Archive for the ‘product reviews’ Category

What is it?

February 18, 2018

It’s time for another exciting edition of “What is it?” Well, what is shown in the following photograph?

What is shown in this photograph?

If you were thinking “empty containers of Philadelphia cream cheese spread,” then you’re only half right.

These small plastic tubs can be repurposed as storage containers for odonate exuviae, such as the Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi) exuvia shown below. (Oops, I just noticed it’s time to update the label on the container!)

Storage container for a Sable Clubtail dragonfly (exuvia).

The containers are ideal in many ways. They’re not too big and not too small. The tubs can be “nested” so they don’t take up much space when you’re in the field. For long-term storage, the closed containers can be stacked neatly inside a larger box such as a Rubbermaid Keeper. And the tubs can be used to soak specimens in soapy water in order to clean- and/or re-pose exuviae when they’re pliable.

Finally, think about all the tasty toasted bagels and cream cheese that you get to eat in order to build a collection of specimen containers — that’s what I call a win-win situation!

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


Gear talk

December 18, 2017

The following photograph shows my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera, Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube, and new Fujinon XF80mm macro lens. The latter will be the subject of another blog post after I have an opportunity to use the lens for more than a few test shots. For now let me just share my first impression: It’s the sharpest lens I own, and as an owner of several Canon “L” series lenses, that’s saying a lot!

This post is a quick review of the Neewer “L” bracket and Desmond DAC-X1 adaptor.

Neewer “L” bracket and Desmond DAC-X1 adapter.

The primary advantage of using an “L” bracket is to be able to switch from landscape view to portrait view quickly. Many cameras, if not most, feature a tripod mounting screw that is offset from the line of sight along the barrel of the lens. That problem is solved by using an “L” bracket. And many tripod mounting plates block access to one or more camera “doors” such as the battery compartment, memory card slots, and in/out ports for USB, HDMI, etc.

The Neewer Metal Quick Shoe Plate L-Plate Bracket Hand Grip for Fuji X-T1, as its name suggests, is custom made for my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera. It’s lightweight, fits perfectly, and facilitates access to all of the camera compartments. The mounting screw can be tightened using a metal coin. (I prefer using a nickel, since it’s about the right thickness and has a smooth edge that won’t scratch your gear.)

Many “L” brackets, including the Neewer bracket, feature an Arca-Swiss style tripod mount. Since most of my tripod heads use the Manfrotto RC2 system of quick release tripod plates, I needed to find a solution that would enable me to mount an Arca-Swiss tripod plate on my RC2 plates.

After a little research on the Internet (Google is your friend), I decided to buy the Desmond DAC-X1 Skeleton Clamp. The DAC-X1 is shown in the lower-right corner of the featured photo. The DAC-X1 is mounted on a Manfrotto RC2 quick release tripod plate. It’s well-designed, lightweight, and works as advertised.

Best of all, both products are relatively inexpensive. I ordered both items from Amazon for $19.95 each, with free shipping and handling. You could pay a lot more than $40 total for similar products, but I don’t know why you would. I can’t imagine the “L” brackets made by other manufacturers are engineered so much better than the Neewer bracket that I could rationalize spending hundreds of dollars more. After admittedly limited testing, I highly recommend both products.


Thanks to several members of the Facebook Fujilove Readers Group, especially Thomas Stu, for sharing their expert advice regarding “L” brackets for the Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera. It’s easy to find “L” brackets for the X-T2, the successor to the X-T1, but I couldn’t find a bracket made specifically for my X-T1. Problem solved quickly thanks to the kindness of strangers!

Editor’s Notes

Gear talk” is a new “Tag” that I began using relatively recently. I’m not sure whether gear talk should be a “Category.” Reader feedback is welcome.

Anyway, this is the kind of blog post I had in mind when I created the new tag. It is intended for posts that are focused more on photography gear than the subjects I like to photograph. Good gear makes it easier to shoot good photographs.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Banded Pennant dragonflies (males)

August 12, 2017

Several Banded Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis fasciata) were spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. All of the individuals in this gallery are male, as indicated by their terminal appendages.

Fujifilm X-T1

The first photo was taken using my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera, Fujinon XF55-200mm zoom lens plus a Fujifilm 11mm extension tube, and Fujifilm EF-X500 shoe mount flash. The lens was set for a focal length of 200mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent).

The camera was set for an aperture of f/11. I forgot to decrease the aperture to f/16 (one of the lessons learned from recent field testing). Although depth of field (DoF) wasn’t an issue for the lateral view of a male Swift Setwing dragonfly featured in my last post, DoF is an issue for this viewpoint of a male Banded Pennant dragonfly. Notice the head and thorax are in focus; the terminal appendages are not.

02 AUG 2017 | JMAWR | Banded Pennant (male)

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150

The photos in the last set were taken using my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom bridge camera plus Canon 580EX Speedlite, my go-to kit for photowalking.

02 AUG 2017 | JMAWR | Banded Pennant (male)

Is that a head-tilt I see below? Did you notice the male Variable Dancer damselfly (Argia fumipennis) in the background?

02 AUG 2017 | JMAWR | Banded Pennant (male)

Editor’s Notes

What are the take-aways from looking at photo sets of the same subject taken using different camera kits, shown head-to-head?

First, the Fujifilm X-T1 is a good camera that I should use more often. My comfort level with the Fujifilm camera isn’t the same as my trusty Panasonic, but that should develop in time.

Second, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 is capable of capturing high-quality photographs, especially when used in combination with a good external flash unit such as the Canon 580EX Speedlite.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

BlackRapid Duo makeover

July 29, 2017

Years ago, I used to photowalk the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park frequently. I knew almost all of the “regular” visitors by sight if not by name. I noticed a man who wore a camera strap designed for two cameras. One day I introduced myself to Ilya Treger and we talked about his two-camera rig. Soon afterward, I ordered a “BlackRapid RS DR-1 Double Strap” from B&H Photo.

After limited field-testing in early 2015, I never used the strap again until recently. BlackRapid camera straps connect to a tripod socket, either on the body of your camera or “foot” of a lens. I knew that when I bought the Double Strap but didn’t realize how annoying it can be to switch a camera from the strap to either a monopod or tripod and vice-versa.

That was then and this is now. I discovered BlackRapid makes an accessory called “FastenR Tripod (FR-T1)” that enables one to connect a Manfrotto 200PL-14 Plate directly to the camera strap. Now that’s what I call a game-changer!

Parts and pieces

The first annotated photograph shows my Sunpak 6700M aluminum monopod plus a Vanguard SBH-100 Ball Head. Three plates are displayed on a microfiber cloth (clockwise from the upper-left): Vanguard QS-39 Quick Release PlateManfrotto 323 RC2 System Quick Release Adapter with 200PL-14 Plate; and Manfrotto 200PL-14 Plate with BlackRapid FastenR Tripod (FR-T1) installed.

Sunpak monopod plus Vanguard ball head and Manfrotto adapter.

The last annotated photo shows ball heads and plates manufactured by Manfrotto and Vanguard. I prefer to use the Vanguard ball head with my monopod since it is smaller and lighter than the Manfrotto ball head.

Ball heads and plates manufactured by Manfrotto and Vanguard.

Some assembly required

The preceding photograph shows a Manfrotto 323 RC2 System Quick Release Adapter that is mounted on a Vanguard QS-39 Quick Release Plate; that assembly is used with a Vanguard SBH-100 Ball Head. A Manfrotto 200PL-14 Plate, with a BlackRapid FastenR (FR-T1) installed, can be connected to the Vanguard ball head equipped with a Manfrotto adapter. The same modified Manfrotto plate works with my Manfrotto 054 Magnesium Ball Head without using the adapter.

Related Resources

Editor’s Note

Product photography isn’t as easy as one might think, as you can tell by my less-than-professional looking photos featured in this post! Although I have equipment on-hand for lighting studio shots properly, in this case I thought quick-and-dirty would be good enough to convey my point.

Copyright © 2017 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.

More power!

February 19, 2017

Like Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor, I like more power. (Grunt, grunt.) Actually, I need more power for some of the macro photography that I do, especially when I’m shooting small specimens such as odonate exuviae.

For the past few months, I’ve experimented with several ways to get more “oomph” from my Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens. I’ve tested three types of photo gear used in combination with the macro lens including extension tubes, a close-up filter, and a tele-extender.

The first photograph shows the following equipment, from left-to-right: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera; Canon Extender EF 1.4x II (white); Kenko 20mm macro automatic extension tube; Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens; 67-52mm step-down ring; 52-42mm step-down ring; Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter (covered by lens cap).

Canon EOS 5D Mark II macro photography kit.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II macro photography kit.

For most macro subjects, my “base kit” includes the 100mm macro lens plus a 20mm extension tube. Adding one or more extension tubes reduces the minimum focusing distance of the lens. Adding a close-up filter enables me to zoom in closer to the subject. The tele-extender effectively changes the focal length of the macro lens from 100mm to 140mm, resulting in a 1 f/stop loss of light. Some photographers contend that adding a tele-extender can result in a loss of sharpness. Your results may vary from mine, but I find the increased magnification that results from using a tele-extender is worth a small loss of sharpness.

