Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Is it time to ditch the SLR?

Canon 5DmkIII w/40mm F2.8 Pancake vs. Fujifilm XE-1 w/18-55mm F2.8-4.0
Every so often I find myself blabbing on how, when I shot film, I sold off all my SLR gear and bought my best loved camera of all time, a Contax G2. It's autofocus was slow, the Carl Zeiss T* prime lenses I had weren't terribly fast but the camera oozed Swiss watch build quality in a small, light-weight, discrete package and boy, shoot a roll of slide film and prepare to drool when you pull it from the developer. To this day with all the cameras I've gone through, I have not had one that I have loved more. While my current 5DmkIII and bag full of 'L' glass can produce some stunning images. They're Critically sharp, high contrast images that the engineer in me really appreciates but the artist in me finds them sterile. I think I understand what Leica owners talk about when they say one camera can render a scene more beautifully than another.

So here we are at the end of 2012 and I'm looking for a compact camera worthy of dumping all my SLR gear over - and we're pretty close. Right now I'm test driving a Fujifilm XE-1, which, while not a pocket camera, with its largest lens attached, it is much smaller than my 5D is with its smallest lens attached- and the whole package weighs less than just one of my 'L' lenses. It's 16 megapixel, APS-C sensor promises to have the resolving power of a full frame. While I haven't taken many shots yet, just playing with it around the house, it appears the IQ is quite good. Good enough to put my 5D on Craigslist? We'll see...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Why I chose Windows 8

I recently built a new monster photo-editing rig - I wanted a fast box to speed up my workflow so I overclocked the latest Ivy Bridge core I7, stuffed it with as much ram as the motherboard could take and filled the drive bays with the latest SSDs. But when it came time to choose and operating system, I discovered my initial choice (my current copy of windows 7) didn't support more than 16GB of ram. I'd have to shell out $90 to upgrade it to the a Win7 Pro version. That was all the excuse I needed to experiment a bit.
I had already been running the RTM version of Windows 8 on my Slate so I was already familiar with it and found it to be very stable. When I went to the Microsoft site to get a release copy to evaluate, I discovered the my first reason for helping my seal the deal for W8...

Cost: Microsoft wants to get everybody over to W8 so if they're running a promotion til the end of the year that if you bought (or built) a computer after July 2012, you can get a full released version of W8 PROFESSIONAL edition for $14.95. Yep, that's right a full install OS for less than $15 - and not just the basic bottom tier version but the PRO edition that I needed to support my 32GB of ram. It was so cheap I bought and extra copy to put on my Slate.

 Speed: WIN8 really optimizes the Boot process compared to WIN7, I can go from power off to sign on in about 10 seconds and that includes BIOS post process. Because of it's fresh release it was built with the latest driver protocols that make use of USB 3.0 - these were still a bit wonky on my old WIN7 box. Actually all my devices had appropriate drivers included in the initial install which has be a first for me in the years I've been building computers.

Storage Spaces: I don't know why Microsoft doesn't market this more but they took a bit of their server technology and built it into the OS. If you don't know, Storage Spaces is kind of like a 'Drobo' approach to storage - you can take a bunch of hard drives of various sizes and interfaces (even external USB drives) and create a pool of storage from which you can provision virtual drives that show up in explorer. You can also select whether you want your data mirrored or striped across multiple drives to allow for data recovery should one or more of the pool drive fail. The OS takes care of everything, if you start running low on space in the pool, the OS warns you and all you need to do is plug in a new drive (or swap a drive out with one of more capacity), add it to the pool and the OS does the rest. Pretty cool. In the past, when my image collection was filling up a drive, I'd buy a larger one, copy all the images over then toss the old drive in the closet. Now I can just freely add capacity and forget about any copying.

