Reviews and How to Do’s

Infra Red camera test

By ‘C’ and ‘M’

We were delighted, when, on a recent visit to Protech Repairs, we were shown a newly converted Panasonic G2, which, Protech were kind enough to allow us to take out on a recent photo shoot to give the camera a thorough test.

A price list and further details of conversion services available can be obtained from
Protech Repairs

When a camera is converted, the original low pass / IR absorbing filter (also known as a hot mirror) is removed and replaced with a filter that permits the transmission of Infra Red light.
In the case of the Panasonic, the body is fitted with a clear glass filter and additional IR filters fitted to the taking lens. In addition to this, an IR/UV blocking filter can be fitted to the lens, white balance adjusted and the camera can be used to take conventional colour images.
Due to the camera having an electronic viewfinder combined with the ability to view live on the rear screen, the effect of each filter is immediately obvious.

Camera Specification
Panasonic G2 camera body, 12 megapixels, micro 4/3rd sensor
Lens used was Panasonic Lumix G Vario optically stabilised 14 – 42mm powerzoom, lens fitted with Zomei 720nm IR filter.

Panasonic-Lumix

What did we think?
We took the camera for its initial try out to Folkestone and St.Mary’s Bay, the range of subject varied from old buildings to seascapes all the images were taken using the Zomei 720nm filter.

MJB-posts                     Image by ‘M’ straight from camera

MJB-Arches                                  Image by ‘M’ converted to black and white

M-with-Panasonic                        ‘M’ in action

M-using-rear-screen                         ‘M’ using rear screen to compose image

MJB-Texture                        Image by ‘M,’ amazing texture

This week we used the Panasonic at Seaford under more challenging weather conditions (cloudy).

Fence-Channel-swapped-web                      Image by ‘C’, channel swapped

Fence-web                     Image by ‘C’ processed in Photoshop

Both M and I have had Nikon cameras converted to infra red, M having an 850nm filter fitted and myself a 720nm, so we are used to the effects an infra red camera can produce.

The effects these filters produce are illustrated below.

Clear-filter                                           Clear filter only, with custom white balance

720nm-filter                                            760nm filter on lens, custom white balance

850nm-filter                                           850nm filter on lens, custom white balance

With-IR-UV-blocker                         With IR and UV blocking filter on lens, custom white balance
We had great fun with the Panasonic G2, it produces images that are incredibly sharp and well exposed. We loved the live view and being to see exactly what result were going to get effect wise.
M still loves using his Nikon D70 and waiting for the surprise of seeing the result on a computer screen later in the day.
Additional adjustments like channel swapping, boosting contrast, altering colour balance etc. can be applied in any photo editing application.

We were impressed enough to be thinking about using some of the images produced in our forthcoming exhibition.

An edited version of this review appears on Protech Repairs Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/protechphotography/

 

7mm  F3.5 Fisheye Lens – Vivitar Series 1

By ‘M’

If you are looking into buying a Fisheye lens you will find that you have a lot to choose from, from the likes of Canon, Nikon, Sigma, Samyang, Rokinon and Opteka, depending on your camera fit body. Some AF but most not.  On the latest Rokinon you can take the lens hood off. Some will give full information to the camera body, some don’t.
The lens I own is of an older design by Vivitar.  It has come my way via “C” at a good price as well. So this review will be a joint one as we both have owned and used it.

Lens

This lens from new was a fully manual lens. Not only manual focus, but also it had no contacts from information of focal length or aperture information to be recorded by the camera body. “C” did sort this out during his time of owning the lens by “Chipping it ” so that information does now get recorded.

I hope that “C” may write a post on just now he does this some time.

Lens-2Lens with AE chip attached

This lens is a manual focus lens, I find it very hard to focus with a AF camera body for two reasons.
1/ The focus screens on AF camera bodies are often not easy to use with such a very wide angle of view, having no “split screen” to aid focusing as old film camera bodies do.
2/ “Live view” I also don’t find very easy either, even if I use the + magnification button as well!
3/ On ultra wide angle lenses, even the focus indicator can be vague.
So here is how I focus it: I stop the lens down to F11 and focus to “Infinity”, then the Depth of Field of this lens does the rest! (I use f8 and set focus to 10ft since the depth of field is so great it will easily cover as far as infinity – ‘C’)
So simple really, and it does feel very odd/lazy.
I’ve not used this lens for close up style photos yet, but they can be very useful for this as well.

Overall the lens is sharp once stopped down a little and displaying only a little colour fringing on the edges of the frame.
So how and why would you use a Fisheye lens? Most people see them as “Fun” because of the strange angles you can bend things into. Both “C” and myself have used the lens for this. You can also use it “Carefully” and have a very wide field of view by keeping the camera and lens horizontal to the ground.

‘C’ used the Vivitar 7mm fisheye lens mainly for work with his infra red cameras, whereas I mainly use it for colour work, both applications work extremely well.
Take a look at two images from Whitstable Harbour.  Just by changing the angle of the camera, this lens can change a view.

Fisheye-straightPhotograph taken with camera mounted square on.

Fisheye-angledBend a little out of square and look what happens!

Lamp-and-benchHut-on-the-pier2 sample from ‘C’s’ infra red selection

Lens facts
Designed specifically for the APSC sensor
Whilst this particular lens is branded as Vivitar, it is in fact made by Samyang, the same lens is also sold under Rokinon, Opteka, Walimex and at least a few other names.
Focal length for this lens is quoted as 7mm, other brands are listed as being anywhere from 6.5mm through to 8mm.
Aperture is from f3.5 through to f22.
Lens design is 10 elements in 7 groups, multi coated lenses and a 7 bladed diaphragm, weighing approximately 390g.
Supplied with front and rear caps and a draw string case to protect it.