The Canon Extender EF 1.4x II is incompatible with the Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens — it is impossible to connect the two devices directly. It’s worth noting that incompatible doesn’t mean they don’t work together — they do, as long as an extension tube is added in-line between the tele-extender and lens.

The last photograph shows the following equipment, couterclockwise from the upper-left: “snap-on universal adapter” for Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter; Raynox close-up filter mounted on a 52-43mm step-down ring; and a 67-52mm step-down ring.

Several mounting adapters for Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter.

Several mounting adapters for Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter.

The Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter comes with a “snap-on universal adapter” for mounting the filter on lenses with a filter size from 52-67mm. The adapter clips on the front of a lens the same as a lens cap. In my opinion, that’s OK for use in a home photo studio but less than ideal for use in the field.

I bought two inexpensive step-down rings that can be used to mount the close-up filter more securely: a 52-43mm step-down ring enables me to mount the Raynox DCR-250 on either the “Nifty 50” (a 50mm lens for my Canon DSLR) or Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom bridge camera, my go-to kit for photowalking; a 67-52mm step-down ring enables me to connect the 52-43mm/Raynox close-up filter combo (shown above) with my Canon 100mm macro lens.

In case you’re wondering whether vignetting is a problem when using two step-down rings with the Canon 100mm macro lens, it isn’t. As it turns out, the front lens element is recessed quite a bit from the lens barrel so the step-down rings cover little if any glass.

Related Resources:


Two thoughts occurred to me after this post was published.

  1. As a result of limited testing, I concluded that it is possible to stack two or three extension tubes in order to achieve the same result as using a tele-extender without any loss of sharpness. Problem is, the minimum focusing distance is so small that the working distance between the lens and subject is too close for comfort. Adding the tele-converter provides more magnification at a slightly longer working distance.
  2. Caution: Connect the 52-43mm step-down ring to the 67-52mm step-down ring BEFORE connecting the combo to the 100mm macro lens. Otherwise there is some risk of scratching the front element of the macro lens.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Game changers

September 8, 2016

A pair of L.L.Bean "Green Wellies" knee-high rubber boots and a JobSite Boot Puller (boot jack).

The preceding photo shows a pair of L.L.Bean “Green Wellies” knee-high rubber boots (discontinued) and a JobSite Boot Puller (a.k.a., a “boot jack”). For an odonate enthusiast like me, these items proved to be “game changers” during the past few months.

Odonates, that is dragonflies and damselflies, are aquatic insects. If you want to maximize the ode-hunting experience, then you need to be able to go into the water world that is their habitat.

Although I bought a pair of knee-high rubber boots a long time ago (for trudging in deep snow), I didn’t like to wear them because they’re difficult to remove! Problem solved when I discovered something known as a “boot jack.” Really, this simple, inexpensive device makes it so easy to remove my boots that I don’t hesitate to wear them.

Many of the photos posted on my photoblog during 2016 were taken while I was standing in water — shots that would have been impossible otherwise. Also, I have spotted many more odonate exuviae this year than in past years; looking from the water toward the shore seems be a key success factor. Lastly, chiggers and ticks seem to be less of a nuisance as long as I’m wearing my rubber boots, and that’s a huge win!

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Aperture versus Lightroom

March 4, 2016

Apple introduced “Aperture” in 2005, promoted as “the first all-in-one post production tool for photographers”; at the time, Adobe “Lightroom” did not exist. When I was ready to move from Apple “iPhoto” to a professional grade photo-editing application, I decided to stay within the Apple ecosystem and migrated to Aperture. As I gained experience with Aperture, I developed an efficient image processing workflow that produced excellent results consistently.

Fast forward to Summer 2014, when Apple announced plans to cease development of Aperture. At that point it was obvious that I would have to migrate from Aperture to Lightroom, sooner or later. As long as Aperture still works — its days are numbered by the next iteration of the Apple operating system — it is/was easier to continue using Aperture, an application with which I am familiar and comfortable. But the doomsday countdown clock is ticking, so I recently started working on a project to create a new “recipe” for a typical workflow using Lightroom CC that is similar to my tried-and-true recipe for Aperture.

The new recipe is almost finished. The heavy lifting is complete; I’m currently working to refine the process. As a test, I decided to use both recipes, old and new, to edit the same image, in this case a male Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) spotted on 20 May 2015 near a vernal pool in a remote location in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park.

Apple Aperture

A Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

Apple Aperture | standard recipe

Aperture features several options for “Auto” adjusting White Balance: “Natural Gray”; “Skin Tone”; and “Temperature & Tint.” In my experience, Natural Gray works better for vegetation; Temperature & Tint works better for wood surfaces such as trees, the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park, etc. I like the lush greens that result when Natural Gray is selected.

