Dave Anderson's Photo Blog http://dave-anderson-photo.com/blog Tinkering, Musings, etc. Sun, 04 Dec 2011 17:45:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.11 Added Minolta Bellows Lens Manual http://dave-anderson-photo.com/blog/2011/11/06/added-minolta-bellows-lens-manual/ http://dave-anderson-photo.com/blog/2011/11/06/added-minolta-bellows-lens-manual/#comments Mon, 07 Nov 2011 06:11:01 +0000 http://dave-anderson-photo.com/blog/?p=402 As part of the groundwork for some posts I’ve been working on, I have posted my scans of the Owner Manual for Minolta Micro Bellows 12.5 f/2 and 25 f/2.5 lenses. There is also a link to that page in the “Useful Links” section in the main menu above.

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Sony a900/Lightroom Shadow Detail Test http://dave-anderson-photo.com/blog/2011/07/09/sony-a900lightroom-shadow-detail-test/ http://dave-anderson-photo.com/blog/2011/07/09/sony-a900lightroom-shadow-detail-test/#comments Sat, 09 Jul 2011 17:41:59 +0000 http://dave-anderson-photo.com/blog/?p=312 Back in May of this year I ran an experiment with the Sony a900 and Lightroom, looking at shadow details to see what sort of results I would get at different ISOs. There is a lot of discussion around what is the “best” ISO with these cameras, and since it seems to depend on how the photographer exposes and what RAW conversion software is used I decided to perform some tests starting with the test of shadow noise handling described in this article.

Not long after buying this camera I found some information from Iliah Borg indicating that ISO 320 offered the greatest dynamic range. Although this is well above base ISO Iliah had stated that ISO 320 was required “to unstop the shadows”. I shot thousands of pictures at ISO 320 with good results but finally decided to test for myself a bit more in-depth, as I had heard photographers whose work I respect and admire suggesting ISO 160 as a cleaner setting to use.

I shot the following set of pictures in my garage, careful to avoid blocking up shadows. The blown-out side window is not relevant for this test, later I will do some testing around midtones and highlights.



Let me emphasize that this is NOT the best-controlled experiment, there are some minor exposure inaccuracies apparently induced by the camera mechanism or variations in light level. I calculated the exposure to be as low-key as possible without clipping any blacks and I think I ended up pretty darn close. I shot at this exposure in M mode at ISO 100, then in steps I increased the ISO by 1/3 stop and reduced the shutter speed by 1/3 stop. Aperture was f/2.8 as I didn’t want to get into very long exposures and possible heat issues. To be fair, I imagine it’s possible I’ve introduced some of that as I was starting at a 2 sec. exposure. Camera was mounted to a sturdy tripod and locked down – all shots with MLU and 3 sec. settle time after lifting mirror.

I imported into LR and for all pics set to Adobe standard, 2010 process(not that process version matters to my eye with everything zeroed) linear tone curve, no sharpening or NR, all sliders including brightness/contrast to zero except where noted.

In the above composite of the full set of shots you can see the exposure variations. The variations are very small, but since the variations did not result in clipped blacks I decided this set of files would do for what I had in mind. The most important thing for this test was that I had data all the way down to the lowest values with no shadow clipping in any of the files. It’s interesting(to me at least) to see that the histogram starts pushing to the right at ISO 1250 despite the fact that I kept the EV identical, and from there every shot at the next higher ISO has the histogram pushed further to the right. I could see this by just clicking the images in the LR filmstrip in succession and watching the histogram. Here is what that looks like:

For this next set of shots it’s important to note that they are not EXACTLY what was on my screen. They are JPEG saves out of PS, where my screenshots were all pasted straight from the clipboard into individual layers. I double-checked by pulling one of these saved JPEGS in as a new layer and doing a difference blend vs the original. Waving the cursor around I only saw differences of 1 or less (out of 255), but there is a difference nevertheless. To get a more accurate look at what was on my screen you can download the PSD here(100MB).

One other thing to note is that I did most of my peeping in the evening when it was dark, some of what I describe is less obvious in the daytime even though I do use different calibration profiles for day & night.

All of these have on the left my old friend ISO 320, on the right are the other exposures. These are all thumbnails, the 100% screenshot should open when you click the thumbnail. I zoomed in on an area that has(or should have) smooth tone transitions(The cylindrical motor top center) and fine detail in the AC condenser fins.

First, ISO 100:

On the lower part of the motor you can see where the tones are blocked up on the ISO 100 side, the ISO 320 side may just look noisy to you but in fact that cleans up with NR as I’ll show later.

Also take a good look at the fan bracket. That is the trapezoidal feature at the bottom, left of center, under the connector. This is a good example of the classic “Red/Blue blotchiness” that can lead to much hair-tearing.

Now, ISO 125:

On the lower part of the motor now the red/blue has taken on more of a blue tendency.

On the fan bracket the blotchiness is if anything worse, again tending more toward blue.

Now, ISO 160:

This is the surprise, for me at least. Suddenly the blotchiness is gone. There are only traces of it. Here, on the fan bracket, and, well… pretty much everywhere there are smoother transitions and tones(especially after a bit of NR, as I’ll show).

Also take a look at the bolt that is just above the connector in the photo. There is far more detail here than in the ISO 320 shot(and elsewhere as will become apparent).

Now, ISO 200:

Back to some blotchiness on the lower part of the motor, you kind of have to look carefully to see the broad swaths of same-tone areas, but these will begin to pop out once you begin lifting shadows.

On the fan bracket it’s not so pronounced in this case but there is plenty of blotchiness lurking throughout the image just waiting for a contrast adjustment to make itself known.

Now, ISO 250:

On the lower part of the motor we see some improvement. Sure there is noise but at least we don’t have the blotches anymore. The noise will clean up to show relatively smooth tones across this area — at least, more so than at ISO 200.

On the fan bracket the blotchiness is if anything worse, again tending more toward blue.

Dang, I knew I forgot something… I don’t have a comparison of ISO 320 & ISO 320. πŸ˜†

Now, ISO 400:

I just wanted to include this so you can see color noise start to take over and cloud these issues at and beyond 400.

Interestingly, it seems that other multiples of ISO 160(e.g. 640 and 1250) look better than the settings immediately above and below each. You can download all of the screenshots that I did or didn’t post above from here.

From there I made some virtual copies and started to play.

Raised 2 stops:

It’s not at all uncommon to want to “lift the shadows”, the above shows the color noise added to the ISO 320 capture when the exposure is raised 2 stops. The ISO 160 capture is still looking pretty good.