Conclusion
Is it worth owning one of these lenses?
YES!
Sometimes you just need to have some fun!

 

Zomei filter review

by ‘C’

Here at GCM photographic we take our filters seriously, by that, I mean we use them for a specific purpose and only when it enhances the final result.
After some research we came upon the Zomei range of filters.
Primarily we were looking for  Z series ( ultra wide angle) filter holders.
Ordering 2 sets of holders and graduated filters did however get us an excellent deal.
M now uses the mark 2 filter holder, which has an improved filter ring retaining system, whilst I use the mark 3 holder which is made from high grade aluminium and uses an adapter  ring which allows a filter to be screwed into the front of it.

HolderMark 3 Filter holder

The adapter rings and square filters are supplied in very neat black pouches, whilst round filters come in a plastic case.Filter-range

All the glass filters are made from either Japanese or German sourced glass and are coated on both sides to improve light transmission and protest against dirt, scratches and water marks, the polarising filters are multi coated to improve matters.

This is only a small part of the Zomei range, they also make glass and resin square neutral density filters, conventional round filters, including starburst, colour effect, graduated, infra red filters and of course UV and skylight filters.
The quality of the filter holders and filters is very high, none of the filters exhibiting any distortion.
Both holders have 3 slots to take 100mm square or 100 x 150 mm resin or glass filters.
We both use resin 100 x 150mm resin graduated neutral density filters and screw in circular polarising filters.
When we heard that Zomei had released a series of 3 glass graduated neutral density filters we jumped at the chance to try one, we were  priviliged to be some of the first photographers in the UK to obtain one.

Whilst the resin filters are lighter in weight the material can scratch if not handled carefully, the glass filters are a lot more robust.
Why use a graduated neutral density filter? There are times when the brightness range between the sky and foreground can be extreme, nobody likes a burnt out sky and a dark foreground, hence a graduated filter can help to redress the balance.

It is all well and good having these filters, but how well do they work?
There is only one real way to find out, take them on location and try them!

Camera-with-glass-filter

For the purpose of this review we used a Nikon D800 and a 19 – 35 mm lens, mounted on a tripod, the exposure was controlled manually ISO 200, 1/640 second exposure and an aperture of f8, shutter trigged by remote to prevent camera shake.
The results were impressive, no loss of sharpness, distortion or colour shift with the glass graduated filter, only a very slight hint of blue with the resin filter but again no loss of sharpness or distortion. Whilst I was out performing the review I decided to put the polarising filter to the test (although I already knew it was excellent), this did introduce a hint of yellow in the test, although probably the multicoating and the polarising effect of the filter actually removed the excess blue bias due to cloud cover. Finally one further test combining a glass graduated filter and a polarising filter, due to the filter holder being capable of  taking both simultaneously, and since a combination of two filters can cause a degree of softness in the image it was a good test to try, once again however superb results.
What do the results actually look like and can we recommend Zomei filters? Absolutely! The results speak for themselves.

Control-imageControl image

Glass-filterGlass neutral density graduated filter

Pola-filter-exposure-autoPolarising filter

Pola-+-Glass-gradGlass graduated filter plus polarising filter

Resin-GradResin Graduated filter

As proof of sharpness without and with filters a cropped section of the control image without filter and with the glass graduated filter.

Control-image-cropCrop without filter

Glass-filter-cropCrop with glass graduated filter

As a footnote to this review, we should like to point out that we pay for all our own equipment, that way we can be truly impartial when we review a product, in addition to this we will only recommend equipment we are happy to use ourselves.

 

FX or DX
By M

My personal view on the pro and cons of the size of camera sensor in Nikon DSLR camera bodies.

1st comes the PRICE, which after all helps most of make our choice. The FX or full frame camera bodies are a lot more money from the start. I do understand that a lot of Pros will only shoot with a full frame camera body. Why?  Because of build quality, and back up from Nikon Pro services.
However I think that somehow you “SAY” pro by having a large camera body, but at a large cost from the bank. Do you really think that Joe public knows a “pro camera body” when they see one?

So DX bodies do come in at a lower price band, and often the cheaper bodies do not have the same build. However, if you take the time to look after them they will also last you well. Not all the camera bodies can take an extra battery grip. You can learn and enjoy your photography with a DX camera body, no problem. I DO.

2nd SIZE.  FX camera bodies are larger to hold and often weigh more than the smaller DX bodies. Some are built with motor grips built in as standard, but this is only on the top of the range FX camera bodies.

Having said that I have a DX camera body, and C has an FX body and there’s not a lot in it, either in size or weight. The entry point DX camera bodies are smaller and lighter, maybe to help bring more people into the DSLR range.

3rd LENS.  Here comes the Big one – FX or DX lens, and just what should you use and own?  What should you spend the money on?

FX lenses on FX camera bodies are the way to go.  Choose and look after them well. They often have a large cost in money and weight, however they should just keep on going.

DX lenses – we run into the cost of the lens, often being cheaper to buy and often not to the same build quality, without a lot of prime lenses being available either.

So is spending money on a DX lens a bad deal? NOT at all. There are many great DX lenses to be had which will match their equivalent in FX lenses in quality of image. They are smaller and lighter to carry around which is good for your back.

If you move from a DX to an FX camera body, then the lens will not have the same coverage that you are used to, nor will it cover the whole camera sensor size, so they crop the corners. Not good news.

If like me you use FX lens on a DX body there is no problem at all. In fact you gain by using the middle part of the lens which is where the lens is sharpest. With telephoto lenses I really gain.  Should I ever move to FX then I am OK.

