo shows a side-by-side comparison of my newer Fujinon XF100-400mm and older Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L zoom lenses. The two lenses are nearly identical in size and weight. Ugh, so much for down-sizing my camera gear!

A side-by-side comparison of the Canon EF70-200mm f/2.8L and Fujinon XF100-400mm zoom lenses.

Fujinon XF100-400mm (top) | Canon EF70-200mm f/2.8L (bottom)

I never liked hand-holding the Canon EOS 5D Mark 2 camera and 70-200mm lens — always felt like the best images were shot using a tripod. I stopped using the Canon gear when I got tired of carrying my Manfrotto 055XPROB Pro, the heaviest tripod I own. Now that I’ve become a flash enthusiast, I plan to give the Canon a second chance — I’m hoping that the problem of camera shake that I experienced can be eliminated by using faster shutter speeds and hi-speed sync.

I took a few test shots using my new Fujinon lens just to be sure it works properly, tripod-mounted of course. I don’t expect to do much hand-held shooting with the new lens until the new Fujifilm hot-shoe mount flash EF-X500 for X-Series cameras is available, reported to be released sometime during May 2016.

A toy pterodactyl. EXIF: ISO 800; 360mm (540mm, 35mm equivalent); 0 ev; f/16; 1/180s.

ISO 800 | 360mm (540mm, 35mm equivalent) | 0 ev | f/16 | 1/180s

Tech Tips: Studio lighting for product photography is not as easy as one might think, as evidenced by my amateurish efforts. The first photo was taken using a Canon PowerShot G9; the scene was lighted by the G9’s built-in flash that commanded an off-camera Nissin i40 external flash in “SD” mode. The second photo was taken using a Fujifilm X-T1 and Fujinon XF18-55mm lens; the scene was lighted by a Fujifilm EF-42 in TTL mode that commanded an off-camera Nissin i40 flash in “SF” mode. Both cameras were mounted on a Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB tripod and Manfrotto 054 Magnesium Ball Head with Q2 Quick Release.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Problem solved?

February 11, 2016

Problem? What problem? I love my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera body, but there’s one annoying problem with the two Fujifilm lenses I own: It’s easy to accidentally adjust the aperture ring when handholding the camera properly. For example, you think you’re shooting at f/11 but the setting changed to f/8 with the net result of not enough depth of field.

Like I said, an annoying problem, especially when there is no opportunity for a do-over. (Hey Fujifilm, are you listening? I’m not the only one complaining about this problem!)

Fujifilm 18-55mm zoom lens plus LENSband (Dark Blue).

18-55mm zoom lens (58mm filter size) | LENSband (Dark Blue)

Somehow I stumbled across a product called “LENSband” recently. The lens band is essentially a large, thick rubber band that is intended to “stop zoom creep.” I’ve never found zoom creep to be a problem with my Fujifilm lenses, but hey, they’re relatively new.

On the other hand, “aperture ring creep” is a big problem so I ordered a couple of LENSbands. In limited testing at home, the bands seem to be the perfect solution for my problem, that is, the Fujifilm lens problem. More later after field testing.

Fujifilm X-T1 and 55-200mm zoom lens plus LENSband (Yellow).

X-T1 | 55-200mm zoom lens (62mm filter size) | LENSband (Yellow)

A few words of caution. LENSband comes in two sizes: “Standard”; and “Mini.” Both the LENSband Store and B&H Photo product page say the Mini size fits both my Fujifilm lenses. I think Minis are too small: I could barely fit the Mini around the smaller end of the barrel of the 18-55mm lens, but it was impossible to adjust; it was impossible to fit the Mini bands around either end of the larger 55-200mm lens. In my opinion, Standard size bands are a much better fit for both lenses.

Editor’s Notes: I ordered the new Fujifilm 100-400mm telephoto zoom lens. The 100-400mm lens has a filter size of 77mm. Standard size LENSbands fit comfortably around lenses with filter sizes of 58mm and 62mm, but I’m thinking there’s no way the Standard size band is going to fit around a lens with a filter size 15mm greater than the larger lens featured in this post! More later after the new lens is delivered.

Perhaps LENSband should consider offering its product in three sizes: small; medium; and large. In my experience, customer service from LENSband is excellent, so I expect the company to be receptive to my suggestion for improvement.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Flashback – reflecting upon nearly two years of flash photography

January 28, 2016

Once upon a time I was a photography purist: Every photograph I shot was taken in natural light. Then one day I had an epiphany: Fill flash brings out detail and enhances color, contrast, and sharpness. In a word, flash good!