Raised 2 stops +NR:

In these I adjusted NR on both photos, a quick & dirty adjustment to just knock the noise back in each to about the same point. There is a significant subjective element here, right or wrong here are the adjustments made in LR 3.4:

ISO 320: Luminance 61 Detail 50 Contrast 0 Color 23 Detail 50
ISO 160: Luminance 26 Detail 50 Contrast 0 Color 19 Detail 50

No other adjustments were made. Looking back as I type this, this is very surprising. I don’t think I’ve used a luminance adjustment over 40 or so more than a couple of times in the past. I wasn’t really looking at the numbers, just trying to get the noise levels similar on both. This really says something about the ISO 160 result, that I had to go so far to get similar – looking results in the 320 shot. On the one hand I probably crushed a bit of detail in the process, but I was impressed at how clean and detailed the radiator fins are at 160! Also the mounting bolt above the connector – much more detailed. I just went back as I am typing this and played with the slider on the 320 capture and there really isn’t much more detail than shown – just noise.

Raised 2 stops +NR then dropped 2 stops:

I’m not even sure why I did this. πŸ˜† I could have managed with less NR in this area, I just wanted to see what it would look like in the shadows with that same NR, for example if I was paying attention to NR on another, brighter part of the image and this was getting NR’ed at the same time. It’s hard to see the difference but on the ISO 160 capture there is a smoother gradation of tones on the motor and the red blotchiness that the NR added to the arm directly in front of the motor on the ISO 320 shot is absent.

I’m sure there are any number of people who can look at this and say exactly why and how everything shown here comes to pass. Or maybe not, these captures were intended as a practical look and probably lack the precision of light source and capture target needed for a proper scientific evaluation. Still, I think we would all welcome comments from anyone with knowledge gleaned from really *good* tests. :cheesy:

If anyone wants to play with the original files(ideally, preparatory to commenting and sharing findings here) I have made those available as well. Processing and comparisons with other RAW converters welcome, especially RPP if you have it… I’ve sort of made my choice already among the PC-compatible converters and I think I know what to expect from them. The JPEGs are straight LR3.4 exports with no adjustments as described above, also no resizing, quality reduction, or sharpening on export.

Links:
JPEGs
RAW and XMP files

I’m not sure when I’ll have time to get to my follow-up tests, so don’t wait for me. Go do your own testing to determine what gives you the most satisfying results, and feel free to comment with your findings!
:cheers:

Note: The results of this test were first posted on page three of this Dyxum thread. There is lots of good info and links in that thread for anyone wishing to dig deeper into this subject.

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Setting up an 8″ Reflector Telescope for Astrophotography http://dave-anderson-photo.com/blog/2011/03/29/setting-up-an-8-reflector-telescope-for-astrophotography/ http://dave-anderson-photo.com/blog/2011/03/29/setting-up-an-8-reflector-telescope-for-astrophotography/#comments Wed, 30 Mar 2011 04:00:07 +0000 http://dave-anderson-photo.com/blog/?p=295 I received an awesome birthday gift from my wife last fall, an Orion XT8 Dobsonian reflector. I’ve had a bit of fun with it just stargazing, but eventually that wasn’t enough and I wanted to try photographing with it. I had some minor success with eyepiece projection photography as in the Moon and Jupiter shots below. The thing is, the specs listed on the label are just too interesting to pass up. As a prime focus lens, it’s a 1200mm f/5.9 optic. Who could resist trying to see what they could make of that?

Initial experiments with eyepiece projection on an Orion XT8 Dobsonian telescope with a 25mm Plossl eyepiece and a 2x barlow, magnification 96x projected onto 35mm full-frame sensor.

Initial experiments with eyepiece projection on an Orion XT8 Dobsonian telescope with a 25mm Plossl eyepiece and a 2x barlow, magnification 96x projected onto 35mm full-frame sensor. Subject is Jupiter.

The biggest problem that I had initially was that the camera overbalanced the telescope, meaning that if I let go of the scope it would tilt forward under the weight of the camera. Because of this, it was hard to get sharp images. The above shots were essentially handheld in that some shake was introduced by my holding onto the scope tube. Later I obtained a 5lb. sandbag and mounted it with a bungee to the scope which temporarily fixed the balance problem. I had ideas for improving the method of counterbalancing the scope but that would have to wait until I proved the feasibility of the whole setup.

Test Counterweight

Eyepiece projection can be a bit fiddly as the collection of pieces below(or equivalent) must be assembled to the focuser and it’s very difficult to fine-adjust the camera-to-eyepiece distance for focus. This is the Orion P/N 05127 Tele-extender shown with a 25mm eyepiece between the two halves of the tele-extender.

Orion P/N 05127 Tele-extender

The eyepiece is inserted into the left-side piece of the extender and secured with the thumbscrew pictured. This is then inserted into the focuser on the scope and focused on the object to be photographed. The right-side piece of the extender is threaded onto a T-mount adapter on the camera then slipped over the other piece of the extender which is mounted on the scope, and the screws lined up with the slots. The camera is then moved closer to or further from the eyepiece to adjust focus then eventually locked down when the correct focus is achieved. The first two pictures in this blog post were captured with the setup shown.

For the most part balancing the scope properly resolved a lot of the motion blur — I think — but it was so hard to achieve focus that I never saw any significant improvement over my initial attempts. Motion blur seemed to be replaced by chronic focus errors — it seems I lucked out on my first attempt. What I need to do for eyepiece projection attempts in the future is come up with a way to fine-adjust the camera-eyepiece distance. The thumbscrew setup pictured just doesn’t cut it IMO. Additionally, I don’t find the pictures to be particularly sharp at the edges; it might take more than I’m willing to invest in eyepieces to surmount this issue.

Next I decided to investigate using the telescope at prime focus. That is, use the telescope as a camera lens with no eyepiece. One big advantage of this approach is that there are no refracting surfaces(lenses) in the scope, only reflecting surfaces(mirrors) so there should be no chromatic aberrations. Another advantage is that there is only one focus adjustment, where with eyepiece projection one must focus the eyepiece and the camera separately. A disadvantage is I will end up with less magnification, but the picture quality might improve enough to make up for this, at least to some degree. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, eh? :) Besides, I can always drop in a 2x or 3x apochromatic barlow.

The first thing I needed was a prime focus adapter, Orion P/N 05270 which is nothing but a standard T-mount thread on a short barrel designed to mount in place of a 2″ eyepiece, with a standard filter thread as used on 2″ eyepieces on the end opposite the T-mount. This piece needs to be as short as possible to bring the camera close enough to the scope to allow infinity focus:

Orion P/N 05270 Prime Focus Adapter

Obtaining this cheap, seemingly inconsequential piece was a source of great annoyance. I ordered from the counter at the local Orion store, paid in advance, and for a couple of months the story every time I called was that it would arrive in a week or two. The expected arrival would come and pass, I would call again and the story was again “in a week or two”. I finally contacted an Orion Distributor who had the piece on the shelf and had it shipped to me within a couple of days. I suspect that they divert shipments from their stores to their distributors or to online sales from their own website. If I hadn’t been so busy in other aspects of my life I would have done this much sooner, but with the added disincentive of poor weather during the winter months I let it slide. The Orion store refunded my money without issue.

