Tech Review – Camfi, Update

OK so a month or so again I wrote a review on the Camfi wi-fi adaptor my kids bought me for Christmas. Now in general I rated it pretty well, but I did note a few Cons against it….

  • A bit glitchy with my old Samsung Note 1.0 tablet…….possibly due to the older software on the tablet?
  • Occasionally freezes on Sony Smartphone as well, especially if trying to arrange a bracketed shot.
  • When freezes sometimes locks the whole camera up.
  • I found that sometimes my Home Wi-Fi kicked me off the Camfi…….but that could just be my system and not the camfi?

As it turns out this may not be the Camfi product in itself but a dud that I got. You see mine stopped working altogether a few weeks ago (only used it for a month) and it just died, would not connect via WI-FI to ANY device. I contacted the distributors who asked me try a few things (reset etc) and then to send it back……so it has been duly returned, replaced with another unit and posted back to me. I turned it all on and hooked it up, so far so good. Hopefully this one lasts a little more than one month and is glitch free from now on.

I’ll keep you updated…

~ Julz

 

Vanguard Alta Pro Tripod – Review

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Another item on my christmas list was a new tripod my old Velbon was having issues, we still have the Manfrotto, but it is also having wonky leg issues and it is way too heavy. So a friend showed me a link for the new Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB Tripod with SBH100 Ballhead (V230269) [this is not where I bought it from, but it does have pics and specs] I got mine from Amazon for US$150.00…….but I can no longer find the link 😦

OVERVIEW

  • Lightweight (5.38 lbs/2.44 kg)
  • Maximum Height of 5.67′ (1.73 m)
  • Load Capacity of 15.4 Lbs (7 kg)
  • Folded Length is 28.125″ (71.5 cm)
  • Magnesium Alloy Ballhead Included
  • Ballhead Includes 2 Bubble Levels
  • 25- 50- and 80-Degree Leg Angles
  • Central Column Moves From 0-180 Degrees

It was a little tricky to figure out the central column, but once done it is brilliant.

PROS

  • Levels are wonderful – straight photos (well mostly)
  • Perfect for flat lays and awkward positions
  • nice and light, easy to carry
  • Quick set up and take down
  • leg clips easy to use with cold stiff fingers 🙂
  • Quick and easy mount for tripod
  • lovely fluid motion with ball head.
  • All screws and clips are easy to turn, twist or click; I have limited mobility in my hands at times (apart from the screw for the head mount)

CONS

  • Carry bag does not have pocket for bits and pieces
  • I’m afraid to hang too much weight off the central column, it just does not feel sturdy enough, when fully extended
  • It’s possibly just me and it being new but the ball head feels a little clunky at times.
  • The head mount is a pain to screw into the camera and needs the key (which is still attached to my tripod) or a coin. The Velbon and Manfrotto has a lever to twist.

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Overall I love it, lightweight and easy to use, I took it with me on a trip to the sand dunes and nice and light, quick set up etc. the ball head and levels are fabulous.

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Our trek through the dunes…….I’m still carrying the tripod lol

In conclusion I do love it…………nothing is perfect, but for right now it comes pretty damn close 🙂

~ Julz

Nikkor 16-85mm Lens Review

Another early Christmas present was another new lens………..now I know what you are thinking, really? another new bit of glass? But it was required. Moth got one for his Birthday/Christmas and we were so impressed I kept stealing it for my camera instead of my horrible 18-200mm lens which allows every bit of dust onto the sensor. I hate it with a passion. So after a few weeks of us fighting over it, I bit the bullet and ordered one for myself for Christmas.

AF-S DX 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR

Now this is not a new lens, it is an older model and took a bit to find it on Nikon’s website, but it did make it dirt cheap from DWI! Don’t get me wrong it is a fabulous bit of kit and my new go to lens. It is fantastic for low light even if the aperture only goes up to F/3.5 (down to F/22); beautiful for still life, portraits, landscapes, just about anything. I have used it for macro, light painting, sunsets, newborns and concept shoots. It is tack sharp every time!It has a lovely range on it……….ok it isn’t perfect; at the Zoo I wanted something more than 85mm for the zoom.

It is small, compact and lightweight (well when compared to the 18-200mm), it gives such a lovely clear, crisp image. It is 67mm diameter so it is a standard size for filters.

This lens really is my new workhorse, it is reliable (as most Nikon Lenses are) and so versatile. Apparently it also has a better performing VR and less distortion on the wide angle as opposed to the 18-200mm as well – Ken Rockwell

Oh and did I tell you I love this lens? seriously it really has become my favourite lens. If you are looking for a very versatile all rounder, and you can still find one, you just might be able to grab a bargain!