Been using this setup for a few months now and through several large shoots with no problems. I've found the OS to be stable on the desktop with a lot of little improvements over WIN7 and nothing I miss - NOT EVEN THE START MENU - I honestly don't understand why the tech media says the new interface is great for touch but sucks on the desktop. While I didn't use the start menu all that much in WIN7, it nothing more than a application launcher, WIN8 has a launcher, it just looks different. While the main tile interface may not contain every installed application one keypress will pull up a display that does...Better yet just start typing the name of the app and it's icon will typically show up ready to launch by time you type the third letter... I really don't think it's worse, or better --- just different.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Hoodman 'Raw Steel' CF Cardreader - USB 3.0 rocks

USB 3.0 is blazing fast but it's not without some faults. Mainly, the with the infancy of the interface, there are quite a few peripherals out there that are labeled USB 3.0 but do not conform to the standard.  I ran it to that recently with my Kingston CF card reader - worked great with Windows 7 but was reduced to a USB 2.0 device with my new box which is running Windows 8. Yes, I know, windows 8 is still a preview and not a final product. But according to the Building Windows 8 blog the USB 3.0 stack in the windows 8 kernel was built from the ground up to the latest standard so I'm taking the position that if something ain't working - it's the device's fault. And to that end, I am happy to find that my latest CF card reader, the Hoodman USB 3.0 Raw Steel UDMA card reader works like a charm with my windows 8 install. Using Sandisk Extreme Pro 32Gb cards I'm getting a rock solid 80Mb/sec transfer rate. Which equates to roughly a little over 3 minutes to download 1000+ (26Gb) of 18Mpixel Raw files (which is a typical football shoot) to the hard disk. While I use to be able to go have a cup of coffee while my images download, now my download is complete before I'm finished grinding the beans.
Another thing I like about the Hoodman is that it is firmware upgradeable, for example Hoodman recently released a firmware update to make the CF reader UDMA 7 compliant. ---I couldn't find any support downloads for the Kingston. So if you looking for a Windows 8 compatible USB 3.0 CF reader - The Hoodman is a good choice

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dream Camera...(revisited)

Back in 2006, I wrote a post which listed all the cameras I've owned  through the years and made a presumptuous conclusion that my days of upgrading were over since I obtained my "Dream Camera", a Canon 1DmkII.  Silly me..
Since then I've had 3 bodies:
Canon 5DmkII - A great image sensor trapped in a slow focusing, mid-grade build quality body.
Canon 5DmkIII - A super image sensor wrapped in a solid body and endowed with the modern AF system of the top of the line 1Dx. An excellent camera that should do more than any photographer short of the sports shooter could ask for.
Canon 1Dx - The top dawg, IQ, high ISO capability and dynamic range that made me choose it, and its premium $$, over the 5D.
My glass collection has also grown to now include: 15mm 2.8 fisheye,14mmF2.8, 24mm 3.5 TS-E II, 17-40F4L,24-105F4LIS,50F1.8, 70-200F2.8LIS II,85F1.2L, 100mmF2.8L Macro, and my baby the 300F2.8L.

So NOW am I done?...hardly. I know better. I can probably say that I'm done with DSLRs at this point as my dream camera now is a one of the new Compact System Cameras. As sensor technology advances, these smaller sensor formats will keep all the advantages of lighter, more compact bodies and lenses without any compromise in image quality. Manufacturers are pretty close to hitting the sweet spot and I'm about to sell my 5DmkIII to move to one of these gems. Leading the pack is the Fuji ex-1 followed by the Sony Nex-6 and with the awesome lenses available for the micro 4/3s systems, those are high on the list as well...

Workflow test: Canon 1Dx

So one of the things I was really looking forward to with my 1Dx was superfast image transfers with it's built in Ethernet port. The 1Dx can be set to connect to a network and upload files to an FTP server either for shooting tethered or for downloading all images after a shoot (which was my interest). I was salivating over the possibility of hooking this up to my gigabit network and sucking a 32Gig shoot down in a few minutes. But as soon as I configured my FTP server and set up the camera to send my first shoot my bubble went bust... a paltry 17MB/sec throughput (slower than my  USB 2.0 reader) Switching to the USB 3.0 port of the camera wasn't much better, averaging just 24MB/sec. So while these interfaces are probably a big improvement for tethered shooting, for larger transfers it looks like the card reader will still reign supreme. Damn shame...