Since I picked this up it has disappeared from their catalog. :facepalm:

I attached this adapter to the only T-mount adapter that I had, and could not focus anywhere near infinity.

The adapter is actually a Minota MD-T adapter, attached to an Alpha-MD adapter. I had cut out the extra element on the A-MD adapter and opened up the mount as far as possible for use on an M42 bellows setup.Stacked Adapters

I tried just holding the bare camera mount over the fully retracted focuser and it quickly became obvious that the original focuser that came with the scope was much too long. I could not bring distant objects into focus. What was needed was a focuser that could retract further toward the main tube of the scope.

Here is the original focuser that came with the scope:

Original Orion Focuser

Here you can see the minimum height of the original focuser is 2-3/4″ from the main tube of the scope:

Original Focuser Height

I decided to try replacing the focuser with a Orion 2″ Low-Profile Dual-Speed Crayford Focuser, P/N 13030. It’s the lowest-profile Crayford I could find, and has a nice roller-bearing movement and an 11:1 fine adjust. Unfortunately, the mounting scheme left something to be desired. The focuser does mount right up to the scope, but the way the mounting plate is designed it holds the focuser quite some distance from the tube:

Crayford focuser installed per instructions

A quick measurement indicated I had only picked up about 1/4″ and a trial with the camera indicated that this was nowhere near enough:

Crayford focuser installed per instructions

Not one to give up easily, I decided to look into alternatives. You may have noticed in the pic above, there is quite a bit of room to move the focuser inward and still have the focus knobs clear the tube. Next step, take it apart to see if it can be moved inward far enough to focus at infinity. πŸ˜€

Loosening set screw

There are four set screws in the mounting plate. Once they are all loose, the mounting plate slips off:

Plate removal

Here is the bare focuser, if necessary I was prepared to start with just this and toss the bracket:

Bare Focuser

I mounted it temporarily by attaching the mounting plate inside the tube then inserting the focuser back into the plate. Even though I couldn’t mount the plate properly due to misaligned mounting holes, I could see that this brought the focuser over an inch closer to the tube than with the original focuser:

Focuser trial fitting

It appeared that there would be enough clearance to turn the focus knobs, though with the mounting plate misaligned it looked a bit ugly at this point:

Focuser knob clearance

Finally, I took the scope outside and confirmed that I could focus on the moon, just not with my stacked adapter — though I could do so with the lens mount held against the focuser(no adapter). I couldn’t focus properly as the focuser was askew and it was difficult to hold the camera steady with no mechanical connection. The good news was I could tell that I finally had enough range in front of and behind the proper focus point that it was going to work, though I would need a shorter adapter. :cheesy:

The next step was to void the warrany — er… — to machine down the backside of the plate a bit. :roll: The holes were drilled in such a way as to make for a very poor place to put a nut and washer; it would have been on the side of the curved profile. I cut this away just enough so that I could take up any uneven surface with a rubber washer or similar:

Modified mounting plate

Then I painted the exposed aluminum black to minimize reflections:

Modified mounting plate, painted

Here is the hardware that I used. The “bonded sealing washers” are cupped washers with about a 1/8″ thick layer of rubber vulcanized to the concave side. I figured that these would help compensate for irregularities in the mounting surfaces.

Mounting hardware

This photo shows the new hardware(top) and the original hardware(bottom). I wanted zero chance of hardware dropping on the mirror, so I used nylock nuts.

Mounting hardware

I used a hole punch to elongate the holes for mounting the focuser mounting plate. Anything that cuts metal will work here, but I chose the punch since it would not get shavings inside the scope.

Widening mounting holes

As you can see here, I only had to elongate the holes a little bit:

Widened mounting holes

Next I mounted the plate firmly in position, tightening it snugly but not so tight as to deform the tube:

Focuser mounting plate installed

Here is an inside view of the plate mounted. I didn’t get a good pic of the original holes in the backside of the plate but hopefully from this pic you can visualize the problem I would have faced if I had not machined the half-round profile off of the ends of the plate.

Focuser mounting plate installed(inside)

Next I installed the focuser on the plate. It was a bit fiddly getting to all four of the setscrews and I was anxious to finish and try it out. It may look like it was simple getting to this point but this was actually a few weeks from when I first tried to fit the new focuser due to other priorities.

Installing focuser on plate

Focuser installed:

Focuser installed

You can see how close the focus knobs are to the main tube:

Focus knob clearance

The focuser is almost an inch closer to the tube than the original:

Focuser to tube measurement

This still wasn’t enough though. While I could get infinity focus holding the bare lens mount up against the focuser, my stacked adapters added too much to the back focus distance. The extra length was never an issue when used on my bellows, only a benefit. Here is the stacked adapter setup to compare with the pics that follow: :

Stacked Adapters

What I ended up doing was having Pete Ganzel modify a chipped A-M42 adapter by installing a T-thread insert. With this setup I am adding only a small fraction of an inch to the backfocus distance:

Modified M42 Adapter

Modified M42 Adapter

I use a 3rd-party 2″ eyepiece cover as a dust cover for the adapter:

Dust Cover

Here is the camera mounted to the focuser with the short adapter. Note that the focuser is extended about 1/4″. This is about the extension needed for infinity focus. Good thing I didn’t need any more room! πŸ˜€ Once I am 100% sure I will not need to remove the mounting plate I will carefully cover the inner nuts/washers with black paint.

Camera mounted to focuser

This is an earlier pic, shown with the stacked adapter but it shows the whole setup well enough that I didn’t bother to re-take the pic with the new adapter.

Orion XT8 Telescope modified with custom-mount low-profile focuser to enable use with DSLR. Effective 1200mm f/5.9 rigged as shown.

Here are some pics of the moon and sun taken using the final setup. These are half-size crops and while the downsized versions exhibit some artifacts along the bright edges, the originals are very sharp and clean. As always, you can click these or any other images in this blog post for larger sizes. Overall I’m pleased, though in the future I hope to use tethered shooting to help make sure I have sharp focus.

Moon shot with Orion XT8 Dobsonian reflector at prime focus(1200mm f/5.9) - Cropped to about 50% size
Sun Photographed with Orion XT8 Dobsonian reflector telescope at prime focus(1200mm f/5.9) - Cropped to about 50% size. Solar filter is polished glass triple-coated with nickel-chromium stainless steel and covers whole primary aperture of telescope. This coating blocks 99.999% of the light -- approx. equivalent to a ~16.5-stop ND filter.
Moon shot with Orion XT8 Dobsonian reflector at prime focus(1200mm f/5.9) - Cropped to about 50% size

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A couple of weeks with the Sony Ι‘55 http://dave-anderson-photo.com/blog/2010/12/06/a-couple-of-weeks-with-the-sony-a55/ Mon, 06 Dec 2010 23:12:19 +0000 http://www.dave-anderson-photo.net/blog/?p=135 I was reading through this article on cnet and the following statement sort of jumped out at me:

"Many people like the optical viewfinder, but from a technological point of view we think [translucent mirror designs] are better."

"Better" in what way, and according to who? Before the Sony SLT cameras hit the market I had never seen an EVF that I liked, and since I own a DSLR with what is arguably the best OVF in the business — the Ι‘900 — I found myself wondering about the direction that Sony will take with the Ι‘900/850 successor. The following post details my experiences and thoughts about this new “wonder-camera”.

There is quite a bit of commotion on various forums about hints that Sony has already produced the last of the high-end cameras with pentaprisms. There is certainly a lot of interest in the Ι‘33/Ι‘55, but it seems that I am not alone in my willingness to pay extra for a top-notch camera with an excellent OVF. Many of those interested on pro forums like GetDPI.com are buying just to play with a new toy and have no intention of going all-EVF in their kit. I have already voted for OVF with my $$$, but the camera will not last forever and it will need to be replaced at some point. What is there for me to look forward to in the future of A-mount? From the statement below it seems that Sony has already decided that "serious photographers" will have to be satisfied with EVFs if they are to continue using their Ι‘-Mount lenses:

"Based on initial feedback and our own study, we have decided to utilize this unique technology for an advanced model of the amount camera," Turo Katsumoto, head of Sony’s Alpha business, said at a press conference at the Photokina show here. "We are confident this camera will satisfy the needs of serious photographers."

I am very skeptical that such a camera will satisfy my needs and in the interests of forming an informed opinion I arranged to rent an Ι‘55 for about a week in mid-October for a multi-day event where I planned to shoot with it alongside my Ι‘900, both day and nighttime shooting. My intent was not to directly compare IQ but to evaluate how the EVF worked out for me in real-world circumstances. Unfortunately the camera shipped late and I was not able to use it for the event.

When it did arrive, the very first thing that I noticed taking it out of the box is that it is really a tiny camera. The first thing I did was started the battery charging. In the interests of giving the EVF system the best chance I started off with my venerable Minolta 85 f/1.4(most light to the sensor) and experimented with how it felt in the hands and took a couple of shots of the setup using my phone(sorry about the poor iPhone picture quality):

Ι‘55 with 85 f/1.4
Note: All images on this page will open a larger version in a new tab/window when clicked.

Ι‘55 with 85 f/1.4

Now, I have fairly large hands, but not unusually large for my 6′ frame. I was unable to grip the camera with all of my fingers, my pinky ended up curling under the camera body. After about 15 minutes fooling with the camera that finger started to become pretty sore. I was able to mitigate this somewhat by supporting the lens with my other hand but I really feel that Sony should have considered adding a grip option for the camera.

The next thing that I noticed is that the power switch is close enough to the same location relative to the shutter button as the front control wheel is on my Ι‘900. I can’t even begin to guess at how many times I inadvertently powered the camera down when I wanted to make an adjustment. I’m sure this is something that anyone could get used to but I for one prefer the power switch on the left as on the Ι‘900.

Once the battery was charged up I installed it along with a 16GB SD-HC card. I then installed a generic Wimberly dovetail plate and noticed another gotcha: The plate blocks access to the battery/card door. If I was planning to own the camera I would cut the plate down or find a smaller one. The Wimberly plate is designed with a gentle curve in it that ensures that the ends of the plate engage the camera body with useful force though, so it might be necessary to tighten the shortened plate a bit more than you should otherwise have to. Also you would lose the safety bolt on the one side that is intended to keep the camera from slipping out of a loosened clamp. I suppose this sort of thing is to be expected on such a compact camera.

Once I started shooting I was immediately reminded of why I have stayed away from APS-C. My 85mm basically became a 127mm and despite the larger-than-usual-for-APS-C viewfinder I felt very cramped. That’s a very personal thing though, if you’re used to APS-C, especially the Sony cams with the pentamirror-LV system, it will be an improvement in size. I found that in my home at night it as very difficult to track a cat moving across the living room because of the extreme EVF lag under these conditions. Remember, this was with a f/1.4 lens. If you’re wondering whether I could even get a shot in these conditions, the answer is “Yes”. With the Ι‘900 and a bounce flash, I can both frame and expose just fine. With the Ι‘55, not so much. In low light it takes the sensor so long to form an image that the EVF only refreshes 4-5 times per second(in my living room that is; conditions vary of course).

Another thing that I noticed right away is that in good light the EVF appears to be very washed-out. In very bright light it gets so bad due to light entering the VF that it’s difficult to frame your subject. This may vary depending on the shape of an individual’s face, whether one is wearing a hat, glasses, etc. I heard the same thing from Gary Friedman after spending a day shooting with him where he was using the Ι‘55. Certainly it’s better than an LCD like on the NEX, but at the same time it doesn’t solve the problem of shooting in bright light 100%.

Also, at the request of one of the other moderators on the Sony Camera Club Forum, I took a look at how well the EVF could pick out stars in the sky. Here is the response that I posted there:

Finally cleared up last night enough to try this. Actually after all of the rain it was VERY clear. Yes, I was able to see the bright stars in Orion through both the EVF and the LCD. Playing with DOF preview, they were very hard to pick out by f/5.6 and just about gone by f/8. With “normal” haze I would expect them to be just about gone by f/5.6.

Worth mentioning though, the display was gained way up, extremely noisy, and as a result the stars exhibited enough blooming that it was very difficult to get focus nailed, even with magnified LV.

Also, even with EVF brightness at minimum, after trying this I was blind in my shooting eye for about a minute and impaired for several minutes while my eye dark-adapted again. If I was trying to move around on a rocky hillside at this time it might have been a serious problem.

With initial impressions and basic tests out of the way, I went on to investigate one of my biggest concerns with the EVF, the ability to track fast action. I have had a great deal of success with OVF cameras, both film and the Ι‘900. The question I wanted to answer was, would the EVF lag that I assumed was there impact my ability to tightly frame and follow fast-moving race cars as I did when shooting the 2010 Monterey Historics? The majority of those shots were taken at the entrance to turn 5 at Laguna Seca, where most of the cars are slowing to around 100mph. Since I couldn’t get out to the track for my testing I chose a point along a local freeway where traffic normally moves at 70-75mph. I positioned myself on the frontage road – Arastradero Road – near the middle of this view, at a spot where the fence was relatively low and I could shoot over it(I had to do essentially the same at Laguna Seca). I was shooting all of these in 10FPS mode, auto-review off. My first and second attempts gave some indication of what was to follow:

After reviewing the first set, I could see that the camera was showing me where the car had been, not where it was, so the car tended to creep off to the right of the frame. In the second pic, I tried to compensate and ended up overcompensating. This next pic was a few attempts later. Note that for this type of pic I try to concentrate on the driver; that’s the part of the frame that I want to be sharpest and usually near the center. In this next shot I tried leading a bit to give the vehicle room to “move into the frame”. This time I managed about 8 shots before losing track due to the lag:

In this shot you can see a bit of the back-and-forth adjustments that have to be carried out to keep the subject centered – and the number of lost shots from the sequence due to never really knowing exactly what is going to be captured:

Somewhere around the middle of my testing I managed to nail one set — but only one set. I was not able to reproduce this effort. By this time I had stepped back from trying to shoot over the fence because I had found that awkward and I had decided that I was no longer concerned with the fence in the foreground or with focus, I was only worried about framing — having said that though the camera focused on the subject pretty well:

One side effect of this need to readjust while panning is that if you are readjusting your panning speed you are no longer following the subject, so there tends to be additional horizontal blur introduced while readjusting. Here is one such example:

The above photo was #6 in this sequence. Not the best sequence, but it illustrates the problem, which is visible in essentially all of the photos taken while I was trying to adjust for the lag.

Now, some will say that this is something that you just have to get used to. While that may be true, I found the effort to be a real chore and IMO getting so few well-tracked sequences out of 54 attempts is a real deal-killer for me unless Sony can make several quantum leaps in the performance by the time I am ready for a new camera. Actually the real number was closer to 70 attempts but I only posted 54. Many of the ones that I didn’t post were interrupted by a full buffer, having been attempted too soon after one of the long sequences that I’ve posted. To give an idea of the number of attempts made, consider this image:

Note that I made a Photoshop action to compile these grids… and it still took quite a bit of time. If you disagree with these results, or are convinced I was doing something wrong or that you can do better, don’t just say so – post a link to your examples. If you want a copy of the PS actions they are here. The full gallery with all of my results is here.

The “Contrast Loss” that physics says must be present because of the design of the beam-splitting mirror is so slight as to be very difficult to measure. I shot a number of test shots with the 135mm f/1.8Z, 70-400G, and 28-35 f/4-4.5(three of the four ways I could get to 135mm and compare my sharpest lens with others) but even with the MF-check LV it was very difficult to get the identical focus point between shooting with mirror in vs. mirror out. Some folks online pointed out the focus errors that I had missed since I was directing my attention at the point where I had focused in the images, and the differences in focus were only apparent by looking at the rest of the image. I re-shot the tests and found that with variations in focus point — even when shooting with the greatest of care — make it very hard to determine if there is a visible difference or not. At a certain point I realized that could only see at most a difference of 2 or 3 on the RGB scale of 0-255. Well within the range of human error/metering error at the shooting stage. I don’t have the tools or the patience to dig any deeper. Kudos to Sony for doing such a great job of minimizing this contrast loss.

Overall, I think this is a fine camera for what it is intended to be — an upgrade for users of higher-end P&S cameras and/or a midrange DSLR-like camera packed with convenient features(especially for this price point). If you don’t normally shoot in contrasty conditions, extremely dark conditions where dark-adaptation is important or fast action where the EVF is a greater hindrance than help, this camera is worth a look for its great IQ and feature set. The 10FPS capability may be just what you need for situations where the subject is not moving too quickly across the frame or where you are happy with framing your subject very loosely to compensate for the EVF shortcomings. Picking up the camera in a store and looking through the viewfinder for 30 seconds is not going to tell the whole tale.

Note: The pros and cons listed below are solely my opinions and the fact that I found more cons than pros simply reflects what is important to me(minus some things I left out because they are rare at this price point, like dual control wheels). Different photographers will of course have different priorities. I did not delve into video, in-camera HDR/Pano/etc. I am not a professional camera reviewer, but even if I were I would still suggest that you get your hands on the camera and make your own assessment. If you have any doubts at all going in, consider renting one.

Pros:

  • Very compact and lightweight (maybe too much so for some)
  • Very quiet shutter
  • No mirror slap makes for sharper images when handheld at low shutter speeds
  • AF is snappy and responsive with most small lenses, though a bit underpowered with heavy lenses like the 1st-gen Minolta 80-200 f/2.8 APO.
  • Live histogram and other displays/grids in EVF is a bonus
  • Protruding eyepiece handy for those with large noses

Cons:

  • EVF lag makes tracking fast subjects a challenge and a chore.
  • EVF limited DR blows out highlights that will in fact be captured.
  • EVF limited DR obscures facial expressions when attempting backlit portraits with fill-flash
  • Small grip and overall size makes handling with any but the smallest lenses awkward.
  • Power switch is in a bad location(IMO), too easy to turn off when your intent is to spin the control wheel.
  • Unable to access battery or SD card with Wimberly standard dovetail plate installed(though you could cut a plate down).
  • EVF all but unusable when shooting UniWB
  • Flash as focus assist beam is very annoying for subjects and often results in subjects thinking picture has been taken and moving before the shutter fires.
  • EVF is a bit grainy for MF, though if speed is not an issue MF check magnification is available. Not so helpful for MF candids, handheld macro, etc.
  • EVF color tearing due to sequential refresh
  • EVF has a severe negative impact on dark-adapted vision(amateur astronomers will know what I mean by this, it can take 30 minutes or more to dark-adapt again)
  • Shooting menu not as streamlined as quick-nav on Ι‘700/850/900
  • Protruding eyepiece surround may fall off if carrying camera against your body with a strap – gets hung up on clothes when stooping over.
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A Day Trip to Yosemite http://dave-anderson-photo.com/blog/2010/10/22/a-day-trip-to-yosemite/ http://dave-anderson-photo.com/blog/2010/10/22/a-day-trip-to-yosemite/#comments Fri, 22 Oct 2010 18:07:34 +0000 http://dave-anderson-photo.com/blog/?p=219 On Oct 8, 2010 I went on a day trip to Yosemite with Tony Beach. I had never been there, Tony had not been there since he was a teenager. We set out to gain a bit of familiarity with the park, scout some locations for future shooting excursions, and just maybe get a few decent shots. We had a late start and a wrong turn on the way, also stopped for lunch along the way.

We didn’t start shooting until a bit after 4pm, at Bridal Veil Falls:

Bridal Veil Falls.
Note: All images on this page will open a larger version in a new tab/window when clicked.

One thing that is not always obvious from pics of Yosemite is that it is a very narrow valley with the rock features towering over visitors. For the following shot I really embraced the perspective distortion of a 20mm lens on full-frame to capture a sense of this:

Looking up through the trees

Aside from perspective distortion, there is another “aberration” that many consider a scourge, but that I sometimes embrace; that is lens flare. Sometimes it may ruin a shot, but in this case I felt that it would help lead the eye down the valley, giving a sense of scale and splendor while at the same time balancing the tendency for the path to lead the eye straight to the bicyclist. One nice thing about going on a Friday is that the park is not terribly crowded, but it can still be a challenge at times to include footpaths or roads without including tourists. πŸ˜€

Lens flare can be your friend

The next shot, taken across a meadow, is one of those shots where the light was just too incredible to not shoot it, yet despite my best effort something is lost. The late afternoon light on these trees was simply amazing. Breathtaking is a better word. Yet, while I feel that my exposure was as good as it could be, and I pulled as much out of the RAW as I could without making the saturation look artificial, much was lost in translation. There is really no substitute for being there, and I encourage anyone with the means to go visit the park, or at least put a visit on their “bucket list”.

Not doing the light justice

Shot from a bit further down the road, this image of “The Prow” and Halfdome is beginning to show the sort of “golden hour” light that inspires me to strive to become a better photographer. I would have been happy to stay and capture the final play of light on these features, but there was more to see.

'The Prow' on the left, Half Dome on the right.

This next pic was taken from the same location as the pic above, I simply turned around and shot what was behind me. This rock face was in shadow so was predominantly blue and fairly low contrast, but a conversion to B&W saved it and brought out the detail in the rock.

B&W conversion saves 'too cool' photo

These last two shots of El Capitan alone made the trip worthwhile. Unfortunately, because of the way the images have to scale to fit the blog theme they lose a lot of detail. Click the pictures to get a good look. On this first pic I was able to get away with deeper saturation, bringing out the early evening light.

El Capitan

I like this image more, even though I had to back off a bit on the saturation because of the undesirable effects that became evident in the trees that frame El Capitan. I think that it’s because of the trees framing the dome that I like it so much. Next time I’ll expose at a higher ISO, at least 250 but probably 320, which should give me a lot more freedom to manipulate.

El Capitan

I hope you enjoyed this little peek at Yosemite. I hope to return frequently and when I do I will share my images here. It’s taken me a while to get this blog post up – life has been a bit crazy lately. I’ll be in touch with Tony to see if he is OK with having some of his captures posted here.

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Gabor aka “panopeeper”… a great and well respected man, Rawnalyze author. RIP. http://dave-anderson-photo.com/blog/2010/08/23/gabor-rawnalyze-author-rip/ http://dave-anderson-photo.com/blog/2010/08/23/gabor-rawnalyze-author-rip/#comments Tue, 24 Aug 2010 06:04:21 +0000 http://dave-anderson-photo.com/blog/?p=163 Those words — “great and well respected man” -resonated with me. I did not know Gabor personally but some who did spread the word of his demise, fanning out from this dpreview.com thread. His username there was “panopeeper” thus the alias. I first heard of it when Joseph S. Wisniewski posted about it in the dpreview.com open talk Forum here(I do not frequent the Canon forums). It is very sad to hear of someone so helpful and generous passing, even if I reaped the rewards of his generosity without ever having met him. Rest in Peace Gabor, and thank you for your great achievement of creating and distributing such a valuable tool(Rawnalyze) that furthers the understanding of the workings of digital photography.

I realized that I had a later version of Rawnalyze than Joseph did so I put it on one of my servers and posted a link. Shortly after that, Richard Krenn sent me an even later version. I have scanned both files both with McAfee Viruscan Enterprise 8.5.0i and PC Tools Internet Security 7.0.0.543 then generated MD5 checksums of each file, then zipped each file with its MD5 and generated MD5s of the resulting zipfiles. If all of that just sounds like so much gobbledygook, suffice to say that I am ensuring that anyone can verify at a later date whether the files they have are the same as the ones I am hosting here. This cuts both ways. If anyone can show that these files have been tampered with we have a way of identifying the tampered version. If these are not tampered with then we have a good reference point. Please, if you have your own copies of any of the versions listed below and you get a different MD5 than I did, please contact me ASAP so we can figure out what’s going on.

Having said all of that scary stuff, I am highly confident that version 2.10.1.0 below has not been tampered with. I downloaded it myself from Gabor’s site.

The download links and MD5s for 2.10.1.0 follow:
Rawnalyze_2.10.1.0.zip
Rawnalyze_2.10.1.0.md5
MD5s:
$ md5sum -b Rawnalyze_2.10.1.0.exe
b94df7febb61857ed2fc85260f99920e *Rawnalyze_2.10.1.0.exe
$ md5sum -b Rawnalyze_2.10.1.0.zip
08549fec0099ab39d24f9c4bd85bdc96 *Rawnalyze_2.10.1.0.zip

The 2.10.3.0 version was emailed to me by Richard Krenn shortly after I posted the link for 2.10.1.0, and I decided that I had better come up with a clear and unambiguous way to communicate where to find which version. More on that in a second, for now here is 2.10.3.0 which I virus-scanned just as thoroughly:

The download links and MD5s for 2.10.3.0 follow:
Rawnalyze_2.10.3.0.zip
Rawnalyze_2.10.3.0.md5
MD5s:
$ md5sum -b Rawnalyze_2.10.3.0.exe
f6d7e2086fd628e31a28b783bed15204 *Rawnalyze_2.10.3.0.exe
$ md5sum -b Rawnalyze_2.10.3.0.zip
9cc4b0a680d6432717063582b315bf95 *Rawnalyze_2.10.3.0.zip

The 2.10.4.0 version was emailed to me by Alexey Danilchenko on 8/28, here it is scanned, tested, checksummed and packaged as with the above versions. Thanks Alexey!

The download links and MD5s for 2.10.4.0 follow:
Rawnalyze_2.10.4.0.zip
Rawnalyze_2.10.4.0.md5
MD5s:
$ md5sum -b Rawnalyze_2.10.4.0.exe
843f829e61a7bcef06cbf7febeec374c *Rawnalyze_2.10.4.0.exe
$ md5sum -b Rawnalyze_2.10.4.0.zip
28bc19df17727f6b672453fb9f7c092f *Rawnalyze_2.10.4.0.zip
$

Documentation:
Charles Vassallo posted a link in comments to a mirror that he put up of the Rawnalyze documentation. His copy of the documentation can be found here.

So, there is no way of knowing at this time what the future of Rawnalyze is. Hopefully development can progress, because each new camera model in the future that has an unexpected RAW format not handled by Rawnalyze will diminish the usefulness of this tool until it fades away. I really don’t want to see that happen. I am posting this message into a skeleton of a blog that has not been fully styled yet, and there are still some occasional glitches since I have this blog and site wrapped around SmugMug. It’s not pretty yet as I am still working on the underpinnings and haven’t spared much thought for the aesthetics. Please don’t take the rough look to be an indication that I’m not serious about sticking around. The site and domain are paid up for 5 years. :) If you link to this blog be sure to leave off the “www” or the link will just lead to a SmugMug error page. Later I will make it easier for people to find their way back to this page.

So, one final note. I really don’t want anything from this, other than for people to be able to access what was freely given, by Gabor. It is my sincere hope that Joseph or some other good soul will pick up the pieces and move Rawnalyze forward. Should that transpire, this page will become obsolete and I will gladly cooperate with the new owner of the IP to update it with links that point to Rawnalyze’s new home. Until then, I’m happy to host any new versions that are found and pass the same level of scrutiny as the above.

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Shooting at the 2010 Monterey Historics http://dave-anderson-photo.com/blog/2010/08/21/shooting-at-the-2010-monterey-historics/ http://dave-anderson-photo.com/blog/2010/08/21/shooting-at-the-2010-monterey-historics/#comments Sat, 21 Aug 2010 16:03:17 +0000 http://dave-anderson-photo.com/blog/?p=136 I went on a drive/outing with a few fellow NorCal 928’ers to the Monterey Historics on Aug. 14, 2010. Of course I wanted to take my camera and get some shots. I love old machinery, especially old cars so combining this with photography was a double bonus.



Car #7, 1924 Bugatti Type 13(1500cc), Goy Feltes(L-5380Uebersyren,), 29th Place, Best Race Lap: 02:44.214 (Race Group 4A, Bugatti Grand Prix)

This was my first outing with the 70-400G and monopod head:
RRS Monopod head with Sony 70-400G
Note: All images on this page will open a larger version in a new tab/window when clicked.

On my last trip out to Laguna Seca I had found that my 80-200 f/2.8 APO was too short at times(the pic below was cropped to only ~2600 pixels wide):

Car #62, Ferrari 430 GT(GT2), Melo/Bruni, 8th Overall(225 Laps) 4th in Class, Qualifying Time 1:22.752, Best Race Lap 1:24.133  Car #3, Corvette ZR1(GT2), Magnussen/O'Connell, 10th Overall(224 Laps) 6th in Class, Qualifying Time 1:23.201, Best Race Lap 1:24.118

At the other end, where the 80-200 was way too short, the 500 f/8 was often too long(uncropped):

Car #02, Ferrari 430 GT(GT2), Brown/Cosmo, 28th Overall(194 Laps) 12th in Class, Qualifying Time 1:23.394, Best Race Lap 1:24.055

The Sony 70-400G f/4-5.6 fills the gap perfectly for me, and while this time I was in a different location on the track working on my panning technique I found the G lens was absolutely up to the task. One of the challenges at this track is finding a place to shoot over or through the fence. Fortunately I am about 6′ tall and I found a spot near the entrance to turn 5 where the fence was low enough for me to shoot over.

I was experimenting with different things, and at one point was in aperture priority when a guy walked over and started asking me about what mode I was shooting in. He then proceeded to tell me that I had to be in shutter priority for this, then proceeded to imply that because he is a photojournalist I should listen to him. Well, he did seem to know technically what he was talking about but didn’t seem interested in the fact that I was getting acquainted with a new lens in my own way. To be fair he did offer some decent tips, like focus on the driver’s helmet and so on. Later he told me “You can’t pan with a monopod – you just can’t”. He then showed me his monopod with no tilt mechanism on it and while I could see how it would be tough to shoot over a fence and downhill with that particular monopod, I felt that I was getting some good shots so just nodded my head and smiled.

I’m not in the greatest of shape at the moment, certainly not up to several hours of shooting a 6lb camera/lens combo without some support. :) I don’t want to belabor the situation by going into a lot of detail on what was said and what I thought, because he seemed like a nice enough guy… just with his own perspective and ideas about the “right way” to do things and not much regard for what the recipient of all of his good advice may need to factor in. :) I only bring it up to put the following images(the ones that I couldn’t shoot from a monopod, but did) into their proper context. So, having said that, here are some of my favorites.

Car #28, 1958 Lister (3800cc), Terry Larson(Mesa, AZ), 10th Place, Best Race Lap: 01:53.346 (Race Group 3A, 1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars over 2000cc)
Cropped/straightened to about 5,000 pixels wide

Car #102, 1957 Aston Martin DBR2(3700cc), Gregory Whitten(Medina, WA), 17th Place, Best Race Lap: 02:07.341 (Race Group 3A, 1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars over 2000cc)
Cropped/straightened to about 5,000 pixels wide

Car #14, 1934 Bugatti Type 59(3300cc), Charles McCabe(San Francisco, CA), 3rd Place, Best Race Lap: 02:04.421 (Race Group 4A, Bugatti Grand Prix)
Cropped/straightened to about 5,700 pixels wide. The original, at 1:1, has so much detail you can make out individual chain links on the brake mechanism.

I sorely needed this practice. Remember, I am fairly new to DSLR use, and I didn’t shoot these type events with film in the past because of the expense. Sort of a Catch-22, you have to burn the film to get the skills to get the shots to get someone to hire you and pay for the film to get the shots… :) I found that for these cars which were probably doing 70-90 mph at this location near the entrance to turn 5, shutter speeds in the 1/50 to 1/80 range worked well. For me at least, the key to getting good shots was to pay very close attention to how I pivoted around the monopod. What I did was focus on pivoting the camera precisely on the axis of the monopod while swinging my upper body(and eye glued to the viewfinder) in an arc to follow the camera.

I found that I had a tendency to try keeping my face stationary and swing the camera around, but that doesn’t work well. The camera and tripod end up describing a sort of strange arc, shaped like half of a cone with the tip where the tripod touches the ground. Worse, the wide end of that cone is itself a compound arc with both pitch and yaw components. Based on my limited experience, I’d say if you want to pan using a monopod the key things to remember are:

  • Treat the monopod like an axle; the camera pivots on this without the monopod leaving the axis of rotation. Tilt the monopod away from the axis of rotation and you have trouble staying on target.
  • Tilting the monopod head up or down too far will result in you having to move the monopod off-axis to keep the subject composed. It’s handy to have some adjustment here, but don’t abuse it by trying to pan too far above or below your position.
  • Keep the shutter speed low, depending on the speed of your subject. The examples above have features which are blurred across almost 5% of the frame. Too much more than that and it gets really hard to keep the subject in focus – too much less and you lose the sense of speed.

Other than that, just shoot, look at your results, shoot some more, rinse & repeat. As I processed the photos on my large monitor at home, I could see my progress as I improved over a few hours of shooting. You can read about it, think about it, but practicing it is the surest road to improvement. πŸ˜€

Here are a few more pics from the day.

Car #68, 1925 Bugatti Type 35A(2300cc), David B. Duthu(Seabrook, TX), 10th Place, Best Race Lap: 02:13.200 (Race Group 4A, Bugatti Grand Prix)

Car #7, 1924 Bugatti Type 13(1500cc), Goy Feltes(L-5380Uebersyren,), 29th Place, Best Race Lap: 02:44.214 (Race Group 4A, Bugatti Grand Prix)

Car #118, 1966 Ford GT 40(4737cc), 18-Nick Colonna(Palos Verdes Estates, CA), 17th Place, Best Race Lap: 01:46.368 (Race Group 5A, 1964-1969 FIA Mfg. Championship Cars)
The above is an example of a much higher shutter speed and a reduction in the sense of motion. This was inadvertent, as I zoomed way in to 400mm and set the shutter to 1/400 to zoom in on an accident scene at the opposite end of the track, and I got to talking with someone and forgot to reset it to a lower speed. Note that there is some motion in the wheels, but nowhere near the sense of speed as the pics using a lower shutter speed.