And remember old stock isn’t bad stock…….as long as it still comes with a warranty you are all good.

~ Julz

 

Nikon AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8 – Lens Review

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A few weeks back I got a new Nikon AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8 lens for my Birthday, there are several reasons why I bought it, even though I did put it off for quite a while trying to decide if it was a good buy and ‘right’ for me.

I already have a 50mm Prime lens that I adore, so do I really need a 35mm? The answer in short is Yes. I predominantly use my 50mm for still life & portraits, or I would use more often for portraits, but on a cropped sensor frame I just can’t get back far enough in the studio to get full body shots with the 50mm, or even much more than a head shot. So I invariably have to switch to another lens, mainly my 18-55mm. Now 18mm is too wide, but I have noticed that 95% of my shots in the studio sit at around 35mm. I adore the sharp focus of my 50mm and the F/1.8 aperture, so logic dictates I would love the 35mm……….and I do.

So why this lens? I could get the Upmarket Nikon 35mm F/1.4 or the Sigma Art 35mm lens, which I have actually tried and thought was quite good too, but they are both over AUD$2,000.00. I cannot justify that kind or money. If the specs of my 50mm AF-S lens are fabulous for me, again logic dictates the 35mm would be good too…..and it is.

Now fixed or prime lenses are not for everyone, I can truly understand the lure of a zoom, and a dedicated wide angle, I have a 18-200mm and a 10-24mm I use when travelling, but they are big, bulky and heavy. They are not the same as using a Prime lens, I knew that from the first time I used one…….but it does take a bit of getting used to, as you need to move yourself and not just the lens. You can be limited but at the same time it is strangely liberating. I truly ‘feel’ more creative with a prime.

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Nikon 35mm Prime

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Nikon 35mm Prime

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Brilliant for Expansions shots as well – this is approx 9 shot expansion – 35mm

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Shot with Sigma 35mm Art Lens

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Nikon 50mm prime

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Nikon 35mm Prime

So how do I rate a relatively cheap (AUD$200.00) lens? I love it, great for portraits, head shots and full body shots.

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Nikon 35mm Prime

Would I prefer the (F/1.4)  AUD$2,000.00 possibly, but what I saved on that lens also bought my new strobe light kit…………but more on that another time!

~ Julz

Mumma’s been a bad, bad girl…

In fact I have been very bad………..but in a good way, well Myself and the Studio think so, possibly not my credit card or Husband 😛 ! Mind you it’s all his fault anyway……but let me explain.

One Saturday morning he suggested we go on a bit of a shopping expedition, he had found a new shop he thought I would enjoy for some props and things; Schots Emporium, oh my…….WHAT A FIND! Glorious, old stuff, new stuff, weird and wonderful stuff and reproduction vintage stuff. I was in heaven 3 floors of STUFF. Lighting fixtures galore, bathroom fixtures galore, nik naks and bric-a-brac. I grabbed a reproduction coal scuttle (yes I have one but it is much larger and painted), 1 x large and 2 x small cotton reels (been wanting them for ages) and a cute little timber box. PLUS……..there was a 10% sale, bonus.

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Next Hubby took me to a place and to meet a guy who is a musician and makes office furniture, you see I have a bad back and sometimes in the studio bending over and leaning down etc, really is quite difficult, I have a stool, but I need to pick it up and move it, where as my thoughtful hubby discussed an adjustable stool with wheels would to the trick, as a drummer (with a back issue also) the other guy agreed and made me a special order stool, we picked it up on Saturday…….oh I’m in heaven.

 

Then as my light stands are not brilliant my Hubby suggested as we were in the city anyway we should have a look at a Photography store we have been told about but had never been. They were actually a lot smaller than my usual shop, and also a bit more expensive, however they did have a sale on so I got two new sturdy tripod stands for the studio. Hubby also wanted a boom arm (which said store had but very expensive), so he suggested that we visit our usual photographic supplier, as we were sort of nearby anyway. Well we found the boom arm, quite reasonably priced too. I was discussing some Strobe lighting Kits with both stores actually and they agreed that the cheaper Kit I had been looking to purchase would do the job, but perhaps only for maybe 5 years and could not be serviced locally, I was in agony over the decision about spending so much on a big professional system, but my hubby, ever patient, understanding and loveable M.O.T.H. convinced me, that both myself and my art are worth it……….so I did, I purchased the new Strobe Kit and the New Boom arm. Bowens Gemini 400rx.

