Archive for the ‘product reviews’ Category

More testing: Panasonic “Post Focus”

January 28, 2019

A toy dragonfly was “photographed” at BoG Photo Studio using my new Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 digital camera set for “Post Focus.” Two Sunpak LED-160 Video Lights were used to light the scene. 30 individual frames were extracted from the resulting MP4 video, and saved as TIF files; Adobe Photoshop was used to create the following focus-stacked composite image.

A plastic toy dragonfly.

The test shots featured in my last blog post, and this one, were taken in order to establish the proof of concept that Panasonic “Post Focus” can be used to quickly (well, everything is relative) create high quality focus-stacked composite images. After limited testing, I can say the process works fairly well.

The next test: Use a preserved specimen of a real adult dragonfly as the subject. Please stay tuned for my next blog post.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Testing: Panasonic “Post Focus”

January 25, 2019

My new Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 features some significant upgrades over my DMC-FZ150 such as a touch-screen LCD, built-in WiFi (enabling remote control of the camera using the “Panasonic Image App“), 49 focus points, and 4K video, to name a few. Perhaps the most intriguing new feature is what Panasonic calls “Post Focus.”

“Post Focus” can be used to change the focus point after a photograph is taken, in camera. OK, that’s astounding! But wait, there’s more.

With “Post Focus” enabled, the camera is used in the same way as when you’re shooting still photos. In reality, the camera records a small movie clip in 4K video at 30 fps (4:3 aspect ratio) every time you press the shutter button.

The 4K movie recording function is used to record roughly one second of MP4 video at 30 frames/second. During this recording, the camera’s autofocusing system scans the lens around the subject, moving from the foreground to the background to cover the entire scene. … It’s like a sophisticated form of focus bracketing and produces a movie clip containing about 30 frames. Source Credit: How the Panasonic Post Focus function works.

One reviewer of photography gear opined the process is too slow to be useful in real-world situations; in contrast, my first impression is the process works surprisingly quickly.

An MP4 file can be opened in Adobe Photoshop in order to export individual frames from the 4K video clip; the files can be saved in either JPG or TIF format. In turn those files can be imported into Photoshop to create a focus-stacked composite image, such as the one shown below.

A plastic toy Pterodactyl, 6.5″ in width.

A toy Pterodactyl was “photographed” at BoG Photo Studio using Panasonic “Post Focus.” One Sunpak LED-160 Video Light was used to light the scene. 30 individual frames were extracted from the resulting MP4 video, and saved as TIF files; Adobe Photoshop was used to create the preceding focus-stacked composite image.

I think Panasonic “Post Focus” shows great potential for enabling the production of high quality focus-stacked composite images when photowalking, without carrying a lot of photography gear into the field.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

More power!

January 18, 2019

Like Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor, I like/need more power. (Grunt, grunt.) Regular readers of my photo blog know that I have purchased several new external flash units and related accessories, all of which use batteries as their power source.

Panasonic eneloop pro rechargeable batteries and Ansmann Battery Boxes are my current favorite brands.

Panasonic eneloop pro rechargeable batteries | Ansmann Battery Box

Look closely at the full-size version of the preceding photo. Notice that the month and year I bought the batteries is written on the side of each battery using a Sanford’s Sharpie permanent marker. I do this for two reasons. First, it’s easier to group/use batteries of the same vintage. Second, it’s easier know when it’s time to replace a set of batteries that doesn’t hold a charge as long as it used to.

The little things matter in photography. Little things like batteries, especially when you’re photowalking in the field. I always carry at least two boxes of four batteries per box.

Copyright © 2019 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.

3 Legged Thing QR11-LC Universal L-Bracket

December 14, 2018

This post is a quick review of the “3 Legged Thing QR11-LC Universal L-Bracket,” Desmond DAC-X1 adaptor, and Manfrotto RC2 quick release tripod plate.

The primary advantage of using an L-bracket is to be able to switch from landscape view to portrait view quickly.

Many L-brackets, including the 3 Legged Thing 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. It’s well-designed, lightweight, and works as advertised.

Pros and cons

The following photo shows a 3 Legged Thing QR11-LC Universal L-Bracket (Orange) mounted on my Canon 5D Mark II DSLR camera. A Desmond DAC-X1 Skeleton Clamp (black) is connected to the QR11-LC, and a Manfrotto RC2 quick release tripod plate (gray) is connected to the DAC-X1. The blue thing shown in the lower-left corner of the photo is a handy tool that is bundled with the QR11-LC.

3 Legged Thing QR11-LC Universal L-Bracket (Orange).

The Canon 5D Mark II DSLR was released in September 2008. 10 years later, it seems to be impossible to buy a new L-bracket made specifically for the 5DM2. The only option is to buy a “universal L-bracket.”

In my opinion, the word “universal” suggests the bracket fits a lot of camera models but doesn’t fit any model perfectly. It required a big leap of faith for me to buy the QR11-LC, but I must say I’m pleasantly surprised by how well it fits my 5DM2!