4th What’s in focus and what’s not in focus? I am talking Depth of Field here, or DoF, so if you need a very small amount of your image in focus then you should be looking at an FX camera body, as you get a smaller DoF with them.

My style of photography does not call for a small DoF. Landscapes tend to need a larger DoF. There’s not much to choose however between DX and FX.  I know “a pro” that uses a DX body for all his close up and macro work, but an FX for all his other work.

5th If you need fast maximum ISO, then for the best and cleanest results the FX camera bodies have this one won! Low light levels is not a style I often shoot in.

6th RESOLUTION.  Just now much do you really need?  When was the last time you made a print?  How much resolution do you need if your images sit in a hard drive or on the internet? Here at GCM we have made display prints 40cm x 30cm from a 10.2 pixel sensor.  So a larger pixel count on an FX body will give you more resolution and larger image files.  However, it will cost more in time to work from. It will also cost more money with the need for larger camera cards and computer long term storage.

Would you be able to tell an image taken by C with his FX camera and lens over one that I’ve taken with my DX body and lens? Come along to an exhibition of ours and see if you can! You will be the 1st if you can do that! You may even win a print if you can!

Image quality is what drives us at GCM, not pixels count. Personally I like to have a sensor that gives me a good dynamic range at a low ISO. Not speed of autofocus, nor drive rates. Not the latest image processor either. Just what my Nikon D7000 DX camera does, and it does it very well thank you!

Train-FX-vs-DXWhen DX works well, area inside black line shows image area with DX sensor.

Boat-FX-vs-DXWhen FX sensor is better, whole frame indicates area seen with FX sensor compared with black line showing what a DX sensor captures.

 

PHOTOGRAPHY WITHOUT A LENS by C

Yes you read it correctly, we really did mean it, photography without a lens.
How you may ask?
The answer is with a pinhole camera.
Let me expand. In its most basic form, a camera is a light tight box, it has something to record the image on, a means of focusing the image and a way of controlling the amount and how long light passes through to the recording material.
These days the recording material is a digital sensor, the means of focusing is a highly sophisticated multi element auto focus lens and light duration by an electronically controlled focal plane shutter.

We have gone back to basics! Film and a pinhole.

How does a pinhole work?

Light travels in straight lines a lens brings the light to a central point and then spreads it back out, but upside down, a pinhole uses the same principle, but uses a very small hole as a replacement for a lens. A practical way of proving the pinhole principle is, if you wear glasses, take them off, put both thumbs and forefingers together to create a very small hole, look through it, the image seen is quite sharp.

We have opted to obtain a custom made pinhole camera, produced under the name of Noon and manufactured by a company in Poland, it uses 120 film and can make images in 3 formats, 6x6cm, 6x9cm and 6x12cm, exposure is controlled by a removable cover over the pinhole.

Because the pinhole that allows light onto the film is so small, the camera must be used on a tripod, the exposures used (depending on sensitivity of film used) generally range from several seconds to several hours in extreme cases.

Using a pinhole camera makes one slow down, compose the image carefully and not just take photographs of anything and everything without thought, each roll of film can record a maximum of 12 images, (I use the 6×12 format so only 6 images)

FrontFront view of Noon Pinhole

BackRear view of Noon Pinhole

Meter-readingTaking a light reading

LoadingReloading the camera

Set-up-for-photoCamera in position to take photograph

StepsSteps taken with pinhole

BeachBeach view with pinhole

We are currently working on more pinhole images and hope to display some of them at our next exhibition at Under Ground Art in August this year.

NIKON E LENS REVIEW by M

With five prime lenses 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 100mm and 135mm
Three zoom lenses 36-72mm, 75-150mm and 70-210mm

Or is this a Nikon E Lens review?  These lenses were manufactured in the early 1980s and were sold alongside Nikon Nikkor lenses in the same and/or similar focal length range.  These E Lenses were an economic substitute for the Nikkor lenses, so were often at the time, and are now, seen as poor and lightweight* substitutes for what was the real thing, ie Nikkors.
Although Series E lenses were of a less complex design they still incorporated  Nikon NIC multicoating on all glass surfaces.
*Due to the use of engineering plastic in the barrels of all fixed focal length lenses, this is no longer a valid argument when considering the extensive use of plastics in todays lenses.

It was rumoured at the time that these lenses were made by subcontractors and were in fact made by a company called Kiron (Kino Precision Industries).  Outsourcing lens manufacturing to other companies was not unusual at that time.  In fact some of these lenses appear to be exactly the same as lenses bearing the Vivitar name, with matching focal lengths as well as apertures.

Personally I own three E lenses and it does not concern me that these may have been made by a different manufacturer.  A lot has been made of the fact that these lenses only bear the word Nikon lenses, rather than Nikkor lenses.  However I would ask, what is a name if a product performs equally well?  I can vouch that they do.  I use these E lenses on a Nikon DX camera body with stunning results.  C has Nikkor lenses to the same focal length as my E lenses, and has done, and will happily use my E lenses if his are not available, as he finds the results are the same.

The stunning results may have something to do with the fact that these are FX lenses or full frame 35mm film lenses being used on a crop factor camera body.  What this does is use the centre part of the lens construction to register and focus light upon the sensor.  The way lenses are designed and manufactured, the brightest sharpest, most contrasty part of any lens construction is always in the centre of the lens body, with the outer edges being often slightly softer.  So, by using a full frame lens on a crop sensor body, I am using the best part of the lens construction.  Obviously with a crop factor of 1.5 the magnification ratio for the focal length of the lens does change.  This will be the subject of another post at a later date.

So from my personal experience  I am personally happy to recommend using older E series lenses on either FX camera bodies or higher end DX camera bodies.

After much research the lens to own is in fact the 100mm, which I never have, although I would love to review one should I ever be able to purchase one.