Building a better box for Lightroom...not really

So I finally got tired of putting up with what I thought was an out of date computer system (pre intel 'core i' ) Decided to build a box specifically aimed at speeding up my Lightroom workflow. The latest Ivy Bridge 3770k with 4 hyperthreaded cores overclocked to 4.3Ghz, 32 Gb of ram, 3 SSDs: 1 for the OS, 1 as 'working area' to store the raw files of any shoot actively being worked and 1 SSD dedicated to the Lightroom catalogue database and associated previous. USB3.0 card readers for quick downloading. All running under the control of the svelte Windows 8 operating system.

 This box is fricken hot, but did it do anything for my workflow? Well not really. Improvement was rather disappointing. Importing, and rendering a big shoot is still a  'start and go watch TV' process. Most disappointing is that the image to image load time is still a couple tenths of a second which doesn't sound like much but after shooting a football game at 12 frames a second I want to quickly scan through my shoot to grab the keepers. With this hardware expect (and should get )  INSTANTANEOUS image to image load times. Lightroom is great, but its just a pig so I'm crossing my fingers that they add some GPU acceleration and other speed trick for Lightroom 5.

So I'm calling this new box build a bust for lightroom but as a consolation, I think I'm gonna throw in a NVIDA 660ti and make one rocking gaming box!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

3 feet to the right

Went to shoot a local HS football game last night - I love shooting action from the sidelines. Lately, I've been  playing with dialing in the 1Dx and getting use to its controls and setting it up so I can work quickly.
So there I was on the side lines about 35 yards down field from the line of scrimmage. I watch the snap through my 300mm lens and see a big hole develop and running back coming right up the middle, and the defense bites, but it's play action and I see the QB roll out with the ball, lock on target and launch the ball. I pull away from the camera and spot their star receiver hauling ass down the opposite side line, I whip the camera to the action, find him in the view finder, the camera locks focus in an instant. I can see his eyes tracking the ball as it approaches, they widen as ball comes into view, I thought it was out of his reach, he leaps, completely laying out in mid air - this kid was frickin' flying, it was so awesome. I start firing off the shutter but WTF?  I see a zebra flash across my viewfinder! I've been wanting for a shot like this since I've been shooting football and just my luck, that official ate his wheaties that morning and actually kept up with these kids - good for him, but damn if it screwed my shot.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Don't give up on that small sensor just yet.

While everyone is going ga-ga over the latest 'big sensor in a small camera' (including me admittedly) There is still some image related advantages of a small sensor pocket cam - Macro shots are just crazy easy with these guys. Their small sensor means super depth of field, and while not so favorable for portraits of people, it's a plus on macro portraits of little creatures such as my six-eyed friend here. 
I found this guy crawling around our campsite on a recent trip and grabbed this shot with my trusty Canon Powershot G9.  I never used the viewfinder, I just stuck the lens about an inch away from this guy half pressed til I heard the 'beep' and fired - the wide DOF kept him nice and sharp. Lighting was provided by the built-in flash and what's neat is that at these close distances, the lens is closer to the subject than the flash is to the lens so it results in an off-axis light just like off camera flash  but without all the triggers and extra gear. (I actually had to hold the camera upside down so the flash was close enough to light the subject, right side up, it was casting the light about 2 feet behind the subject.)
I think the results (make sure you click the picture to see it full size) weren't too shabby for a camera that cost less than 1/3 the price of good Macro lens for the DSLR. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Field test: Canon 1Dx -initial thoughts.

