Monday, October 24, 2016

Nikon AF-S 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II

I was thinking about getting one on eBay.  The older version of course.  So naturally I tried to play with one when I got the chance at the Exp Plus Photo 2016.

I shoot regularly with my 70-200 but this 300mm is on another level.  I am glad I tried it.  I don't think I can shoot an event with this lens.  Not the entire event anyway.  The 70-200 is versatile enough but this 300mm is quite specialized I imagine.  It won't be too feasible to carry around this 300mm on location for 3 hours or longer, unless you have an assistant.  For any extended shooting, I think a monopod is a must just so your arms and back can thank you later.

I certainly appreciate the 70-200, more so than ever.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Custom Brackets

When you want to buy something photographic and yet don't have $2,799.95 for the latest Nikkor AF-S 70-200 f/2.8E FL, you can buy something like a lens hood, a sync cable, a filter or some flash bracket.

I am a fan of Custom Brackets.

My first one is the CB Mini-RC.  The camera screw is the "D" type kind while the flash screw is not.  So you do need a coin to tighten your flash up.  I like this bracket.  It looks cool even if it doesn't do anything at all.  I am a fan of accessorizing your camera.  The biggest fault is of course there is no anti-twist built-in.  I understand you can buy an anti-twist plate AT separately for $15 only.  I don't know how effective it is.  So while I am shooting with this flash bracket, I have to adjust the camera screw to re-orient the bracket and the flash.  It keeps you on your toe and busy making you work harder, look more professional, more on edge.

The latest Mini-RC comes with some improvements.  The flash screw is now D type as well, so you can leave home without any quarters or coins, just bring your hundreds.  The most important improvement is anti-twist.  This is the number one improvement that I need, the rest is just icing on the cake.  Now it comes with what Custom Brackets call "camera anti-twist post," two of them.  They can be positioned and tightened by a 1/8" Allen wrench provided.  So you may want to carry a 1/8" Allen wrench when you are out and about with the bracket.  During my field test, for about 3 hours, shooting in the jungle in extreme heat and cold, both horizontal and vertical, the bracket never twists and I don't have to tighten the screws with the Allen wrench.  I think this is a big improvement.  The new one is also about 1cm wider than the old one, which I think is a good thing.

Custom Brackets CB Junior
This is a more elaborate bracket than the Mini-RC.  It flips and extends.  This is an old version which doesn't even allow you to add any anti-twisting plate, nor does it come with any D type screw at all.  If you don't have a coin or a quarter, you are screwed.  Either your bracket or your camera may fall off your hand.  I guarantee the bracket will twist like crazy even if you only shoot horizontal.  Another drawback of this bracket is it's difficult to pack and carry.  This thing is sticking out every where.  It's just hard to put it inside a bag.  The Mini-RC totally wins in pack and carry as it's basically flat, small and weighs nothing.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Event Photographer Experience

My experience as a "photographer" or "event photographer."  My fourth time doing the same event different venue though.

Nikon D810, though it has 36MP but when I convert the NEFs I usually downsize them to 4000 pixels on the long side make them 12MP just like the D700 files!  I need the mega pixels just in case--the truth is that "just in case" never happened.

Nikkor 20-35 f/2.8, this lens was iffy when it is cold or very cold.  It failed me on two occasions.  The aperture blades got stuck and pictures overexposed.  Now that I know, I can always just shoot at f/2.8 circumstances allow.  The Nikkor 16-35 f/4 is reliable but since f/4 is not as bright it's really not so great when you are taking pictures in a dark venue like most dinner parties I am in.

Sunpak 120J with sync cable to the camera PC socket and battery pack.  I have it set at the "red" automatic to take the guess work out of it.  My setting is 1/60 and f/8 which should give me ample depth of field and fast enough shutter speed to avoid blurry pictures (given the relatively short flash duration, wide angle coverage, and not so close-up shots).  The battery pack is great when you want to have fast recycle time and long lasting battery life.  It's a bit of a hassle to shoulder carry the pack that I have to put up with.

Custom Bracket Junior (old version).  Like most other good brackets, it's is very good except one thing; it twists on the body.  This one doesn't come with a D-ring so I have to use a quarter to tighten screw to the tripod mount.  And that night I just didn't have a quarter with me.  When I asked the wait staff they didn't have one either.  They probably didn't trust me with a quarter.  So one lent me a Swiss army kind of knife with a very small blade, I was afraid I would break the blade so I handled it with extreme care.  Thank you man!  The bracket not only just twisted but came very loose in the middle of the shoot.  You certainly don't want to drop your flash or even worse your camera.  The sync cable and the power cable can be unwieldy and sometimes you pick up the camera and forget about the battery pack which may just end up dropping on the floor.

AF-S.  Normally AF-S is set for focus priority by default.  Though I use AF-C most of the time when I am shooting cycling or any other sports.  I switched to AF-S so I can recompose and lock focus.  In some instances, the camera had trouble locking focus because the subject was too dark or lacked contrast.  So I changed the AF-S to release priority so the shutter would fire even focus is not locked.  (This would give me trouble later on.)  I don't want my subject to wait or I look like an idiot when the shutter doesn't fire--the focus even not locked should be good enough or actually spot on even it's not locked, I hope.