In conclusion of this review, we at GCM are not in the league of mega pixel chasing.  We only wish to use the best quality lenses and equipment that we can afford.

Nikon-35mm-ENikon Series E 35mm f2.5

Nikon-50mm-ENikon Series E 50mm f1.8

Nikon-70-210-ENikon Series E 70-210mm f4

Image file types and quality

We were jogged into action the other day as a result of an article published on a blog we follow.
The question raised was ‘What file type gives the best quality?’
So, off we went to find out!

For this review we used a Nikon D300 with Nikkor 18-70 lens, set at ISO 200, on aperture priority.

To start with the basics, most people use jpeg as their standard file type, a lot of  advanced users pick RAW ( All camera manufacturers have their own version of this file type). These files contain full image information but without any sharpenening or other in camera enhancements.
In the case of Nikon, jpeg has 2 options:  jpeg ‘size priority’, which makes all files the same size and jpeg ‘optimise priority’, which does not constrict the file size.
Jpeg files by nature are compressed files, effectively some of the data is discarded, in its simplest form, if 2 blocks of data next to each other are identical one is deleted to make the files smaller.
Second is RAW (NEF as Nikon call it) has 3 options: uncompressed, lossless compression and compressed. They are as described: ‘uncompressed’ the whole file nothing taken away, ‘Lossless compression’ compressed but no loss of data, and ‘Compressed’ some data loss.
But, all is not as straightforward as it would first appear, as our test images will prove.

Whole-frame crop lineWhole frame with cropped are marked

Size-priorityjpeg size priority

Optimaljpeg optimal priority

UncompressedRaw uncompressed

LosslessRaw lossless

CompressedRaw compressed

Conclusions

Bearing in mind the size of area we have cropped down to.

The jpeg files exhibit a degree of softness, size priority showing the largest amount.
The RAW files display a larger amount of detail, the greatest amount being in the uncompressed file, followed by the lossless file (strange since it is described as being lossless!) and last of all the compressed file.
If you are considering using your images for display purposes we would strongly suggest using uncompressed Raw files and making adjustments with whatever imaging software you use, then saving the final image as a jpeg.
For general use ie smallish images and personal use jpeg file will prove more than adequate.

‘C’

Nikon kit lenses and the thoughts of M

It seems to me that camera kit lens take and make a lot of bad press.

Which I think is a real shame as it’s very easy to say what something is Not. The kit lens is the starting point. We might need longer or wider, faster or weather proof. But who really knows?
That’s the whole point that seems to get missed, until you know what you are doing and the style of photography works best for you, how does any one know which lens would suit them best?
Both C and myself have or have had a Nikon 18-70mm kit lens and have taken 1000’s of photo’s with this lens between us.
Once you know how to get the best from your lens, you may never need another. That is not what the camera industry wants you to do!
Advertisments are there to make you want something more than you already have, it’s their job to. Don’t be taken in by them.
Now via a computer program you can make a wide image by putting photo’s side by side making an image that has a wide view as the finale result.
With the now large amount of pixels in most camera body’s you can crop in for close up detail image, or a style of telephoto. You can sharpen a picture that is “a little off” (a C quote for you.)
If you never do more than putting your pictures on the internet or making an A4 print will you ever need any thing more?

You can spend £1000’s on better glass, which if you have it then fine. Enjoy them, but not knowing how to make the most of that ” Must have lens” is a real shame and not money well spent. The new lens by itself will not make you a great photographer either, nor a new camera body with more pixels for that matter.

GCM have made and displayed images made with a sub £100 phone and its camera lens, compact camera’s, Bridge camera, DSLR, and a pinhole 120 film camera.

I put some images out to some friends taken with an old Nikon EM film camera body and the cheapest 50mm Nikon lens ever made. With a scanned negative made into a digital file. Then made an image with that file and posted over the internet to a group of friends. Nobody could tell that they were from film, in fact when told the answer that came back to me was “you would never have known”

So don’t knock the kit you have, learn how to use it.

We are here to help you make the best of your investment, so if you want or need some help, send us an email and book out some time with us.
Spend your money on time and learning new skills. Before you buy “That must have lens”

Illustrated below are the most likely ‘standard’ zoom lenses found on Nikon DSLR bodies.

Nikon 18-70mm                               Nikon 18-105mm                      Nikon 18-135mm

f3.5-f4.5 to f22-32                         f3.5-f5.6 to f22-38                      f3.5-f5.6 to f22-38
67mm filter ring                               67mm filter ring                          67mm filter ring
15 elements in 13 groups                15 elements in 11 groups            15 elements in 13 groups
390 g                                                   420g                                                383g
Metal lens mount                            Plastic lens mount                        Plastic lens mount

Group‘M’

The Dorr Lens and Rifle Rest
Review by M
Photo’s by M, J and C.

If like myself you don’t have the latest all singing VR lens for your Nikon or any other camera make then this may work for you!
What am I talking about?
The handy device in question is called the Dorr Lens and Rifle Rest.
(A note for the fishermen amongst you, this rest can just as easily be used as a rod rest.)