Most importantly (to me), the L-bracket DOESN’T block the door to the camera battery compartment.

There are openings for attaching a camera strap to either end of the L-bracket; the opening on the shorter side of the L-bracket aligns perfectly with the camera strap connector on the left side of the camera body, thereby adding some stability to the camera-bracket connection.

With the L-bracket mounted on the camera body as shown in the preceding photograph, it’s nearly impossible to open the compartment doors on the left side of the camera by reaching through the larger opening on the shorter side of the L-bracket. That said, the tool that comes with the QR11-LC makes it easy to loosen the tripod socket screw. Then you can slide the bracket far enough to the left to open the side compartment doors, leave the doors open, slide the L-bracket back into place, and tighten the tripod socket screw.

What’s the take-away?

Although I readily concede it’s unlikely there are many owners of the Canon 5D Mark II DSLR who will find this product review helpful, 3 Legged Thing sells several models of universal L-brackets that are compatible with newer cameras sold by Canon, Nikon, Fujifilm, and Sony.

Related Resource: L Brackets: Two Minute Tips with David Bergman, by Adorama (2:46).

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Godox TT685C Thinklite TTL Flash

November 12, 2018

I bought a Godox TT685C Thinklite TTL Flash from Roberts Camera recently. I placed the order around midday on Friday, 02 November 2018 and the parcel was delivered on Monday, 05 November. Impressive!

The Backstory

Godox flash photography gear, published on 09 October 2019, features my initial review of a Godox TT685F Thinklite TTL Flash that I bought from B&H Photo. In short, the flash doesn’t work as advertised by both Godox and B&H Photo, and B&H has failed repeatedly to “make it right.” (More about that in a follow-up blog post.)

Given my negative experience with the TT685F flash, regular readers of my blog might be wondering “Why would you buy another Godox flash from B&H Photo?” More about the first part of that question in a minute. As I already mentioned, I DIDN’T buy the new Godox TT685C flash from B&H Photo. Read between the lines.

Testing 1, 2, 3…

I have been testing the new TT685C flash since the day after it was received. Here’s what I know so far: In a nutshell, the flash works as advertised.

The Canon-compatible version of the Godox TT685 functions in five modes: a non-wireless, stand-alone mode (TTL, Manual, and Multi); and four wireless modes (optical master/slave modes, and radio master/slave modes). The Godox TT685C can do almost everything the comparable Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT does at a price point approximately six times less than Canon’s MSRP of $579.99.

All of that being said, there is one problem with the Godox TT685C and it’s a big problem in my opinion. More about this in a follow-up blog post.

A Canon-compatible flash that works like one made for Fujifilm

For my money, what makes the Godox TT685 product line of flashes special is they are cross-compatible. In other words, flashes made for different camera manufacturers (e.g., Canon, Nikon, Olympus/Panasonic, and Sony) can work together.

The following photo shows the LCD of my new Godox TT685C flash. The flash is set for radio slave mode (Channel 1, Group A). Notice the word “FUJI” in the lower-left corner of the display that indicates the Canon-compatible flash is working like a Fujifilm-compatible flash.

In this case, the flash was controlled by a Godox XProF radio flash trigger mounted on the hotshoe of my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera. A Godox TT685F external flash, fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier, was located off-camera; the TT685F was used to light the photo, shown below. Also notice the icon that indicates the flash is functioning in HSS mode; the HSS icon is located below 24mm (manual zoom) and the audio speaker icon (indicating sound is on).

Godox TT685C external flash LCD panel display (Slave mode).

Results from hands-on testing (so far, so good)

  • Off-camera radio slave mode works, including TTL and HSS, when the Godox TT685C is controlled by a Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite set for radio master.
  • Either Godox XProF or TT685F mounted on Fujifilm X-T1 hotshoe: Camera-mounted flash is Channel M; off-camera TT-685C (set for radio slave) is Channel A. Works as expected, including TTL and HSS.
  • Godox TT685C mounted on Fujifilm X-T1 hotshoe: Flash fires, Manual mode only (TTL, HSS don’t work); when the flash is set for optical master (in Manual mode), it can trigger an off-camera Nissan i40 external flash unit (set for SF Mode) confirming that optical master does in fact work.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Peak Design Anchor Links

October 26, 2018

A set of Peak Design Anchor Links was used to connect a Godox PROPAC PB960 Lithium-Ion Flash Power Pack to the strap that shipped with the battery. The power pack fits better in one of the larger pockets on a safari vest without the strap.

I can never remember how to thread photo gear straps safely and securely, so I loosened the strap on one side of the battery to see how it was done.

Parts, before assembly.

The next photo shows one of the Anchor Links connected to the battery, and one of the Anchors connected to the end of the strap.

Anchor Link component parts connected to battery and strap.

