Sunday, 10 January 2016

Nikon D500

It has been a while since I last blogged on photography topics.  So what brought me back?  It can only be the recent announcement of Nikon D500!

I am more or less confirmed getting the camera when it comes out.  Besides the headline features like 10 FPS, 200 RAW buffer, 153 AF points, etc., I am looking forward to the following:

  • SnapBridge: transfer photos to phone using Bluetooth and geotag automatically.  Wondering whether it can transfer RAW and if yes, how fast?
  • Tilting LCD touchscreen: this is extremely useful when shooting from odd angles.
  • Built-in switch to block the optical viewfinder: useful when doing long exposures, etc.
  • Auto AF tuning: hopefully this can work with non-Nikon lenses as I own many of them.  
It's a pity that the built-in flash has been removed, but I am going to take their word for it that this is to enhance the weather sealing.  I don't use flash a lot anyway.  Talking about weather sealing, is it too much to hope for complete waterproof?  I guess so for such camera. ^^;

What will I be using this camera for?  Besides the obvious wildlife and sports, I intend to purchase something like a 16-300mm superzoom lens to walk around with it.  Throw in another 10-18mm ultra wide angle and my basic photographic needs are fulfilled. :)

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Replacing ball head

The quick release (QR) plate on my Vanguard SBH-100 ball head is not Acra Swiss compatible, hence I need to replace it as I have standardised all my gear to use Acra Swiss.  Initially I was hoping I could just swap out the QR clamp and replace it with, say, a Sunwayfoto panning tripod clamp, but alas it was so tightly screwed on that I could not unscrew it.  Hence I was left with no choice but to buy a new ball head to replace it.

Among many requirements, one thing I wanted to ensure is that the diameter of the new ball head and existing tripod match.  I simply brought along the SBH-100 to my favourite camera shop and asked the sales person, who suggested Sirui K-30X.  Although its maximum load of 30kg is way overkill, it's only 50g heavier than SBH-100, which can carry only up to 10kg.  So I guess it's a no-brainer to buy K-30X.  I have used it a few times since purchase and happy to report no problem so far. 

Friday, 13 March 2015

Replacing my lost tripod

I lost my Joby GorillaPod SLR-Zoom tripod in Iceland last month.  It was painful as it was early in the trip and I had intended to use the tripod as a second tripod for time-lapse, etc.  I had to improvise thereafter and use things like camera bag to prop up my camera, but in truth nothing beats the utility of a tripod.  Hence I was sourcing for a replacement before my next overseas trip in April.

Initially I contemplated getting SLR-Zoom again, or its bigger brother, Focus.  But then I looked back at my previous usage scenarios and realised GorillaPod may not be my best bet.  I used to like GorillaPod's flexible legs which can be bent around and attach to railings and fence.  However, that's provided you don't put too much weight on it, even when that weight is still supposedly well below its limit.  If the weight is too much, the GorillaPod will tilt and fall from the railing.  I have had a few close calls when I put my Nikon D610 on it before.  In my opinion it's far safer to use clamps like Phottix Multi Clamp to attach to railings and fence, when necessary.

Of course, clamps can't be put on the ground unlike GorillaPod.  In that scenario the GorillaPod behaves like a normal tripod, albeit without extensible legs, which sort of limits its usefulness compared to normal tripod.

Consequently I decided to look for a small normal tripod instead and purchase the Sirui T-025X tripod.  Although I can no longer wrap it around railings and fence, the legs are extensible yet the whole tripod folds down to a very compact form factor comparable to SLR-Zoom!

After using this new tripod for a while, I really like its small form factor.  I can squeeze it inside my camera bag rather than hang it outside like what I will do for bigger tripods.  I do regret the inability of the footpads to be replaceable by spikes, but that's not a big cons (yet).  The centre column is extensible as well, thus when the tripod is fully extended, its height is actually quite comfortable to deal with.  However, I always try to use it without the centre column and only attach when necessary, as using the centre column causes the camera to become less stable.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Time Lapse Assembler

I have been using Photoshop to render time-lapse on my Mac for a while, but recently encountered an issue: Photoshop can't use codec H.264 for MOV files.  Consequently I found a workaround where I render using Photoshop first then convert to the desired format using QuickTime Player.