I am of an age where slow shutter speeds can no longer be hand held. While not wanting to carry a tripod with me everywhere, as I have a life and a wife. A mono pod is a great help.
I’ve had a camera and tripod blown over buy a very strong and sudden gust of wind!
This is not something you ever want to happen, because if something gets broken it can work out expensive!
For this reason I have a mono pod that is also a walking pole and as the photo’s show, it conveniently has a camera screw thread on it. This is great for the just out for a stroll style of photography.
Although I am an experienced photographer, even I don’t always want to have to carry all my kit with me.
From a compact to a DSLR this works. However I find that a DSLR camera grip and lens are not well suited to such a lightweight pole.
So the answer for me has been to use this support.
I can grip the camera lens and or pole in away that suits the terrain.
The extra bonus is that it’s an easy way for taking panoramas, you just place the pole in position and rotate around the pole, taking a series of photographs, each with a small amount of over lap. These images can later be merged into a single image using Adobe Photoshop or other photo imaging program.
See photos of me, taken by J my wonderful wife.
With my much loved 18-70 non VR kit Nikon lens I can take a panoramas quickly. Where I rest the lens is very close to its nodal point* as well. So its a win win for me.
Hope you have find this useful.
” M ”
*The nodal point of a lens is its true optical centre.

MonopodThe trusty monopod/walking pole.

L1060366Inner surface of the rest is rubber lined.

L1060368The rest in profile.

L1060370Underside of rest showing tripod bush.

Grip mountedThe Dorr Lens and Rifle rest fitted to monopod.

Grip1GripM demonstrating using Dorr rest and monopod to take a panoramic shot.

Shoreham Pano 2The finished photograph.

 

The Red Pod
Review by M

The Red Pod was a wonderful gift given to me by C. It has seen a lot of use and has managed to remain extremely unscathed due to its robust and very easily cleaned construction. The bottom surface is particularly easy to wipe clean.

L1060362L1060365L1060374L1060372_DSC4593L1060377_DSC4594

As demonstrated by the photographs in this review, it is extremely useful for low level primarily close-up/macro style photography. However, it is not limited to just low level. It can be put on almost any surface and has been used on the car, fence posts and even on a gate. It does not necessarily have to sit on the ground. The Pod itself can be, and should be, moulded to a surface to help it give a level(ish) surface. Although demonstrated with a DSLR camera and lense combination, a bridge-style camera and even a compact camera can be fitted, as long as there is a tripod bush on the camera.

It does not weigh much to put in a bag, or if you have a large enough pocket, and if you do manage to get it wet, it will dry out slowly in an airing cupboard (do ask / warn your wife!). However, to be health and safety conscious, it is not microwaveable because it obviously has a metal screw thread to which you attach the camera.

I can happily recommend this product to anybody with the imagination to use it.

 

That Steady Thing
Review by M
Photographs by M, C and J

Our good friends and supporters at Protech Photographic showed us a handy device made and marketed by a client of theirs (Ron French),  the item in question is called ‘That Steady Thing’. There is a web link at the bottom of this review.
We took the opportunity to borrow it from them to perform our own evaluation, the task was undertaken by M.
In the majority of cases we have included both the image taken and how the camera and ‘That Steady Thing’ were set up.

What does it do?
In essence it takes a standard monopod and makes it a whole lot more versatile.

What ‘That Steady Thing’ consists of:
An alloy cone shaped boss that has a steel centre inside it, there is a male thread for the camera and a female thread for attaching to the monopod.
A pair of short ‘legs’ that screw into the boss to give the monopod the ability to act like a tripod.
An elasticated holder with 2 loops to hold the ‘legs’ when not in use, this fits around the shaft of the monopod.

SteadySteady Thing in component parts

Steady2Steady Thing legs fitted into carrier strap on monopod

TstIdeal for leaning against a tree

TST2Avoiding barbed wire

_DSC4554_DSC6654Low level macro set up

_DSC4557_DSC6657Need a little extra height, just pop the two front legs on your camera bag

_DSC6655Ideal macro set up, note the use of a right angled finder

_DSC4561_DSC6658Ideal for getting over brambles

_DSC4566_DSC6664_DSC6666Getting close to young bullrushes

_DSC4563_DSC6660Low level through a fence, not so easy with a tripod!

_DSC4569_DSC4571_DSC4592Ideal for stabilising camera even on a narrow ledge

Conclusion

 I can see myself using ‘That Steady Thing’ a lot and here is why:
1. Means I can leave my tripod at home should I wish to.
2. Not so much weight to carry around with me when I am out taking photos.
3. I have a bad knee and therefore not been shooting low to the ground photos
Now I can push myself up using my monopod.That now means I am no longer
dependant upon others to help me up. (Ask ‘C’ and my wife about this one!)
So taking solo images from a low view point are now possible again.
4. I am not into taking selfies, but my wife does like photos of us.
Which unfortunately will be easier to take using this.
5. Indoors, makes a great copy stand.
6. Useful for my light tent.
Don’t think of it as a tripod and what you may be missing out on, but with some “outside the box” thinking, (which I am told I do well), it’s a great product.
Yes I am buying one for myself.
Link for That Steady Thing website :http://infraredlandscapes.webs.com/that-steady-thing

Tamron 90mm Macro lenses
Old versus New
By C

We have been given the opportunity to try 2 versions of the highly regarded Tamron 90mm macro lens side by side, they are the original incarnation (model 52B) known as Adaptall 2, which is manual focus and requires an interchangeable (Adaptall) mount to enable it to fit the camera. The second lens (model AF272E) is the second to latest version, is autofocus and has a camera specific mount.

Although these lenses were primarily sold as macro lenses they also make great portrait lenses due to their ideal focal length.

Technical specifications for the lenses are as follows:

52B: Maximum aperture f2,5, minimum f32, construction 8 elements in 6 groups, filter size 49mm, weight 420g (excluding mount), maximum image 1:2 life size. 1:1 available with addition of dedicated extension tube or tele adapter.

AF272E: Maximum aperture f2,8, minimum f32, construction 10 elements in 9 groups, filter size 55mm, weight 405g, maximum image size 1:1 life size.

