Andrew Macpherson

Equipment

New things on the 5D MkIII

by on May.31, 2012, under Equipment, Learning

For everyone who is much too busy to put in the time that’s going to save time later by reading the manual, I thought I would highlight a few things that might be less obvious to someone coming from the older 5D models as I did, and picking up the 5D3 for the first time.

These comments assume that the 5D3 you’re looking at has not had all the buttons customised to different functions.

First off there are lots of submenus under each main heading when you press menu.  On the MkII one would rotate the main dial by the shutter release of move between the top level menus.  On the 5D3 the main dial will get you there, but by way of all the second level headings.  The Quick control Button, between the rear dial and the screen jumps quickly through the top level headings.

Wow! those are a lot of AF points, and a lot of different ways of using them, but the menu doesn’t seem to let you choose which to use, only which modes can be selected.  The choice of how much of the sensor array to engage is left to shooting time, and the tiny M-Fn button in front of the shutter release (7D users will already be familliar with this) toggles through the different modes you have enabled (all modes are on by default)

Having 2 card slots is a big win, and explicitly supporting the Eye-Fi card in the SD slot is also really good, but there is initial confusion to get round…  If one starts with just one card at the left of the menus, one can set, for instance, that one wants to save both raw and large jpeg.  A little further on one might add another card and come to the menu item where one choses what to do in terms of using it…. The choice seems to be::

  1. Use just one card
  2. Fill one then the other card
  3. Write everything to both cards
  4. Split what is written between both cards

Possibly in a different order… Well since one has chosen to collect both jpeg and raw the split write is the obvious choice, but one then seems to have both cards with the L jpegs and the raw not being saved…  Back to the image quality menu, and with split set, and 2 cards installed one can now choose what to store on each card.

That’s the obvious ones from working through the menus.  I now have 400 pages on manual to read

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New 5D3 with BG-E11, unboxing and first impressions

by on May.31, 2012, under Equipment, Off the wall

Yippee! it’s arrived.  36 hours after dispatch, impressive.  I’d been holding off waiting for the BG-E11 to become available, as I just can’t stand not having the vertical grip.  Within 24 hours of it being marked as available I had it ordered.

Small package enclosed in bubble wrap

Arrived well wrapped

(continue reading…)

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Tethering (Continued)

by on Apr.26, 2012, under Equipment, Off the wall, On Site

This article is intended to build on Scot Baston’s excellent Tip Squirrel article, not to rehearse ground already covered there. I want to cover a few alternatives, and touch on why they might be useful, and look in detail at a slightly less obvious application of tethering.

The first thing to point out about tethering in general is that it does not necessarily involve a cable, with the new Nikon D4 operating on a WIFI tether through its built-in web server and full control at the one extreme, and at the other the wireless capture possible through the Canon battery Grp or the Eye-Fi memory card. For most purposes however the wired tether remains the only really practicable option, and is usually significantly faster than any WiFi options

A regenerating USB cable is required for mobility

So the first thing one needs is a USB cable, swiftly followed by a USB regenerating extension cable, such as the one shown which I bought from eBay 3 years ago. One needs the regenerating extender because without that the maximum length one can use is 15′ (5m). Next useful and slightly non-standard bit of kit in the low profile USB cable one wants to fit in under one’s ‘L’ bracket it’s described as “USB A male to up angled mini B male” (or vice versa) the up angled mini B takes the cable in at right angles through the gap in my bracket rather than interfering with the portrait mounting ‘L’ plate.  Quick Tip: fold your long cable rather than coiling it up.  That way you avoid introducing a twist to it and will not have to unkink it.  Hook and lop cable ties are very useful for keeping things tidy.

Velcro Cable ties the cheaper alternative

Many people will have seen Frank Doorhof or Scott Kelby demonstrating the wonderful “Tether Tools” kit for holding the laptop and the cable snags to stop the USB plug being wrenched from & damaging one’s camera, and some discussion on preventing the USB cable coming apart. I think that one would be wise leaving the cable to be pulled apart, as that avoids trips and things being pulled over. It is desirable to have cable snags at computer and camera to protect those vulnerable ports, but have a relatively loose couple in the middle, that will pull apart when someone falls over it. This will have the disadvantage that you will have to set up the communications again, but that is a small price for not pulling over your tripod and camera, and dragging the laptop off it’s work surface.

Allow the cable to come apart if someone trips on it

The USB cable isn’t everything of course, one needs some software to drive the connexion. Canon cameras come with an extensive remote control suite, whereas for Nikon it’s an additional package such as the seriously expensive Capture NX2. Lightroom has a built in remote capability which addresses this to a certain extent but the control available is frankly poor, the trigger function is there, but that’s all, there is no access to even the simple exposure controls beyond displaying what is currently set. Where the Lightroon tethering really wins is for use by a Photographer who is using the camera hands-on, and does not need to make semi-remote adjustments. Like all tethering software the system responds to manual triggering and copies the image back to the laptop from the camera whenever the shutter is pressed.