My 1Dx first field test
I've been a Canon shooter ever since I went digital 10 years ago. My progression through Canon's DSLR line up has been the D30, 10D, 1DmkII, 5DmkII, 5DmkIII and now the 1Dx. I mainly shoot high school football which, if you don't know, is mainly played at night in about the worst lighting you should ask a camera to shoot action sports in. My typical exposure settings of 1/500 sec @ F2.8 meant my ISO would range between 2500 to 6400 depending on the field and location. For the last couple seasons the 5DmkII was filling this role and even with its low frame rate and antiquated 9 point AF system, I was getting a fair amount of `keepers' it just took a bit more planning and anticipating the play to make sure I was focused on the right subject at the right time. I made the plunge this year with the 1Dx in hopes that is superior low light image quality coupled with real sports oriented AF and frame rate would allow me to be a bit more spontaneous on the sideline and really increase my `keeper' rate.

It doesn't get any better than this. Ever since the 1DmkII, I've fallen for the 1D body configuration and I've fitted all my cameras with extended battery grips but they never come close to the comfort of a real 1D body. All controls (and Canon crammed a lot of em in there) fall comfortably under your thumb and finger tips. You can quickly make adjustments to most of the major camera settings without ever taking your eye from the viewfinder. I sorta wish they used a dial for mode selection like on the 5D, I use custom settings quite a bit and I think using the dial to switch between them is much faster than the 1Dx's button press plus scroll - but that's such a small nit pic.

Most of the internet reviews have commented how immediate the AF is on the 1Dx - I guess it's all relative, compared to my 5DmkII this thing is WORLDS faster but my old 1DmkII with the 300F2.8 lens has been my standard for AF speed and tracking performance and regardless of what the numbers say, I don't feel that the 1Dx is significantly faster than that model is - just than now I can finally enjoy this focusing speed at night - I really is nice to be able to see a pass, find the receiver, point and snap into focus.
Spontaneous shots like this weren't possible with my 5DmkII

What the 1Dx does bring to the table is 4 menu pages of AF parameter settings to tweak. I'm a major geek so I appreciate the ability to tweak things the way I like but I'm sure others may have an opinion similar to my Nikon friend that says `you shouldn't need a 32 page white paper to learn how to use the autofocus of your camera...It should just work'. I can't really argue with that logic.
One interesting mode that is exclusive to the 1Dx (for now) is Canon's Intelligent Tracking and Recognition(iTR) mode that uses data from the 100,000 pixel color metering system to `recognize' the subject and track it across the screen automatically switching between the 61 AF sensors to maintain focus. Wow this sounds really awesome, reading the marketing literature. But, iTR can only be selected when the camera is in Automatic Focal point Selection, a mode that I never use because it rarely focuses on what I want to focus on . Unfortunately I found this to be true here as well, at least for my Football shooting, where there are many objects in view, all wearing similar colors. I'd imagine it'd work pretty well on single subjects, like a tennis player or a car on a track, but then again, I never had issue with the accuracy of the normal AiServo modes for tracking things like this.

Image Quality:
It all comes down to this right? Canon's flagship doesn't disappoint here, I found images to have great color rendition and excellent resolution. Subtle textures are rendered with such great detail that doesn't make me miss the extra megapixels of the 5D. And unlike the files I got from the 5DmkII, which I found to be a bit unexciting and in need a bit of mid tone contrast adjustment and sharpening in post, I am liking these straight out of the camera.
In my initial game day outing I did something I never do, I shot in jpg. I wanted to see how all the camera's bells and whistles worked to produce a finished image. So I set the camera to F2.8@1/500s and let the camera auto adjust ISO for the correct exposure.
I found the camera's auto white balance did an excellent job maintaining sensible colors as lighting changed from daylight to dusk to sodium vapor lighting. The Matrix metering did an admirable job of not blowing out white jerseys against a dark background. The Standard Noise reduction setting however, was a little too heavy handed for my taste, smearing finer textures into an almost cellophane look but otherwise excellent in holding detail in medium and larger textures and eliminating color noise in the shadows. Any noise in the shadows had a film like grain to it which I found pleasing. All in all, I'd judged the jpg quality with NR to be better that what I was able to achieve shooting raw at the same ISO with the 5dmkII and doing NR in post. I think if I bump the NR down a click, I'll be happy shooting jpg and finally just go from shoot to publish without any post processing.
1/500 F2.8 ISO5000

The 1Dx is an AMAZING camera, I barely touched on a fraction of its feature (nor will I likely use all of them), but $6700? That's $2k more than the 1DmkIV it replaces. I think Canon pushing their prices a bit too far North lately and honestly, if I didn't have a fortune in Canon Lenses, I'd be writing a Nikon review right now.