The last photo shows the Anchor Link, well, anchored to the Anchor.

Anchor Link component parts connected.

Added flexibility using Anchor Links

The strap for the Godox battery pack can be repurposed as a replacement for the strap on my Panasonic Lumix superzoom bridge camera; the old strap is frayed at the point where it’s connected to the camera and is cause for concern.

Each set of Anchor Links ships with four (4) Anchor Links and two (2) Anchors, so I connected the other two Anchor Links (not shown in the preceding photos) to my Panasonic camera. Now it’s quick and easy to use one strap for two pieces of photo gear!

Copyright © 2018 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.

Burst mode flash photography

October 12, 2018

This post provides a brief demonstration of burst mode flash photography using the gear shown in the following photo: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera plus Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube and Fujinon XF80mm macro lensGodox XProF radio flash triggerGodox TT685F external flashGodox PROPAC PB960 Lithium-Ion Flash Power Pack; and Quantum Instruments CZ2 Power Cable (for Turbo Series Power Packs).

Godox flash photography gear.

The Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera is set for “CL” (continuous low) burst mode. The Godox TT685F external flash unit is set for Manual mode at 1/128 power, as shown on the LCD of the Godox XProF radio flash trigger mounted on the camera hot shoe. The external flash unit is connected to a Godox PROPAC PB960 power pack using a Quantum Instruments cable.

The external flash unit is powered by a set of four AA batteries, as usual. The external power pack enables a much faster recycle rate for the flash than is possible using only AA batteries.

The Quantum Instruments CZ2 Power Cable fits Canon external flash units such as the Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite and Canon 580EX- and Canon 580EX II Speedlites, as well as Godox external flash units made for Canon, Fujifilm, and Olympus/Panasonic digital cameras. You may want to buy two cables, since the Godox PROPAC PB860 can power two flash units at once.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Godox flash photography gear

October 9, 2018

The photos in this gallery show the following photography gear: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera plus Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube and Fujinon XF80mm macro lens; Godox XProF radio flash trigger; Godox TT685F external flash, Godox PROPAC PB960 Lithium-Ion Flash Power Pack; and Quantum Instruments CZ2 Power Cable (for Turbo Series Power Packs).

Godox flash photography gear.

The Godox TT685F flash head is the same size as a Canon 580EX II Speedlite so slide-on plastic light modifiers that work with a 580EX II will work with the TT685. That said, some work better than others. The “Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce OM-EY” is a tight fit — too tight in my opinion. The “Vello Bounce Dome (Diffuser) for Canon 580EX II Flash” is a perfect fit.

The Godox radio flash trigger and external flash unit are compatible with both TTL and HSS (high-speed sync flash).

Godox flash photography gear.

The Godox TT685F external flash can function as either a radio master or radio slave. According to the B&H Photo Web page for the TT685F, current as of 01 November 2018, the flash can also function as either an optical master or optical slave.

Much to my surprise, the TT685F cannot function as either an optical master or optical slave. I had hoped to be able to use the TT685F as an optical master to remotely trigger other Fujifilm-compatible external flash units such as my Nissin i40 or Fujifilm EF-X500. This is a BIG disappointment, especially since the TT685C for Canon Cameras features both optical master/slave and radio master/slave modes. Although both the TT685F and TT685C sell at the same retail price point of ~$110, you’re paying for less-capable hardware in the TT685F and that’s just not right! Hey Godox, are you listening?

The Godox PROPAC PB960 Lithium-Ion Flash Power Pack can be used with the TT685F to enable burst mode flash photography. A follow-up blog post will feature a short video clip showing that burst mode flash works quite well.

Editor’s Notes

I contacted B&H Photo on 10 October 2018 via an online chat with a customer service representative named “Dan W.” Dan admitted the B&H Photo Web page for the Godox TT685F is (or was) incorrect. The following quote is an excerpt from the transcript of my chat with Dan W.

“Optical master/slave transmission is available for working with other standard flashes.”

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1348949-REG/godox_tt685f_ttl_camera_speedlite.html

I asked “How do we make this right? I don’t want to return the TT685F but I’d be happy to settle for a discount on another Godox flash.” After talking with a manager, B&H offered to give me a $5.00 discount on another flash unit. B&H misrepresented the product I bought in good faith and their best offer to make it right is $5? Please, get serious.

I have always raved about B&H Photo and its extraordinary customer service. Whenever there has been a problem with an order, it was always resolved quickly in my favor. B&H’s latest offer of a $5.00 discount is an insult and NO WAY TO BUILD CUSTOMER LOYALTY!

Addendum

As it turns out, the Godox Web page for the TT685F, current as of 12 October 2018, says the flash can also function as either an optical master or optical slave.

It’s noteworthy that the graphic of the flash LCD shows the icon for radio master/slave mode. Hey Godox, does anyone fact-check your Web pages before they are published? This is false advertising!

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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