Posts Tagged ‘studio photography’

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.

Sidebar

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

Related Resources

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

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Another foray into focus stacking

April 2, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Composite image created using Adobe Photoshop CC 2017.

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

Tech Tips:

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

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

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Señor Frog

March 6, 2016

During the “off-season,” I use the downtime exploring new sites for wildlife photography and for experimenting with new photography gear and techniques. For example, I spent a few days in the “BoG Photo Studio” recently experimenting with extension tubes.

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.

The subject in this set of test shots is a toy frog. His name is “Señor Frog,” as in, “I seen your frog, Señor.” Just look at him. He’s SO CUTE, don’t you want to kiss him? I found Señor Frog in a geocache located in Fairfax County, Virginia USA; the item I traded for Señor Frog is cool but he is cooler!

Canon EOS 5D Mark II

The first photo was shot on 19 February 2016 using a Canon EOS 5D Mark II plus Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L zoom lens, the 20mm Kenko macro automatic extension tube (from a set of three), 580EX II Speedlite & Vello diffuser, and Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB tripod and Manfrotto 054 Magnesium Ball Head with Q2 Quick Release.

The original image is a RAW file (CR2), taken using manual exposure and manual focus; the flash was on and fired. The minimum focusing distance for the 70-200mm lens is 1.2 m (3.9 ft.). Adding the 20mm extension tube reduced the minimum focusing distance: at a focal length of 135mm, the working distance was ~1.5 feet; at 200mm the working distance was estimated to be 2-3 feet.

IMG_0187-CR2-Ver2_Aperture

ISO 400 | 148mm | 0 ev | f/32 | 1/160s

Fujifilm X-T1

The next photo was taken on 18 February 2016 using a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera plus Fujinon XF18-55mm (27-82.5mm, 35mm equivalent) “kit” lens, Nissin i40 external flash (TTL), and Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB tripod and Manfrotto 054 Magnesium Ball Head with Q2 Quick Release.

The original image is a RAW file (RAF), shot using manual exposure and automatic focus; the flash was on and fired. The working distance was ~30cm, the same as the minimum focusing distance for this lens. That’s fairly close to the subject considering no extension tubes were used! The 10mm “Fotasy” brand extension tube (set of two) works well with this lens, reducing the minimum focusing distance to ~7 inches (~18 cm). At that distance, it was impossible to see the entire subject.

"Señor Frog," a toy frog found in a geocache located in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

ISO 800 | 55mm (83mm, 35mm equivalent) | -2 ev | f/16 | 1/250s

The last photo was shot on 15 February 2016 using a Fujifilm X-T1 plus Fujinon XF55-200mm zoom lens, both “Fotasy” brand extension tubes (set of two, stacked together), Fujifilm Shoe Mount Flash EF-42 (TTL), and Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB tripod and Manfrotto 054 Magnesium Ball Head with Q2 Quick Release.

The original image is a RAW file (RAF), taken using manual exposure and automatic focus; the flash was on and fired. The minimum focusing distance of 1.1 m (3 ft. 7 in.) is estimated to be half as far using both extension tubes (10 + 16 = 26mm).

"Señor Frog," a toy frog found in a geocache located in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

ISO 800 | 134.5mm (202mm, 35mm equivalent) | 0 ev | f/11 | 1/180s

Lessons Learned

So what are the take-aways from my experimentation? The time to figure out how your gear works is not when the photo opportunity of a lifetime presents itself! My skill set now includes several photographic techniques for getting closer to the subject, thereby enabling smaller subjects such as frogs and odonates to fill the frame, that is, assuming these subjects are less skittish than usual.

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.

Sailboats

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.

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.


%d bloggers like this: