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.