It is BIG, it is HEAVY, and probably will never leave the studio, but it is GORGEOUS, the light….oh be still my beating heart.Well once I figured out HOW to use it, honestly the manual is useless, tells you where everything is, but not what it does. Also the sync cable will not plug into my camera……..need yet another adaptor. But I was given a trigger to use instead, so all good.

Even the modelling light that comes with it is more powerful than my old continuous lighting, which will still be used from time to time……..my Still Life and Product Shoot workshops if nothing else, as my new babies I wont be sharing any time soon!

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I can dial in the required light; harsh, soft, one two, modelling light, flash etc. Oh the soft, dreamy, moody and dramatic shots I got with just a few hours of playtime. It only came with 2 x umbrella, I really want to get some softboxes, as my old ones don’t find (and are falling apart), and of course a strip box and maybe a beauty dish and another snoot………..oops I need another job, or the lottery! Sure, I don’t NEED any of this stuff, but; oh my it DOES make a difference if you have it. Can’t wait to do another model shoot! I can play with rear sync motion flash and other cool stuff now too.

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Sorry, I am rambling again aren’t I? Sorry just so excited by my new toys, add this to the new racking system Hubby just installed and my huge 6m long backdrops (black and white) My Studio looks more professional than ever.

~ Julz

Tech Talk – Nikon D7100 Camera Review

D7100_1I love my camera……….I guess we all say that don’t we? I am not as emotionally attached to this one as I was my first DSLR. This one is a workhorse and I love it for that reason. It is for the most part easy to use for a relative newbie like me, it has just enough whizbang gadgets to get me only a little bit in trouble and is high end enough to get a truly magic photo, JUST as I want it, out of the camera. Granted it is a DX and not an FX, but I knew that this time and with all the DX lenses it just made more sense.

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I am learning new things all the time and it never disappoints. Recently I learned a new shortcut to quickly and easily move my focus point to anywhere in the shot. Changing ISO and aperture is a breeze and I can quickly change the white balance – all with out having to go into the menus!  I have used the Video feature once in Ayers Rock and it was truly amazing, but I am not really into videos as much as I am photos.

D7100_3So what does it have over the D5300 (my first camera)? Primarily it has 2 SD Card slots, so you can run as overflow (great for travelling) or back up (great for special events like Weddings – my last wedding one of my SD Cards died, thankfully I had the back up and lost no shots). Both the D7100 and D5300 are 24mp, both a still relatively slow on the FPS (6 Vs 5). It is bigger, heavier, smaller LCD Panel (which does not move, I love the reticulated screen on the D5300) it has a handy LED screen on top and everything is within your fingertips; ISO, Aperture, Shutter type, Focus, Lock, no need to go into menus here folks.

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If you really want to go into the nitty gritty Ken Rockwell (I love this guy’s reviews) really puts it through it’s paces on paper (I use the real world). But as Ken says if a DX camera can take such an awesome image in such low light…..the DX cameras have MADE IT. He was so impressed he bought one! He mentioned problems people had experienced about non Nikon lenses and the Auto Focus, but I have not really experienced it with my Sigma Wide angle, not my Tamron Macro (unless the whole soft focus thing comes into it?). Go to Nikon for full specs.

I bought mine on sale, without a kit lens (already own enough lenses) and managed to get it below AUD$1,000.00 still RRP is AUD$1,499.00, but the D7200 had just been released; incentive to sell old stock I guess.

Now I don’t recommend that you do this, and I’m pretty sure Nikon are against it too, but another thing I like is just how hardy and tough this camera is, while the D5300 was almost terminal when dropped a short distance on sand the D7100 has been dropped, not once but twice from at least 1.5m onto concrete and all it sustained was a few scratches. WOW – now that is taking a beating and still going!

What doesn’t it have or do? OK so no Wifi or GPS (personally  I rarely used them on the D5300, but Moth does) The reticulated screen, I REALLY miss that. No Screen cover. Everyone raves about the flash, I found it is too harsh, but have just learnt how to dial it down, so that is cool. Batteries do not last as long as the D5300, so I have 1 battery and 2 spares! It’s heavy, maybe not as heavy as a full frame camera, but still had a big heavy 18-200mm and it is a pain to carry all day.

I combine this camera and my Nifty 50 Lens and I get pure magic.

