Archive for the ‘product reviews’ Category

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 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.

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.


February 9, 2016

While photowalking Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve on 08 February 2016, I stopped to shoot several sailboats moored on the Potomac River, downstream from Belle Haven Marina.

A sailboat moored on the Potomac River, downstream from Belle Haven Marina.

“Andiamo” means “Let’s go!” in Italian. The next photo shows a couple of no-name boats. What’s up with that? I think a big part of the fun of owning a boat is choosing a clever name.

Sailboats moored on the Potomac River, downstream from Belle Haven Marina.

“Just E-nuf” appears to be in the worst condition of the four sailboats — looks like the boat is just good enough to stay afloat!

A sailboat moored on the Potomac River, downstream from Belle Haven Marina.

The Backstory: I was field testing a “tele conversion lens” for my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom camera. I bought the accessory lens and adapter along with the camera, although I’ve never used them. Using the tele conversion lens, the actual magnification is 1.7 times the display. For example, at 24x — the maximum zoom magnification — the actual magnification is ~40x! Panasonic recommends using a tripod with the tele conversion lens; I did. In addition, I used the camera’s built-in 2-second timer to further reduce camera shake. In my opinion, the image quality is more than acceptably good — looks like I should have tried using the tele converter lens sooner!

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 plus tele conversion lens (DMW-LT55) and lens adapter (DMW-LA5).

DMC-FZ150 | tele conversion lens (DMW-LT55) | lens adapter (DMW-LA5)

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.

First foray into macro photography

December 4, 2014

I visited Huntley Meadows Park on 30 November 2014 for my first foray into macro photography. I field tested a new Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom digital camera and Canon 580EX Speedlite external flash (fitted with a Sto-Fen OM-EW Omni-Bounce, an inexpensive plastic snap-on flash diffuser). The Raynox DCR-250, like other close-up filters and extension tubes, reduces the minimum focusing distance between the lens and subject.

The following photograph of a male Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) was taken at maximum telephoto zoom (24x) without using the Raynox close-up filter. The camera was positioned near the mininum focusing distance from the subject, in this case approximately six feet (~6′). The photo was cropped from the original size of 4,000 x 3,000 pixels (12 MP) to a pixel size of 2,690 x 2,016 (5.4 MP), in order to enlarge the subject and improve the photo composition.

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (male)

ISO 100 | 107mm (600mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/5.1 | 1/800s

The same dragonfly perched on my pant leg a while later. The next photograph was taken at ~12x zoom using the Raynox close-up filter. I estimate the “working distance” between the camera and subject was approximately three-to-six inches (~3-6″). Now that’s what I call a cooperative model! The photo is uncropped from the original size of 4,000 x 3,000 pixels (12 MP) and edited lightly.

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (male)

ISO 100 | 56mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/7.1 | 1/80s

Dragonflies have the finest vision in the insect world. The compound eyes in the largest species have as many as 30,000 simple eyes (ommatidia). Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 281-282). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

The next photo shows another male dragonfly perching on the boardwalk. The picture was taken at ~6x zoom using the Raynox close-up filter. The working distance was an estimated six-to-10 inches (~6-10″). The photo was cropped to a size of 3,407 x 2,555 pixels (8.7 MP) to refine the photo composition.

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (male)

ISO 100 | 27.9mm (~150mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/7.1 | 1/100s

The last photo shows an unknown species of grasshopper. The picture was taken at ~12x zoom using the Raynox close-up filter. The working distance was an estimated three-to-six inches (~3-6″). The photo was cropped to a size of 3,593 x 2,693 pixels (9.7 MP) to refine the photo composition.

Unknown grasshopper

ISO 100 | 56mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/7.1 | 1/160s

The Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter is a relatively inexpensive solution that enables my Panasonic superzoom digital camera to be used for macro photography. Set-up is quick and easy — the filter simply clips on the front of the camera lens using a universal adapter, just like a lens cap. Depth-of-field is very shallow! A cooperative subject, good light, and a lot of patience are essential for success.

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Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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