Abobe Lightroom CC

In contrast, after making comparable settings in Lightroom, I think the greens that result are too bright and too yellow.

A Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

Adobe Lightroom CC | Edit 1

In Edit 2, shown below, I tweaked the “Tone Curve” for “Darks.” In my opinion, Edit 2 looks better than Edit 1, although I think the greens are still a little too bright and yellow, more noticeable in a head-to-head match-up with the Aperture version.

A Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

Adobe Lightroom CC | Edit 2

Lightroom is similar to Photoshop in that there are many ways to do the same task. In Edit 3, I reset the Tone Curve adjustments in Edit 2 and tweaked “Luminance” (brightness) for “Green.” I like the results, although I might have decreased Luminance a little too much. Which version do you prefer, Lightroom Edit 1, 2, or 3?

A Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

Adobe Lightroom CC | Edit 3

Lessons Learned

What are some of the take-aways from my experimentation? First, both Aperture and Lightroom produce good results. In fact, if I had never seen the results from Aperture, I’m guessing I would have been satisfied with Lightroom Edit 1.

More steps are required in Lightroom in order to create an image that has the same “look” as I get using Aperture. And it’s worth pointing out that because I think Photoshop does a better job of noise reduction and image sharpening than Lightroom, the extra steps involved in “round-tripping” between Lightroom and Photoshop are added to my typical workflow.

All of that being said, Lightroom is the way forward, so I am divorcing Aperture and marrying Lightroom, for better or worse. I’m still working on refining the workflow I use in Lightroom. At some point in the near future, I will publish my new “recipe.”

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Don’t dismiss the “kit” lens!

February 23, 2016

What is a “kit” lens?

A kit lens is a “starter” lens which can be sold with an interchangeable-lens camera such as a single-lens reflex camera. It is generally an inexpensive lens priced at the lowest end of the manufacturer’s range so as to not add much to a camera kit’s price. The kit consists of the camera body, the lens, and various accessories usually necessary to get started in SLR photography. Source Credit: Kit lens, from Wikipedia.

I’ve been experimenting with the Fujinon XF18-55mm (27-82.5mm, 35mm equivalent) “kit” lens that was bundled with my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera body, using the lens either by itself or in combination with a set of “Fotasy” brand extension tubes.

The first photo of a toy dragonfly was taken using the lens only. The working distance was approximately 12 inches (~30 cm), close to the minimum focusing distance for the lens.

A toy dragonfly. EXIF: ISO 800; 55mm (83mm, 35mm equivalent); 0.67 ev; f/16; 1/250s.

ISO 800 | 55mm (83mm, 35mm equivalent) | 0.67 ev | f/16 | 1/250s

The next photo was taken using the kit lens combined with a 10mm extension tube. The working distance of the lens was reduced to approximately seven (7) inches (~18 cm)!

A toy dragonfly. EXIF: ISO 800; 53mm (79mm, 35mm equivalent); 0.67 ev; f/16; 1/250s.

ISO 800 | 53mm (79mm, 35mm equivalent) | 0.67 ev | f/16 | 1/250s

At a focal length of 55mm, a 16mm extension tube reduces the working distance to several inches. The front lens element is so close to the subject that one must be careful to avoid scratching the glass! And you’ll need to move your external flash unit off-camera to avoid lens shadow.

The last photo shows my set of two Fotasy extension tubes. Each tube can be used individually or they can be stacked together: 10mm; 16mm; 26mm.

Macro extension tubes are inserted between the lens and the camera body and increase the distance between the lens elements and the sensor enabling users to focus on subjects much closer to the camera. Source Credit: Fujifilm Macro Extension Tubes MCEX-11 and MCEX-16.

"Fotasy" brand extension tubes for Fujifilm X-T1 digital cameras.

Fotasy” brand extension tubes for Fujifilm X Mount cameras.

So what’s the take-away from my experimentation? I should have tried using the lens sooner — its impressive performance far exceeded my expectations of a “kit” lens!

Tech Tips: All photos featured in this post were taken using a Fujifilm X-T1 and Fujinon XF18-55mm lens, mounted on a Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB tripod and Manfrotto 054 Magnesium Ball Head with Q2 Quick Release. The first two photos were lighted by a Fujifilm Shoe Mount Flash EF-42 that commanded an off-camera Nissin i40 external flash in “SF” mode. The scene in the third photo was lighted by a Fujifilm EF-X8 pop-up flash that commanded an off-camera Nissin i40 external flash in “SD” mode.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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.

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