I remember the day of my conversion from the dark side vividly. I was trying to photograph a Blue Corporal dragonfly (Ladona deplanata) during Spring 2013: Male Blue Corporals are dark blue and the subject was backlighted by the Sun; all of the photos I shot appeared to be underexposed and showed almost no detail. I decided to try using the built-in pop-up flash on my camera, and boom, the results were much better! For the rest of the year, I used the pop-up flash full-time.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150

My love of flash photography began with the built-in pop-up flash on my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom camera. Eventually I came to realize the obvious: The pop-up flash is better than nothing but it’s underpowered in many (if not most) situations.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 pop-up flash.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 pop-up flash.

Canon external flash units

Mid-way through 2014, I started experimenting with using external flash units for Canon digital cameras mounted on my Panasonic camera.

  • Canon 580EX Speedlite (Guide Number: 58) plus Sto-Fen OM-EY Omni-Bounce plastic diffuser
  • Canon 580EX Speedlite II (Guide Number: 58) plus Vello Bounce Dome plastic diffuser. (Note: The Canon 580EX II is slightly larger than the 580EX.)

Both Canon flashes are virtually identical and are compatible with every digital camera I own, including the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150, although the flashes must be used in manual mode.

External flash units for Canon digital cameras: Canon 580EX Speedlite; Canon 580EX Speedlite II.

Canon 580EX Speedlite (left) | Canon 580EX Speedlite II (right)

By experimentation, I quickly discovered three things:

  1. Both Canon flashes work with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 at any shutter speed. This is huge, especially since I prefer to shoot in shutter priority mode at faster shutter speeds.
  2. Manual flash isn’t as hard to understand as I was led to believe.
  3. The Canon 580EX works better with my Panasonic camera than the 580EX II. (For example, when the camera goes into power-saving mode, so does the 580EX flash unit; when the camera “wakes up,” so does the flash. In contrast, sometimes it is necessary to power-cycle the 580EX II in order to wake it from power-saving mode when it is mounted on my Panasonic camera.)

The following camera/flash settings are my usual starting point.

  • Camera: ISO 100; Shutter Priority mode at 1/800s.
  • Flash: Manual Mode; 1/16 power ratio; 105mm zoom.

Correct exposure is never more than a few stops away from these settings. (Note: On both 580s, every three clicks on the selection dial equals one stop of exposure.)

Fujifilm external flash units

I own several external flash units for my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.

  • The Fujifilm EF-X8 (Guide Number: ~8) comes with the X-T1 camera body. Although the EF-X8 is almost as underpowered as the pop-up flash on my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150, it can be used to fire the Nissin i40 off-camera with the i40 set for “SD mode.”
  • The Fujifilm EF-42 (Guide Number: 42) plus Sto-Fen OM-600 Omni-Bounce plastic diffuser enables TTL flash photography at shutter speeds equal to or less than the X-T1 flash sync speed of 1/180s (actually, 1/250s). The EF-42 can be used to fire the Nissin i40 off-camera with the i40 set for “SF mode.”
  • The Nissin i40 (Guide Number: 40) enables both TTL flash photography at shutter speeds equal to or less than the sync speed, and high-speed sync with the i40 set for Manual mode. (Note: The Nissin i40 comes with a snap-on plastic diffuser, not shown in the following photograph.)
External flash units for Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera: Fujifilm EF-X8; Fujifilm EF-42; Nissin i40.

Fujifilm EF-X8 (left) | Fujifilm EF-42 (center) | Nissin i40 (right)

Flash accessories

The last photo shows a few of my favorite accessories for external flash photography.

Accessories for external flash units: Ansmann battery case; Sanyo Eneloop rechargeable batteries; Vello Off-Camera TTL Flash Cord; Yongnuo YN622C II Wireless Flash Trigger Transceivers.

Accessories for external flash units.

One of my goals for 2016 is to experiment with on-camera versus off-camera flash using some of the accessories shown above.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

New tools for flash photography

November 29, 2015

In my experience as a wildlife photographer specializing in insect photography, two of the more critical factors in my formula for success include using a fast shutter speed along with some sort of flash, preferably a powerful external flash unit.

  • Shutter Priority AE Mode: Use a fast shutter speed, equal to or greater than the reciprocal of the lens focal length (actual focal length for full-frame sensor cameras or 35mm equivalent for crop sensor cameras), in my case, usually no less than 1/800 s for a 600mm equivalent telephoto lens.
  • Use either a built-in flash or external flash unit for fill flash: “… the real secret of wildlife photography is fill flash. Fill flash is one of the key techniques for easily improving wildlife images. Electronic flash improves the color balance of the image, improves color saturation, fills in dark shadows with detail, adds a catch light to an animal’s eye, and may help increase sharpness.” Source Credit: Wildlife Fill Flash. Note: Burst Mode cannot be used with flash.