You may have noticed there was a 5DmkIII in my opening paragraph; I picked that up because I was afraid the 1Dx wouldn't ship before the season started. I seriously thought of cancelling the 1Dx order after shooting the 5DmkIII as all my complaints about the mkII were fixed - better build quality, higher frame rate, a modern AF system. In fact the jury is still out on this one. I'm only keeping one of them so I'll be shooting these side by side this season - I think the 5DmkIII may win out at $3k less.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

HTC One S vs. Galaxy Nexus

 I recently 'downgraded' my phone. Yes, you read that right, this early adopting geek dumped HTC's latest hotness for a 6 month old Galaxy Nexus. Why? The butter, baby (I'll explain). 
First off, I've always thought HTC made better phones than Samsung and the One S is more proof of this. It  is a much better phone and clearly beats the Galaxy Nexus in the following areas:
  • Camera: More Megapixels, MUCH faster response and the super-slow motion video capture is a fun feature. 
  • Faster Processor
  • Build Quality - The One S oozes quality. Fit and finish as well as it's sleek design make the Galaxy Nexus look like a hunk of cheap plastic. I personally think the One S of the nicest looking phones out there right now - yes even better that Apple's 4s, but I guess that's not saying much as the Iphone is at the end of it's design cycle. 
  • Better Antenna design, Cell, GPS and WiFi performance of the HTC beats the Samsung by a mile in this area - Both WiFi and GPS performance is spotty on this Samsung (and Samsungs I've had in the past) The Samsung routinely drops GPS signal if not placed high up on the dash of my truck whereas the HTC never skipped a beat when placed deep in my center console. 
 So those are some pretty significant pluses for the HTC so why the switch?
  • Pure Google: The Nexus Line always has the Vanilla Android OS the way Google intended without any goofy skins place in there by the manufacturers that in the past slowed things down and changed or broke some of the OS's basic functionality. 
  • Higher Resolution Screen - While it's not that noticeable to me on the phone, but on the occasion when I hook up to a monitor, keyboard and mouse the extra resolution does a better job of filling a 20" monitor.
  • NFC - not that I use this now, but it's something I'm looking forward to seeing what creative new ways devs will incorporate this tech into their apps - and I'll be able to play with it. 
  • Interchangeable battery - batteries never last forever - especially in Arizona - so having to send a phone back to the factory to replace a battery in a year is not something I want to deal with. Also, I like having a spare, fully charged battery to swap out in times when a charger isn't near by.  
  • Super Hackable - The Nexus line has typically been a developer platform and because of that they are super easy to unlock, root, and load alternate ROMs. And since there is no manufacturer skin to modify or Carrier testing to perform, they are the first inline to get the latest OS releases. In fact, I updated my phone to Jelly Bean using a posted OTA image even before it was put on Google's servers. 
  • Super Dev support: Being a development platform, Nexus phones have always had a lot of support from the ROM community which really extends the life of the phone. Heck I think the Nexus One I passed down to by Son had a stable version of ICS on it much faster than any OTA update for much more modern handsets. 
What about the butter? Oh yes - project butter - The bottom line reason I switched to the Galaxy Nexus was to get Google's latest Operating system, Jelly Bean which had extensive modifications to the UI framework. In my opinion, Google hit a home run with this one. The phone and it's UI are so much smoother and more responsive - making it feel faster than the HTC despite the Nexus' slower processor. My HTC would still have an occasional frame jitter during some scrolling activities - I haven't encountered any lapse while on the Galaxy Nexus - it pure butter baby!. 
Jelly Bean is supposed to be just incremental improvements on the major update that came with ICS but in my mind, it's more than that.  UI responsiveness was one of the last areas where IOS was still superior to Android. No matter how big of an Android fanboy you are, you have to admit IOS could always be counted on as providing a silky smooth user experience that wasn't matched by any device running Android. But with Jelly Bean, Google has erased this advantage and has finally delivered a polished, Mature OS...all for free.

Friday, May 25, 2012

OMG: flickr is actually still alive

I have to be honest, I haven't been very active on flickr this past year. Infact, l almost didn't renew my PRO account.  Why? l guess I was finding flickr pretty stale.  The interface hasn't changed much since joined in 2006.  There are still a  lot of really good photographers using flickr but it was pretty painful browsing the UI  to find their work.  I'd typically goto my favorite group load a couple pages & give up.  The new refresh of the groups 'more pictures' UI was something that was sorely needed. Its tiles load  fast and scroll smoothly which makes browsing, even on my tablet much more enjoyable.
 It's nice to know there are still some developers left at flickr, maybe next year my decision to renew will be easier.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Self Assignment:Cowboys

Rifleman, originally uploaded by photogeek21.
A couple weeks ago I did something for the first time. It didn't have anything to do with lighting, technique or post processing. In fact, it had more to do with personal phobia than photography - I asked a total stranger if I could take their portrait. To my releif, they said yes. Actually, everyone I asked was more than happy to pose for me. It was good practice too, since I was on their time, I had to set up quick grab the shot, thank them and let them get back to what they were doing - no time to fart around with different lighting angles and such, just know what I wanted, set up and do it - nerve racking and fun at the same time.

I'd been thinking about a self assignment for a while now so when I saw that there was a cowboy shooting match at my local range, I grabed my camera and lighting bag and headed out the door.

It wasn't all about picture taking either, I truly treated this as an assignment and introduced myself to the match director and made sure he was okay with me strolling through his course of fire. I interviewed several of the competitors to get a bit of insight into their sport. And while I'm far from being a writer, I shared a little of what I learned in my flickr post.

I also sent 5x7 prints to those that posed for me as a token of appreciation for helping me out. Got some great feedback too, One wrote to tell me that when he pull out the picture his wife saw it, grabed it, and said "this one's mine" and has got it on display in her office.

So I guess my first self assignment was a sucess, I got the shot (and didn't get shot), learned quite abit about cowboy shooting, and met some really cool people.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Wireless tethering on the cheap.

One of the lesser talked about features of the new Canon 5D mkIII  is its ability to simultaneously write to both an SD and CF card.  CF cards are by far the pro standard for speed, capacity & reliability but the SD card is significant because it allows the use of an Eye-fi wireless card. With Eye-fi's free app, I was able to wirelessly tether my 5D to a Kindle fire. With the camera set to write raw files to the CF card and medium Rez Jpg's to the Eye-fi card, I can get maximun image quality & fast transfer times to the kindle.  I've tested this setup on my last shoot and it worked out well.  As good as the 5D's new high res screen is, it was so much nicer to check critical focus on the larger screen,  but  what was really valuable was the ability to show the images to the subject in order to provide direction without them move off mark or having to take my camera off the tripod.
 Another good thing about this setup is that its relatively cheap -the Eye-fi is about  $50, the app is free and you canpickup refurb kindle fires for less than $140.
I currently have a 1Dx on pre-order but now I'm a bit disappointed that its 2nd card slot is for a CF and not an SD. I may need to reconsider that potential purchase...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Phottix Odin TTL wireless triggers - Check channels for reliability

Autotesting the Odin

Well after 2 years of trying to make them work, I finally gave up on the Pocket Wizard Flex TT5s - they just weren't reliable, I even picked up a a 430exII just to see if they'd work better than my 580exIIs- they did. But then it hit me, was I really going to downgrade all my speedlights to get this to work- uh no.
Lucky me, I found someone to buy all my PWs for more than I paid for them (thanks Craigslist)

Hello Odin!
So for the same price as my 3 TT5s and AC3 I was able to pick up an Odin Transmitter, 3 TTL receivers, 2 Manual Receivers, and 1 manual transmitter - Not a bad deal - as long as they work, right?