Where more control is needed I’ve found On One’s Software’s DSLR Camera Remote HD for the iPad to be the most useful complete remote triggering package, as it addresses lots of the issues left open by other packages, and at reasonable cost. There is also a slightly cut down version for the iPhone, mostly what is missing is the video.  It integrates very well with Lightroom’s Watch Folder auto-import feature, but will work equally well just importing to a selected folder, again it responds to manual shutter activation, and all photos get copied to the computer.  The rest of this article will be about using DSLR Camera Remote. (continue reading…)

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Rugby from the stands

by on Feb.19, 2012, under Equipment, Learning, Workflow

Penalty Kick

On Saturday I had a welcome unexpected chance to go to a Harlequins home game, and saw it as a chance to try some of the ideas that I’ve been picking up from Scott Kelby’s blog though just from the stands, rather than the privileged sideline access of the professional.

Kick-off was at 17:30 a quarter hour after sunset, so this was strictly a floodlight exercise.  I quickly found that the exposure on the field of play was fairly constant, but there was huge risk of variability if one let the camera “do it’s thing”so went fully manual, f2.8, 1/800th & ISO on H1 (12800).  The other half of this exercise was processing in LightRoom 4 beta, and the noise removal could only be better than the already good results one gets in Lr3. (continue reading…)

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GPX Master+ GEO Tagging made easier

by on Feb.04, 2012, under Equipment, Tags and Copyright, Travel, Workflow

I very much like to GeoTag my photos, particularly Landscape and Street photography.  I’ve been a great fan of both GeoTagger and GPS Photolinker on the Mac.  The first links to a Google Earth plugin to find where you have placed location crosshairs, the second works with GPX track logs to work out where you were when you took a photo.  In both cases one has to get Lightroom to re-read the metadata for it to notice the location.

Lightroom 4 Beta has all this functionality built in to the Maps module, which is a big win, but ideally one should still carry a GPS device, such as a Garmin eTrex and download the tracks to synchronise with the photo timestamps.  Of course there is also the track data held inside one’s iPhone, but Apple have gone out of their way to make that difficult to access.

Enter GPX Master+ which uses your Dropbox account to synchronise track files to your computer from your iOS device, ready for import into Lightroom 4 (or GPSPhotoLinker) and just makes life that little bit easier.  Usual caveats about Battery drain apply — you have about 1 hour, but if like me you have a car charger this is unlikely to be an issue.  For all-day use the Garmin E-Trex is still the way to go.

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Pixel Wired Off-Camera Extender

by on Jan.23, 2012, under Equipment, On Site

Pixel VM-801 and 3 x VS-801

Rear switch on the VM-801

I’m becoming quite a fan of Pixel’s after-market accessories. Today I’ld like to tell you about the PF-801 hotshoe extender (1xVM-801 and 1xVS-801). The VM-801 camera end sits in the hotshoe, and has 3 RJ-45 ports. RJ-45 is the standard cable for connecting up computer networks, available in many pre-formed lengths, or those with the tools can make up whatever length they need. For this application one wants “straight” network cables as opposed to cross-overs.

Continuity test

Checking the extender

The 3 ports are labeled A, B & C— these labels have nothing to do with the Canon Wireless Flash groups, but simply give you a reference as to which port is which, and relates to the rear switch.

On my unit the first thing I did was get out a continuity tester to check what was going on. The central spot on all the remotes is connected through to the hotshoe, via a switch for each port, which acts to enable or isolate the corresponding flash. The rear switch directs the other 4 hotshoe contacts through either the A or C ports, thus allowing the flash on that port to be controlled by the camera, when set to B I get a screen saying the flash is incompatible with the Camera.

Effectively we have 3 ports that we can trigger simultaneously. Port A can be used to provide full featured extension of the Hot shoe, including driving a Flash in “Master” mode to control wireless remotes over Infra Red and use full E-TTL functionality, you can also use it in High-Speed Sync mode. Port B is simply a trigger, such as you might use an optical slave for. Port C has the same functionality as port A, but one can only use one of the 2 at a time in full camera controlled mode, and the other port will just act as a trigger.

Full control of EX-II capable flash

An alternative way of working is to switch between the A&C ports to adjust the power setting of the flashes in manual mode without needing to leave the camera position and have a very short cable and Skyport radio transmitter letting one mix Speedlights and Studio Strobes attached through port B.

This kit came in under £40, to which one has to add a few RJ-45 cables, which I had to hand anyway.

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