The two lenses are quite different in construction and appearance, the 52b being made of metal, shorter with a ribbed focusing ring and prominent front and rear elements, the shape and position of the rear element can cause issues on digital cameras, due to reflections from the element onto the sensor, causing a blue circular spot in the centre of the image. No such problem with the AF272E, the optical arrangement means lens elements are placed much deeper inside the (longer) lens barrel, the lens is made mainly of polycarbonate with a small amount of metal.

Lenses

For the sharpness tests we used a Nikon D300,set to jpeg fine.

90-mf-@2
52B @f2,5

90-af-@2.5
AF272E @ f2,8

90-mf-@8
52B @ f8

90-af-@8
AF272E @ f8

90-mf-@f1652B @ f16

90-af-@f16AF272E @ f16

Blue-spot Blue spot at centre of lens

Conclusion

Surprisingly there is not a huge amount of difference in sharpness between the two lenses, the manual focus lens is a fraction behind wide open, but after that both lenses are evenly matched, one strange occurrence is that the autofocus lens although an f2.8 reports to be operating at f3,1 when set at f2,8

If you come across one of the early manual lenses, are happy to, focus yourself, can live with lens being only half life size unless you use the dedicated extension tube or converter, thus losing at least a stop of light, finally are careful not to shoot towards the light (or are happy to digitally remove the blue centre spot), why not give it a go.

Wide angle lens or wide angle adapter?
By C

This question arises from time to time, folk are taken aback at the cost of additional lenses and seek a less expensive option.

For the purpose of this test, we used a Nikon 18-70mm, Cosina 19-35mm, Tokina 12-24mm and a Neewer wide angle adapter (this adapter is just one of several available) on a Nikon D90.

Our reason for choosing to test the Cosina lens in addition to the Nikon was due to the fact we were aware of the fall off on the edges on the Nikon with the adapter fitted.

The Cosina lens it is worth mentioning was originally designed for 35mm film cameras, whereas both the Nikon and the Tokina lenses are designed to only cover the smaller image circle of the digital sensor.

The Neewer adapter is a 2 element lens, it screws into the filter of the main lens.

The camera was set on aperture priority, the lens was set at f8, at its widest focal length and used on autofocus.

Lenses and adapter used in test.

Wide angle vs adapterFrom left to right: Neewer adapter, Tokina 12-24, Cosina 19-35, Nikon 18-70

Whole frame images

Nikon-18-70Nikon 18-70

Nikon-18-70-plus-adapterNikon 18-70 plus adapter

Cosina-19-35-plus-adapterCosina 19-35

Tokina-12-24Tokina 12-24

Centre of image

Nikon-18-70-centreNikon 18-70

Nikon-18-70-plus-adapter-centreNikon 18-70 plus adapter

Cosina-19-35-plus-adapter-centreCosina 19-35 plus adapter

Tokina-12-24-centreTokina 12-24

Edge of image

Nikon-18-70-cropNikon 18-70

Nikon-18-70-plus-adapter-cropNikon 18-70 plus adapter

Cosina-19-35-plus-adapter-cropCosina 19-35 plus adapter

Tokina-12-24-cropTokina 12-24

Conclusion

What a mixed bag of results, we  used the Nikon 18-70 without adapter as our benchmark.

Widest angle by a narrow margin is the Tokina 12-24, the Nikon plus adapter is close, but take a look at the fall off in the corners, crop this out and the Cosina 19-35 plus adapter takes the 2nd place instead.

Best centre sharpness is obviously the Nikon 18-70, the Cosina takes second place, followed closely by the Nikon with adapter, surprising is the poor center sharpness of the Tokina.

Edge sharpness honours go to the Nikon 18-70, followed by the Tokina, Cosina plus adapter in third place and in last spot a fair way behind is the Nikon 18-70 with adapter.

If only producing small prints, then either of the lenses with adapter or the Tokina 12-24 will be more than satisfactory. For larger images the choice is more straight forward, it is the Tokina 12-24, followed by the Cosina 19-35 plus adapter.

White space

Comparison between Nikon 12-24mm, f4 AFS ED and Tokina ATX 12-24mm, f4 lenses
By C

Are you wondering whether it is worth splashing the cash on an ultra wide angle lens and which to buy?
Here we take a look at 2 very strong contenders for Nikon cameras.

The Specifications:

Nikon 12-24.
11 elements in 7 groups (3 aspherical, 2 ED), maximum aperture f4, built in focus motor. weight 485g, filter size 77mm.

Tokina 12-24
13 elements in 11 groups (2 aspherical, 1SD), maximum aperture f4, focus driven from camera body, weight 570g, filter size 77mm.

To save the constant lens swapping, for this test we used an Nikon D90 and a Nikon D300, since they use a similar sensor (12mp CMOS), white balance, aperture, ISO and colour space and file size were set the same on both cameras.

D90-Nik-12Nikon 12-24 at 12mm

Nik-12-centre-cropNikon 12-24 centre at 12mm

Nik-12-crop-edgeNikon 12-24 edge at 12mm

D90-Nik-24Nikon 12-24 at 24mm

D300-Tok-12Tokina 12-24 at 12mm

Tok-12-centre-cropTokina 12-24 centre at 12mm

Tok-12-crop-edgeTokina 12-24 edge at 12mm

D300-Tok-24Tokina 12-24 at 24mm

D90-Nik-12-2Nikon 12-24 at 12mm

D300-Tok-12-2Tokina 12-24mm at 12mm

Conclusion

Overall both lenses produce very sharp results, if one were to split hairs, then the Tokina is a whisker less sharp at the extreme edges, but it is only a whisker and in most situations it would be very difficult to see.
Colour balance between the lenses is almost identical, flare is well controlled on both lenses, just use the hood provided and take care when the sun is out ,as any lens with a large number of elements flare can be a problem.
Value for money, the Tokina wins hands down, but if money is no object then the Nikon lens will not disappoint, you pay your money and you take your choice.