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So would I honestly buy another one? As much as I love it, and would recommend it to anyone, I am thinking next time around we may go mirrorless, costs are coming down, quality is going way up and there are now so many lenses and gadgets, and they weigh next to nothing!

Well I’ll leave it there for now, til next time, happy snapping………

– Julz

Lens Review – 18 – 55mm Nikon Kit Lens

I guess it would be remiss of me to not at least mention this little guy. This is the Kit lens which came with my first DSLR the Nikon D5300. It is a good sturdy serviceable lens. It’s lightweight and actually takes quite a lovely picture. Some people have given kit lenses a bad rap over the years, but it actually a pretty decent lens, especially for starting out and other agree Ken Rockwell gives it a great review.

I should use it more than I do, but when my go-to-lens is 18-200mm I get more range out of it.  It is Lightweight and compact, and retractable AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G It features improved optical performance, Vibration Reduction (VR) function and a minimum focus distance of 0.25 m/0.8 ft.

More specs can be found here.I am pretty sure (due the age of them) the following gallery were taken on this lens…it’s the only lens I owned prior to Christmas 2014.

I really should get it out more often, especially for Portraits, it really is a nice lens.

Til next time, happy snapping……..

-Julz

 

This n That – Camera Bags

backpackWhen I bought my first DSLR a mere 14 months ago, I never knew the mine field camera bags could be, and the more people I talk to it seems I am not alone. Just having one camera bag is not enough, several different ones are called, each for different reasons and occasions.

Way back when, I bought a basic over the shoulder type bum bag. It was a good bag and I even still occasionally use it, but it became apparent very quickly it was too small. So I bought another bag, this time a backpack. It fits a camera, a spare lens, my lens cleaning kit, my phone, purse and other odds and ends, I can fit my remote and filters in there as well. But that is about it. Overall not a bad all rounder. Not sure what Model it’s kind of like an older model Pro Runner.

Moth has a slightly larger version of my Backpack and we can cram in a little more stuff, an extra lens, some small filters etc. A Lowepro Pro Runner BP 450 AW II. (Actually all our bags are Lowepro……….we just like them I guess and never seem to hesitate to buy the same brand). I must admit for me it is too big and heavy, but it does have a lot more padding across the shoulders and back than my pack.

So we have those three and then we bought our new Format Hitech filter system kits and whoa nelly………..we need something else. So we got a Flipside Sport, but I think it’s the 23l version, this has become our go to bag. We can fit in the filter kits, the remote, tripod heads, a couple of extra lenses (50mm and wide angle), as well as batteries, glasses, wallets, car keys, everything EXCEPT the cameras. But we figure while we are out shooting we don’t need the cameras in the bags anyway.

So when we are going out for the day we pack most of what we want in the Flipside Sport, but if we are not sure what we need and we don’t necessarily have to carry it all we take all three! If we know exactly what we need, we travel light.

So how many camera bags have you got? Is it an obsession, finding the perfect bag? Do you have the perfect bag? If yes………….what is it?

P.S. I forgot about the new speedlight…………MOG WHERE AM I GOING TO PUT THAT? lol

Til next time, happy snapping…..

-Julz

 

Tuesday’s Tales

It’s been awhile since I did a Tuesday’s Tales. Not that I have really done any studio shoots for a while, actually apart from a few day trips and our trip down the Great Ocean Road, I really have not had the camera in my hands much. To be honest I am a little frustrated with my dirty image sensor…….it is becoming such a pain and I keep using Moth’s camera when I need to. It is becoming apparent I need to get this looked at, but everywhere was closed over Christmas weren’t they?

So what have I been up to, I have already written a little about the courses I am currently enrolled in; Creative B&W and Awake, plus the 52 Week challenge. I have already learned an enormous amount, I’m still surprised at my learning capacity. Some days my head is so full of ideas I cannot sleep at night. Some of my ideas are turning into projects that I NEED to see through. Maybe you can or cannot understand a NEED to create something, but it can be consuming.

My first project was an idea I had that started with simply lighting and B&W images; Angel. It then turned into and amazing piece of art.

The next project I had, called for something Blue, so that was this weekend’s studio setup. I set up a small table with some black cloth and a black backdrop and then hunted around the house looking for blue items.

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The painting is one of mine from a few years back, a study on roses with the lovely blue mottled background……I grabbed a few brushes and tubes of paint, a fabric rose………then I liked the idea of the tea light lantern (this time no one was holding it, so it is steady) and I really liked the blue top of this bottle of wine. Not that I drink red, it was given to us and well…… I at least got some use from it 😛

I also did an extremely dark blue bottle in front of a white background and back lit with a light behind the bottle. Kind of cool effect, but perhaps needs a little fineness.