Well to find out if they do work I set up a test using my intervalometer and 4 speedlights. To try and test as many modes of operation a once I had each speed light set up a bit different:
  • 430exII on TTL
  • 580exII on Manual w/TTL receiver
  • 580exII on Manual w/TTL receiver
  • Vivitar 283 on manual w/manual receiver
I set the strobes outside facing the camera which was setup indoors, set the intervalometer to take 100 shots 8 secs apart (to allow that old vivitar to recycle- and prevent overheating) I repeated this test on both my 1dmkii and my new 5dmkiii - results indicated no differences for each camera.
So how were the results? Not good - I had a fairly consistent 15% failure to fire across each of the speedlights - disappointing to say the least, especially when I read so many rave reviews on this system. However, switching everything from CH1 to CH4 I saw a dramatic improvement-100% operation on all the TTL receivers and only 5 FTFs out of 200 attempts for the manual receiver (which could have been the old vivitar being tired) This is a MUCH better start than with my old PWs.

So far I've only shot one job with them so I still need more time with them, but so far I'm happy.

Initial impressions:
  • Internal Antenna: While the build quality may not be as solid as PWs, I appreciate the absence of any appendages - the antenna design on the TT5s was plain stupid an I always felt like it was just a matter of time before that sucker gets rip outta its socket.
  • Better Manual control: Adjusting Manual power settings from the odin seems MUCH more consistent than with the AC3 - the full power setting on the AC3 was far from what my 580s were capable of.
  • All sync cables included - even the camera shutter release cable that PW rapes you for $95!
  • 2.4Ghz - they work with my 580ExIIs - I have an acre lot and couldn't get enough distance between camera and flash for them to be out of range - this was much better than the 25 ft I sometimes got with my TT5s
  • Remote control of zoom setting on each TTL Flash - TT5s didn't do this trick.
  • HSS and Rear Curtain sync just like the PWs but as I said above these guys work at distance which I need when I working in daylight with my 70-200 and need some distance.
  • 1/4" threaded adapter is inline with the hot shoe - a small thing, but sometimes the offset location on TT5s caused some grief with certain modifiers.
  • No Hypersync - not missing it so far.
  • Manual power control is only in 1 stop increments (not 1/3) - I've been playing with the zoom setting to bleed some power off as a work around.
  • Doesn't control the power of my Einstein640 - this was the one thing that caused me to hang on to my PWs for so long.
Pocket Wizards have long been the de-facto standard in wireless triggers and all others were just cheap imitation rarely worth the risk. However, in the TTL game, Pocket wizard has really dropped the ball and now have a product that actually performs WORSE than the cheap knock offs.

Monday, February 27, 2012

XD Problems - It's always the little things...

I remember a friend that used to race buggies in Baja always would say how it was always the little things that put him out of the race, never had a problem with the engine or blowing out tires but a stupid little 5 cent bolt that broke and left him stranded.
Well this was exactly what happened to Ryan in this year's Spring Steel match, 8 stages and I think his gun only ran one of them without a malfunction. Initially, I thought he was just so use to the 1911 he'd been shooting for the last several months that he wasn't letting up on the trigger enough to reset but after I told him he would deliberately take is finger off the trigger to assure it went forward enough and still nothing. His trigger was definitely failing to reset intermittently. We took it into the safety area several times to check it out but never could find anything wrong.
It wasn't until my drive home today from work that I had the 'Aha moment' and I figured it out. I remembered showing him how the trigger worked in the XD and noticed that the over travel screw wasn't adjusted properly and at the time didn't think much of it until I realize that if the screw backed up far enough it would hit the magazine which would prevent it from resetting - we never saw this because magazines aren't allowed in the safety area. But I confirmed this was the case as soon as I got home. Yep a stupid little 2 cent screw stopped Ryan from putting any sort of performance together for the match.