Additional information

Both lenses were purchased second hand, this is a good method of keeping the cost lower to start with, currently second hand the Nikon costs nearly twice that of the Tokina
Obviously the Nikon 12-24 will only fit and work on all Nikon DX cameras, whereas the Tokina lens will only fully function on DX models with a focus motor built into the camera body, it can however  be purchased in several different fittings, so non Nikon users can enjoy it.
Coincidently the lens designed in collaboration with Pentax and can be purchased under the Pentax name, with a few minor alterations to the design.

 

 

Comparison between Nikon D70, D90 and D3200 – By C

 

This is a basic comparison test to address the question ‘ Do pixels really count?’

All three cameras were tripod mounted, set to daylight, aperture priority, matrix metering and focus set to centre.

Images recorded as NEF (the Nikon version of RAW), the reason for this was to eliminate any tweaks that the camera software might apply to a jpeg file by default.

The cameras cover a 9 year period, the D70 being produced from 2004, D90 from 2008 and  D3200 from 2012.  ( Expect to see a D3300 at some point in 2014.)

Mega pixel count is 6mp, 12mp and 24mp respectively.

The first thing that shows is the way the cameras reproduce their images, being that all 3 cameras were set to aperture priority it would be expected that the overall brightness of the photograph would be similar, wrong! The  D70 produces an image ¾ stop  darker.

Full frame image from each camera.

D70-@f11D70

D90-@-f11D90

D3200-@-f11D3200

The difference in sharpness only starts to show once you go above 100%.

All the cameras are capable of producing a photograph up to A4, however double this size and the D70 image starts showing a break up of image, the D90 image is still fine as is that of the D3200.

Images cropped to same area at 200%.

D70--200-perD70 – 200% crop

D90--200-perD90 – 200% crop

D3200--200-perD3200 – 200% crop

Although not seen through the above reduced for website images, the D3200 image at the same crop has 4x the number of pixels in it.

It was always said that to make any noticeable difference in an image the number of mega pixels would have to be quadrupled, this seems to have been proved.

The conclusion is quite straightforward, if you are producing photographs for a website or printing no bigger than A4 and without excess cropping, then the number of pixels is not such a major issue.

White space

Test of ND graduated filters – Part 3 by C

Here in this the third part of our article on graduated ND filters, we take a brief look at the differences between a soft and a hard graduated filter.

In simple terms a soft graduated filter has a very even graduation from density to clear, whereas a hard graduated filter has a much more defined change from density to clear.

Both filters have their advantages, a soft filter can obviously make a subtle change in exposure in an image, where a hard edge can be much more noticeable, in addition to this when looking through the viewfinder it can be a lot easier to see the effect of a hard edged filter over a soft edged one.

For the tests we used a Nikon D300, Tokina 12-24mm lens, generic (from Ebay) 0.6 soft graduated filter and an SRB 0.6 hard graduated filter. All frames were taken at the same exposure reading.

Without-gradControl image, no filter.

Ebay-aligned-bottomGeneric soft graduated filter, clear section lined up to bottom of lens.

SRB-aligned-bottomSRB hard graduated filter, clear section lined up to bottom of lens.

SRB-skySRB hard graduated filter, aligned through viewfinder to darken whole of sky.

Conclusion.

As with any filter, our advice would be use with care.

Graduated filters can help when there is a noticeable and extreme difference between sky and foreground that cannot be dealt with through contrast and exposure control, a lot of cameras are now equipped with dynamic range control (where the software in the camera independently adjusts shadow and highlights to control overall exposure)

Both filters gave different results, the soft graduated filter in this instance gives a far more natural look. Remember also that the smaller the aperture the more pronounced the dividing line in density will be, also the longer the focal length of your lens again the softer the graduation will be.

Once again manufacturers graduated filters, although all classed as neutral density, do all display a different colour balance.

We hope to soon carry out a review on a new type of graduated filter we had the opportunity to get a preview of at The Photography Show this year.

White space

Test of ND graduated filters – Part 2 by C

Here is the second part of our article on graduated ND (Neutral Density) filters.

Depending on how well calibrated your monitor is, there should be a difference in the images displayed below.

The exposure for  the images were identical and the camera was used on ‘Daylight’ for the white balance setting, unless otherwise stated,  we took the initial meter reading then put the camera into manual mode.

WithoutWithout filter

WithWith filter

PositionedFilter position adjusted to bias sky

AutoAuto exposure

AWBAuto white balance

Conclusion:

Positioning of the filter will make a considerable difference, as will the strength of filter,  there is a degree of trial and error involved, but the results are worth it.

Putting the camera onto auto exposure reduces the effect of the filter, better as stated previously is to take a reading before using the filter and using the camera in manual exposure with the same settings.

Also notice what happens when the camera is set to AWB (Auto white balance), the camera tries to compensate for any colour bias in the filter resulting in a warmer foreground.

If you have any questions we are only an email away, so give it a try!White spaceTest of ND graduated filters – Part 1  by C

Now the weather has finally started to brighten up, we decided it was time to break out our ND (Neutral Density) graduated filters and do a comparison test between manufacturers/ suppliers.

It was certainly an eye opener, stating the obvious, the word ‘neutral’ implies there should be no colour shift.

All the filters used were ‘P’ type, soft graduated, ND4 (2 stop reduction) and centred in the filter holder. The exposure was set to the same value as the control exposure.

Here are the results:

ControlControl image.

KoodKood

CokinCokin

HitechHitech

EbayEbay

Conclusion:

Although not conducted under the most scientific conditions, the results speak for themselves, you pay your money, you take your choice!