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My other project was to play around with a new Speed Light (or flash unit) I had just picked up. Nikon SB-910. Now this is a complicated bit of kit……….just the manual itself is confusing. At least it has the advantage of putting it on the camera and it sets most of it up for me, however I want to shoot with it off the camera. Let’s say a LOT more reading and investigating is required. But so far it seems pretty cool, as long as I diffuse it with an umbrella or bounce it off a reflector…………without it seems to be way to bright (and I am yet to figure out HOW to drop the intensity down). Once I have this figured out I will write a more in depth review. But I had decided I needed more light in the studio. The continuous lighting, while cheap has been largely effective, but many of my shoots can appear dark, I need more light on my subjects faces and the speed light seems to be the way to go after much reading (well studio strobes seem to be, but they are much more expensive), so I figured I would give this a go and build from there. It never hurts to have various different types of lighting around, also the speed lights are portable!

I have more projects I want to work on including some more body work in the studio in B&W, some artsy stuff. Just trying to convince my adult models to go almost nude, lol. Of course I need to get my model Xavier back in, he’s two months old now. babies change so quickly, it’s time for an update. For once I do not have any portrait sessions booked……wow it feels kind of weird, but I am sure that will change.

Well that’s about it from the studio, til next time, happy snapping…….

-Julz

 

Tech Talk – Filters Part 2

A little while ago I wrote a piece on various filters you can get for your lenses. Now I did do a far bit of research into these filters, but not a lot in area of actual use, I had been using them for less than 6 months. Don’t get me wrong I still stand by a lot of what I wrote, but I thought I might impart a little bit more wisdom from using various different ones.

I have not bothered with Coloured filters, nor the Special Effects ones, costly and quite frankly I reckon it would be easier to manipulate in Photoshop anyway. Possibly just me?

Circular Variable ND Filter, I am yet to meet a photographer who actually likes these. I never got any decent results and just assumed any errors was me. Well it wasn’t. I soon switched to plain old Circular N1000 ND Filters and fell in love with Long Exposure photography, and I have never looked at that filter again (Want to buy one cheap?). I still sing the Praises of the ICE ND Filters, but I now have a new love Graduated ND Filters……..I use a Format Hitech Lens Kit with a 2.0 hard grad, 2.0 soft grad, 6.0 reverse grad. I have just added a another 4.0, 6.0 and 8.0 as well. the Format kit is lovely, but fiddly and expensive, honestly sometimes I just put on my ICE ND Filter as it is quick and mostly painless!

UV Filters Quite frankly UV Filters don’t do a lot at all, they are mainly for protection. This is a tough call, some people think it’s a waste of money as it won’t protect your lens in a fall, in fact it may create more damage. Neither will it help if you bang your lens on rocks, logs, sharp projectiles. They are often harder to clean than your lens and are not as strong. THEY DO however protect your lens from sand blasting at the beach, small projectiles, sea salt (to a very minute degree according to some). So why buy them? I have one for each lens, a good quality glass ones……..was I conned? Possibly. Do I still use them? Yes. Why? New and gullible………perhaps? I figure I have already bought them, so I may as well use them. In saying that I find I am actually putting them on less and less.

Circular Polarisation Filter (CPL) This is a love hate relationship with some photographers. Some hate them with a passion, some love them; I LOVE THEM. I have several which I use all the time when I am outside during the day. Especially on a sunny day at the beach. Think of it like sun glasses, when it is really sunny, and there is glare off the water it is difficult to see, well same with your camera. If you need Polarised Sunglasses………..chances are you camera does too! I like a CPL as you can adjust the amount or strength you require. It is terrific for shooting through windows and shoot through shallow water. Hold on a 45 degree angle and the glass or water disappears! I have heard complaints about colour distortion, but I have bought good quality glass ones and have minimal distortion.  Yes it can slightly oversaturate the colours a touch, but personally I like it that way, it makes the image brighter and appear ‘sunny’ as it was on the day it was shot. Again this is personal taste.

But why do you NEED filters? Honestly you don’t, if you are just starting out, or only shoot macro, or only shoot portraits or still life, then chances are you don’t need any of them. I never use filters when I shoot portraits in the studio. But if you want to try Long Exposures, or Landscapes, especially Beach Scapes you might want to look into them.

Til Next time, happy snapping…………

-Julz