I bought some new tools for flash photography that should enable me to make better use of two of the more capable cameras I own, rather than using my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom bridge camera exclusively in the field.

Nissin i40

The first photo shows my Fujifilm X-T1 mirrorless digital camera and 55-200mm zoom lens (88-320mm, 35mm equivalent). In order to shoot tack-sharp photos using a hand-held camera and mid-range telephoto lens, I would prefer to use a combination of a shutter speed of at least 1/640s with fill flash. This configuration doesn’t work with my Fujifilm X-T1. Mirror-less digital cameras aren’t shutterless — they still require a mechanical shutter in order to properly expose larger image sensors such as the APS-C sensor featured in the X-T1. Using the X-T1, flash will synchronize with the shutter at shutter speeds of 1/180s or slower. Editor’s Note: 1/250s usually works as well or better than the X-T1’s 180x default flash sync speed, but that’s the built-in speed limit.

Fujifilm X-T1 mirrorless camera and Nissin i40 external flash unit.

Fujifilm X-T1 mirrorless digital camera | Nissin i40 external flash unit

I recently discovered a third-party external flash unit that is capable of shooting in high-speed sync mode like my Canon Speedlites: Nissin i40 for the Fujifilm mirrorless camera system. Although the Nissin i40 is fully TTL compatible at shutter speeds equal to or less than the X-T1 flash sync speed, high-speed sync only works when the i40 is set for manual mode. This is a game-changer nonetheless — I’m eagerly looking forward to field-testing my X-T1 using flash with shutter speeds faster than 1/250s. And after a year-and-a-half of experience using my Panasonic superzoom bridge camera with a Canon 580EX Speedlite set for manual mode, shooting manual flash is relatively easy.

Fujifilm X-T1 mirrorless camera and Nissin i40 external flash unit.

Fujifilm X-T1 mirrorless digital camera | Nissin i40 external flash unit

Note: The lens hood is reverse-mounted in the preceding photo in order to minimize the apparent length of the lens barrel.

Yongnuo YN622C II Wireless Flash Trigger Transceivers

The next photo shows my older Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR camera plus a hot shoe-mounted Yongnuo YN622C II Wireless Flash Trigger Transceiver that can be used to control off-camera flash units using both E-TTL and high-speed sync.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR camera plus Yongnuo YN622C II Wireless Flash Trigger Transceiver.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR | Yongnuo YN622C II Wireless Flash Trigger

New words formed by fusing together parts of existing words are known as “blends.” The word “transceiver” is a blend of the words “transmitter” and “receiver.”  Using a pair of Yongnuo YN622C II Wireless Flash Trigger Transceivers, the unit mounted on-camera automatically acts like a radio transmitter while the off-camera unit automatically acts as a radio receiver for the Canon 580EX II Speedlite mounted on top.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR camera, Canon 580EX II Speedlite, plus a pair of Yongnuo YN622C II Wireless Flash Trigger Transceivers.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II | Canon 580EX II Speedlite | Yongnuo YN622C II (2)

Wireless off-camera flash is another game-changer, especially for macro photography. I tried using a coiled six-foot Vello Off-Camera TTL Flash Cord for Canon Cameras that is fully compatible with the two-foot Canon OC-E3 Off Camera Shoe Cord, but the cord always seemed to get in the way and couldn’t be extended fully without causing either the camera or external flash unit to tip over.

The simple set-up shown above features a Canon “nifty fifty” 50mm lens and a couple of Kenko macro automatic extension tubes from a set of three. In this case, the 20mm and 36mm extension tubes combined with the 50mm lens produce ~1:1 macro photos.

As a bonus, the Yongnuo radio transceivers work with every other camera I own to wirelessly control my Canon Speedlites in manual mode. Makes sense, since the “C” in YN622C II means the flash triggers are designed for Canon cameras and flashes.

First impressions

In my opinion, the Nissin i40 is overpriced for a somewhat underpowered external flash unit. But hey, since the i40 is currently the only external flash unit compatible with Fujifilm X-T1 that enables high-speed sync, it’s a price I was willing to pay!

In contrast, $80 for a pair of Yongnuo 622C II transceivers is a bargain — there is no less expensive option for wirelessly controlling external flash units that enables both E-TTL and high-speed sync. I highly recommend this product, despite the virtually unintelligible English translation of the user manual. Special thanks to Alan Pezzulich for suggesting I consider the YN622C IIs!

Related Resources:

Editor’s Note: The photographs featured in this post were taken using an older Canon PowerShot G9 compact digital camera along with a hot shoe-mounted Canon 580EX Speedlite and Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce plastic diffuser; the camera-flash combo was mounted on an inexpensive Sunpak tripod. Adobe Photoshop was used to remove some distracting elements from the upper corners of all photos.

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

In-home photography “studio” set-up

September 2, 2015

Mike Powell, a good friend and photowalking buddy, left the following comment on my last post (First foray into focus stacking macro photographs):

You might consider including a shot of your setup (maybe with your phone), to help us visualize a little better your setup. Source Credit: Mike Powell.

In response to Mike’s good suggestion, I decided to write a follow-up post featuring photos of the gear used to take the 13 macro photographs that were focus stacked to create a composite image of a toy damselfly finger puppet.

The previous post was, by design, rich with technical detail. My goal was to answer the overarching question, “How did you do that?” I chose to feature some of the macro photographs, rather than the gear I used to shoot the photos. By reminding me of the old cliche, “one picture is worth a thousand words,” Mike’s comment tells me I didn’t achieve my goal.

In-home "studio" set-up used to shoot macro photographs of a toy damselfly finger puppet, purchased from the Visitor Center gift shop, Huntley Meadows Park.

Table top used for staging photographs.

The following items are shown on the left half of the black table top, listed clockwise from the upper-left corner of the table:

In-home "studio" set-up used to shoot macro photographs of a toy damselfly finger puppet, purchased from the Visitor Center gift shop, Huntley Meadows Park.

The view from behind the tripod-mounted camera.

Yep, that’s what you think it is — a repurposed 1/2 gallon plastic ice cream container used to elevate the subject from the staging table. I placed the Qudos Video Light underneath the upside-down plastic container. An inexpensive intervalometer is shown hanging from the camera tripod.

In-home "studio" set-up used to shoot macro photographs of a toy damselfly finger puppet, purchased from the Visitor Center gift shop, Huntley Meadows Park.

Sunpak LED-160 Video Light turned on low power.

Look closely at the full-size version of the preceding photo. Notice the purple fringing that appears around the front panel of the Sunpak Video Light. The optical phenomenon is called chromatic aberration, color fringing that occurs sometimes in photographs of high contrast subjects such as the video light.

In-home "studio" set-up used to shoot macro photographs of a toy damselfly finger puppet, purchased from the Visitor Center gift shop, Huntley Meadows Park.

Close-up of several smaller items.

The following items are shown from left-to-right across the horizontal center of the preceding photo:

In-home "studio" set-up used to shoot macro photographs of a toy damselfly finger puppet, purchased from the Visitor Center gift shop, Huntley Meadows Park.

Side view showing camera mounted on focus rails.

The preceding photograph shows my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom digital camera mounted on a Neewer Pro 4-Way Macro Focusing Rail Slider using a couple of Manfrotto quick-release plates. Although the quick-release plates aren’t essential gear, they make set-up and tear-down easy and fast.

The camera was set for manual focus: For the first photo, coarse focus was achieved by physically moving the tripod into position; fine focus was achieved by racking the focus rail back-and-forth until the subject appeared to be in focus in a magnified view shown on the camera LCD. Next the focus rail was locked down. An inexpensive intervalometer was used to press the camera shutter button without causing camera shake. Manual focus method No. 2 was used for all remaining focus layers (see “Related Resource,” below).

In-home "studio" set-up used to shoot macro photographs of a toy damselfly finger puppet, purchased from the Visitor Center gift shop, Huntley Meadows Park.

A small toy damselfly “perching” on translucent plastic.

The toy damselfly was placed on an 8″ square sheet of white 1/8″ thick 40% translucent acrylic plastic and lighted from below using a Qudos Video Light (not shown). I didn’t realize how far the toy damselfly’s nose sticks out ’til I looked at the preceding photo — no wonder its nose is slightly out of focus in my composite image!

A small plastic ruler is shown for scale. Anyone care to guess why the ruler from the Calvert Marine Museum is seven inches (7″) long rather than six inches?

Bottom line: The set-up looks and sounds more complex than it is in reality. Don’t let this deter you from experimenting with focus stacking macro photographs — it’s fun and the results can be rewarding!

Related Resource: Focus Stacking Tutorial for the Panasonic FZ200 and Raynox Close Up Lenses, a YouTube video by Graham Houghton. Two techniques for using manual focus are described in the video. I used the second manual focus method in order to fix the camera angle/position (15:52/25:58).

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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