My friend Steven suggested me to take a look at the free app Time Lapse Assembler.  I've played with it a bit and am happy to report that it meets my current needs!  Just put all your source image files into a folder and point the app to it.

Time Lapse Assembler

I find the Low quality setting to be sufficient, but as it will also output in smaller resolution, there is a need to check the Resize option to get the dimensions required.  If your source images are already of the same aspect ratio as your final output, then you can also check Scale proportionally.  Else your video output may appear squashed and flat due to the transformations done.

Last but not least, when will I still use Photoshop over this app?  Well, when I need to do Ken Burns effect (i.e. panning and zooming) or add audio clips, still pictures, other video clips, etc.  But this is a free app while Photoshop is not.  And of course there is no stopping me from taking the output from this app and importing into Photoshop or other video editors to work on it further.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Just give me an articulated LCD!

The Nikon D7200 has just been announced, and I was disappointed that it does not have an articulated LCD.  I was hoping that it would be a DX version of the Nikon D750, but I guess that was too much to hope for.

Why am I insisting on articulated LCD?  My current Nikon D610 doesn't have one, although my previous Sony NEX-6 does.  Well, because I realised it is very tough on my knees when I am shooting from low angle and had to bend down while carrying a heavy backpack.  An LCD that can be flipped 90 degrees upward would have been so helpful.

Even if I am sitting or lying on the ground, but as long as the camera is very low e.g. mounted on a short tripod and yet pointed towards the sky such as taking star trails, an articulated LCD shines.  Yes, it is possible nowadays to use some mobile phone apps and wirelessly transmit live view from the camera to the phone, but battery power is one thing, and now you have another gadget that you need to fiddle with.  And try operating them when you are wearing thick winter gloves!

Last but not least, I know there is this periscope thingy.  But am I going to spend USD200 just for this?  Since I started my photographic journey in early 2013, I have only seen 1 photographer using this tool, and it's last month.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

4D3N in Istanbul

I visited Istanbul from 28 to 31 Jan 2015 en route to Norway and Iceland.  My favourite picture from the trip is the below showing a Muslim lady drinking coffee inside the ferry that plies the Bosphorus. And it was not taken using a big DSLR but rather a compact camera, the Olympus Tough TG-3.  Which I think helped coz it was not as intimidating.  If I had been using a noisy big DSLR, I probably would not be able to obtain this picture.

This was also not a posed pic.  I eyed her talking to her husband (not in pic) and wanted to shoot her. I purposely composed such that it appeared that I was taking the scenery outside.  Then when she turned to face the window and take a sip of her coffee, I clicked the shutter. :)

Inside ferry

More pictures from my Istanbul trip can be found on my Facebook page.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Time-lapse Apps for iOS 8

If you are using iOS 8, you can already shoot time-lapse using the built-in app.  However, that app is too user-friendly and doesn't give you much control.  In my opinion, a good time-lapse app must be able to provide the source pictures that generate the final output video.  Why is that important?  First, it is usually easier to edit still pictures than videos.  Next, the resolution of your still pictures are usually higher than the final video e.g. 8 vs 2 megapixels and this allows you to generate even higher resolution video such as 4K or crop or achieve pan and zoom in your video (Ken Burns effect). 

There are a plethora of time-lapse apps in the Apple App Store.  Lapse It is probably one of the best out there.  Unfortunately you need to pay to unlock critical features like taking HD or higher resolution pictures.  If you don't feel like paying, iMotion is probably a better choice.  It allows you to take full HD (1920x1080p) pictures and produce video up to 30fps.  You can also save both the source pictures and the final video to your camera roll.  Last but not least, it offers other interesting modes such as remote and mic.  What more do you want in a free app? ^^;

One final tip: you may want to use manual focus in iMotion to prevent having pictures with slightly different focus and consequently the time-lapse video created may be a bit jerky.