Half way through the shoot, video time.  Initially I planned to shoot with my iPhone but then I don't need too many equipment hanging around my shoulder or my neck.  So I used my D810 for video as well.  And that's trouble.  In the middle of the video shoot, I decided that I wanted to change the lens AF to M so I can manually focus.  What a brilliant idea.  After video, I switched the camera settings from B back to A or whatever I thought shooting stills should be.  And I thought I had everything under control.  And of course I didn't.  In the middle of eating, drinking and people asked me to take pictures, I totally forgot about switching the lens back to AF.  So for the rest of the evening I was shooting with no focusing, not AF not manual just no focusing.  The last manual focus distance was left at some 20 feet away.  But "lucky" me most, actually all of the shots were wide angle, 7 to 10 feet away (at the same time, if not, I guess I would have noticed it already), and I was shooting at f/8.  The f/8 saved me plus before the video I had most of my shots already.  So the out of focus shots weren't that plenty and weren't obvious enough.  Still it's a mistake that I shouldn't have made.

If I used the Nikkor 16-35 f/4, it wouldn't happen as there is no need to switch to manual focus, you can simply grab the focusing ring to focus manually (* this is not entirely true, I want to manual focus in video not letting the lens to find focus so for the Nikkor 16-35 I still might have switched the lens to fully manual when shooting video).

If I left AF-S in focus priority, the default, it wouldn't happen as I wouldn't be able to fire the shutter if the focus can't be locked.  Alas, I changed it to AF-S release priority so shutter fire even when focus is not locked.

Lesson learned.  Always double and triple check your settings.

Friday, September 30, 2016

PC, virus, anti-virus

I proclaim I enjoy living dangerously devoid of any anti virus program.  The truth is even I don't make mistakes clicking and installing crap, somebody else will.   And sometimes I do have the honor to take care of this nasty business.  Nobody would admit he makes any mistakes and in the end it's all a mystery.  How it happened nobody knows.

When it comes to PC, there is Windows defense, firewall and a whole boat load of third party software that are supposed to protect you from yourself and all the nasties from others.  In general I have a deep mistrust of those software, it's like you have the potential of actually installing some crap claiming to protect you from other crap.  I really don't know what or who to trust.  I am just happy whatever security measures that come with Windows and have them turned on.

But in the end, some how, someone is going to install, to click Ok despite repeated warnings because he just needs to play that game.

Then the whole wireless network comes crashing down.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Auto Glass Claim Experience

I use Gekko as my auto insurance.  I am just too lazy to find out what's out there from others.  I don't need all the hassles just so I can save perhaps a few dollars or a few thousand dollars.  I am too lazy to do that.

Even Gekko lists a 1-800 number for glass claim but when I called it just directs me to download the mobile app.  From there you just do your claim on your mobile.  I don't think you can even do it on their website.  If you are inept with apps, mobile phone or in general techno averse, good luck with that.  I don't think you can even file a glass claim over the phone.  It seems to me Gekko even does away the call center at least for glass claims.  I remember I used to call them.

The world just keeps moving on.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Cinema Mount Mark II audio cable extension

I asked support about the audio cable extension.

Specifically, I asked does it serve the purpose of the RODE SC7 or SC4 cable.  Their answer is an unequivocal yes.  I can use the supplied cable for that.
So I bought the RODE VideoMicro without buying the TRS to TRRS cable.
And you know what it does NOT work.  Apparently the male of the cable is TRRS but the female is not a TRS to TRRS receptacle.  Or that's just a faulty cable or they don't know what they are talking about.  A disappointment for sure.  I was hoping to use the iPhone and the Rode VideoMicro to shoot something tomorrow now I just can't even the eBay seller promptly shipped the order so I can receive it on time.  Alas, I'd have to shoot the Rode with my D810 for still and video now.

PS:  Now I suspect the audio extension cable is really just an extension for TRRS to TRRS only.  Why?  Because the mount is kind of blocked it needs a rather slim jack without the bulk so as to plug the jack in, if the TRRS is any bigger it won't be able to properly plugged in.

I ordered the RODE SC7 TRS to TRRS patch cable.  And it works with the iPhone with or without the extension cable supplied with the Cinema Mount Mark II audio extension cable.  Like I expected you really need to use the extension cable as the opening is kind of small and even if you don't run the SC7 through the hold you can't mount the iPhone flat on the mount as like I said it's more like an enclosure and there is just no front room to accommodate the budge of the SC7 plug.  So again, the provided audio extension cable is just like what its name says it is an extension cable of TRRS to TRRS.  If you were to plug in a TRS it simply won't work even you can plug in everything.

After using the setup for a few weeks.  My initial assessment still holds true.  It's quite tiring to mount the iPhone.  It's difficult to access the mic/headphone jack, lightning jack, the volume control because it's more of an enclosure.  It's troublesome when one recorded a clip and wants to listen the audio using a headphone, you simply have to remove the iPhone from the mount to unplug and plug back the jack.  The tripod mount hole is on the wrong side, it should really be underneath the lens.

All in all, even without using the Beastgrip Pro, I think it's a better design, I would like the option of tightening the grip like the cinema mount mark ii and a lower price.  I guess I can keep dreaming.