As previously mentioned all filters were centred in the holder yet none of the images display a lightening at the bottom as would be expected.

None of the filters produce a neutral image and nor do they reduce the light by the same amount, on the plus side none cause any noticeable softening of the image.

The price of the filters range from around £8 for a set of ND graduated filters (ND2, ND4, ND8) from Ebay to £24 for a single ND4 Hitech.

In Part 2 of this review we will cover the technique for compensating for colour shift, exposure and placement of filter to achieve optimum results.

White space

DIY Light tent by C

You may have noticed that of late we have had a lot of awful weather.

With this in mind, the other day whilst M and I were having one of our regular brain storming sessions, we were reminded of the fact we did not have a satisfactory way of photographing small items indoors, having trawled the internet we came across several home made light tents, ideal for indoor photography.

So here is our version:

Front-on

Items required:

Small saw.

Fine glasspaper (for cleaning any rough edges)

Several lengths of white 22mm overflow pipe.

10 @ 22mm solvent weld overflow tees.

4 @ 22mm solvent weld overflow elbows (90 degree)

4 @ 22mm to 40mm solvent weld overflow reducers (these will be used to form feet)

All the above can be obtained from a local plumbers merchant or DIY store, but shop around for the best price.

White shower curtain or white bed sheet (a value type will do)

2 large sheets of white or coloured paper/thin card.

We managed to make this for under £25 excluding the tools.

Components

Cut the overflow pipe into the following lengths:

3 @ 71cm, these form the top front and rear, plus bottom rear sections.

6 @ 57 cm, these form the front legs and the side sections.

2 @ 51 cm, these form the rear legs.

8 @ 4cm, the are for joining the tees to the elbows and tees to reducers.

Rather than go into long winded instructions, put part A into part B etc, I have taken some photographs to illustrate what goes where.

Elbow-and-Tee Above image, 90 degree elbow with a joiner to connect the tee.

Bottom-tees-and-foot

Above image, there is a joiner between the upper tee, which is at 90 degrees to the lower one and another joiner between the lower tee and the foot (reducer)

Elbow-and-Tee-2

Above image, 90 degree elbow(shown end on), spacer and tee.

Top-view

Although the pipe and components are sold as solvent weld no gluing is required everything just pushes together.

Once assembled wrap the shower curtain or sheet from left to right over the top, put your paper or card inside to form a base and a background, you will now have a lovely softly lit area in which you can photograph flowers and so forth, a couple of flashes can be set off from outside the light tent to give extra light should it be required.

Nikon-example

Above image taken in light tent using only daylight illumination.

Should you require further clarification of any point, please do not hesitate to email us at mail@gcmphotographic.com

Otherwise enjoy.

‘C’

 

 

 

Amateur Photographer, FREE Gray card.
Review by ‘M’

Well it’s nice to get something for free don’t you think?
Not much, if anything, is nowadays! (COMMENTS?)
I use some things that are free – why not? I use a few things from Amateur Photographer myself.
So, the issue dated Saturday 16 March 2013 has a free give away. Good news.
Nice idea, however I do wish to warn fellow photographers that the grey card is not a KODAK 18% gray, which is simply the best in my opinion. However, it does not it say that it is a Kodak gray card in the write up, so fair play to them.
See below:
Grey-card
It’s a whole lot better buying and using a Kodak gray card. So my advice is to spend the cash on the real deal. Look after it, and it should serve you well.
However, the freeby is better than nothing at all.
I’ve not given a light meter reading to tech guy, ie ‘C’.
Because cameras and lenses do not take the same light meter readings even if they are the same brand and model. So there is no guidance from me on this matter.
My own Kodak gray card set is over 25 years old and still being used.

Techie note by ‘C’

Early light meters were unable to differentiate colour, only seeing monochrome.
They were set to read the entire scene and give an exposure that would reproduce a full range of tones, thus the exposure was based on 18% gray.
This is really only a starting point under ‘ideal conditions’.
Exposure can be adjusted to reproduce better shadow or highlight detail.
The legendary Zone System is probably the best exposure/processing system known to produce the ultimate image.

 

FOCUSING RAIL
Review by ‘M’

Why do you have a Focusing rail and what do I use it for?
Read on…..

1st I enjoy close up photography – This means I like using a focusing rail, so I can compose my shot using my tripod. Then using “Liveview” on the back of my DSLR I manually focus my camera lens, using both of the control knobs on the focusing rail for very fine adjustments. Then I take my photo when everything is locked up nice and tight, with my cable release or with the camera’s self-timer.

2nd As part of my “ Panoramic ” set up – to be reviewed at a later date.

How did I choose one?

Easy – I asked ‘G’ from GCM for some advice. I then went to http://www.amazon.co.uk/ and looked up some reviews. Some camera retailers stock them, but at a price, which did not suit my budget.

So the reviews and the cost helped me choose:-

Picture A

I found a problem with the above focusing rail, in that the main focusing knob falls out very easily. The rail is useless without it. So how do I stop that from happening? Read on….

Picture-B

I filed a flat surface on the control knob.

Picture-c

Then I drilled a 5mm hole through the control knob using an appropriate metal drill. I then took any edges off using some wet and dry paper.

Picture-d

Then all I needed was a way of joining the control knob to the main body of the focusing rail. So looking round the house I came up with this combination.

Picture-e

In true Blue Peter style, “here’s one I made earlier” being used.

(SHOWING HIS AGE, AND HE HAS ONLY MADE ONE).
(‘C’ with an Editors note!)

Picture-f

So the focusing rail may have a minor problem with it, but this is not hard to sort out. It’s affordable too. Works fine with the above modification made to it.

Hope you found this useful.

‘M’

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