Car #128, 1968 Ford Mustang(4949cc), 28-Nick DeVitis(Sammamish, WA), 11th Place, Best Race Lap: 01:46.586 (Race Group 7A, 1966-1972 Trans Am)

Car #22, 1968 Ford Mustang(5000cc), Gary Goeringer(Nipomo, CA), 4th Place, Best Race Lap: 01:45.155 (Race Group 7A, 1966-1972 Trans Am)

Car #77, 1970 Dodge Challenger(5000cc), Ken Epsman(Saratoga, CA), 3rd Place, Best Race Lap: 01:45.587 (Race Group 7A, 1966-1972 Trans Am)

If you want to see more, I have posted ~280 pics and a video in the main event gallery here and I have as of this writing made a first pass through creating a gallery of favorites or “Picks” here.

On a more personal note, I’ve toured Bruce Canepa’s automotive museum, and found him to be a very nice, friendly guy who is happy to show and talk about his collection. It was cool to see Bruce out driving one of the very few Porsche 917-K racecars and — no surprise — winning the Group 5A class he entered it in. It was interesting to have met and chatted with Bruce, then later watched him run two excellent races, one in the 917-K and one in the Dan Gurney #2 Mustang. It will be interesting to see what he makes of these pictures:

Car #2, 1969 Porsche 917K(4900cc), Bruce Canepa(Scotts Valley, CA), 1st Place, Best Race Lap: 01:31.747 (Race Group 5A, 1964-1969 FIA Mfg. Championship Cars)
Car #2, 1969 Porsche 917K(4900cc), Bruce Canepa(Scotts Valley, CA), 1st Place, Best Race Lap: 01:31.747 (Race Group 5A, 1964-1969 FIA Mfg. Championship Cars)

The 917-K is widely regarded as one of the greatest race cars of all time, and it’s one of my personal wet-dream cars; doubly so after watching the Steve McQueen classic Le Mans decades ago. The video below is some footage from inside the cockpit during this race:

Here is an older video showing the G-forces involved, with better sound:

Bruce also won the Group 7A class where he had entered this gorgeous Dan Gurney 1969 Mustang:

Car #102, 1969 Ford Mustang(4949cc), 2-Bruce Canepa(Scotts Valley, CA), 1st Place, Best Race Lap: 01:45.154 (Race Group 7A, 1966-1972 Trans Am)
Car #102, 1969 Ford Mustang(4949cc), 2-Bruce Canepa(Scotts Valley, CA), 1st Place, Best Race Lap: 01:45.154 (Race Group 7A, 1966-1972 Trans Am)
Way to go, Bruce!

Another bit of history was the Ol’ Yaller VIII that appeared with Elvis Presley in “Viva Las Vegas”. As the linked article mentions, it sold in 2009 for about $200K. The combined history and the sheer cubic dollars involved at this event boggle the mind. If you’re anywhere near Monterey in Mid-August, and have any interest in cars, this is an event you won’t want to miss.

Car #8, 1961 Ol' Yeller MK 9(5358cc), Chris Hines(Scottsdale, AZ), 5th Place, Best Race Lap: 01:48.635 (Race Group 3A, 1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars over 2000cc)

I filled up all of my CF cards before Group 9A started. Note to self… get a couple more 16G cards before shooting at the races again. :)

I thought I’d try to capture some of the sound of the race using my iPhone4 to record some video. As with any lightweight video device it’s hard to hold steady and some sort of tripod attachment would help, but in a pinch it’s not too bad:

I’ve gone on long enough, hopefully you’ve found the tips that are buried in amongst all of the car talk useful. Until next time…

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Installing Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ballhead on TiltallΒ Tripod http://dave-anderson-photo.com/blog/2010/07/31/installing-rrs-ballhead-on-tiltall/ http://dave-anderson-photo.com/blog/2010/07/31/installing-rrs-ballhead-on-tiltall/#comments Sun, 01 Aug 2010 06:44:24 +0000 http://blog.dave-anderson-photo.com/?p=121 This weekend, having collected and fabricated the necessary parts, it was time to upgrade the head on the venerable Uniphot tripod that I purchased around 1988. The tripod has served me well for all these years, though really the dual-handle head tilt mechanism isn’t always ideal. Often it moves when tightening, and while I have learned to mentally compensate for this my recent forays into shooting panoramas have sometimes been frustrating because of this. Getting my node rail properly leveled was much more fiddly than it needed to be. I’m shooting longer lenses these days(and wider sometimes, but that’s another story). When trying, for example, to get a shot of the moon with a 500mm lens the tiny bit of movement upon tightening the head makes for quite a shift in the image centering. Below are some details and pics…

To start the conversion I purchased a replacement center column from Gary Regester here. I also purchased a Really Right Stuff BH-55, though this mod would provide a more stable platform for any large ballhead.

Next I needed a plate to not only provide a stable support for the base of the ballhead, but to allow the column to bottom out on the rubber bumper inside my custom strap fitting without metal-to-metal contact. Below are all of the pieces that I needed to make the change.

Pieces ready for assembly

Basic Assembly, ready for ballhead.

In the first pic above, there is the new column from Gary, but the stud that he provides in the column end plug has been removed and the plug bored out to 3/8″ and deburred. The bottom side of the new mounting plate has a .200″ deep pocket in it so the end plug will not protrude and get hung up in the strap fitting. This column was about 0.006″ larger in diameter than my original column so I needed to hone away some material from the ID of my strap fitting, the black piece on the lower left of the first pic. Also pictured, the grade 8, 3/8-16×1.25 bolt and grade 8 washers that hold it all together and the socket with extensions I used to position the bolt in the hole and then tighten it to the ballhead. The second pic shows these pieces assembled and ready for the ballhead.

Ballhead installed on column

Above, the ballhead has been installed and tightened down.

Everything comes together…

Below, some overview pics of the fully reassembled tripod and ballhead. I was fortunate that my custom end plug with strap fitting and leg retention fingers fit the threads in the new column. I could have modified the one Gary sent if needed, but I was spared the trouble. Sorry about the P&S camera output, but it gets the point across…

Ready to carry on a shoot(minus the cordura drawstring cover that comes with the ballhead)

Front oblique view

Rear View

Here are some closer views of the head and tripod.

Side view showing main clamp knob and lever release on ballhead, column rotate lock on tripod.

Side view showing, top to bottom, tension knob, rotation brake, column lift lock.

Rear View, showing tension numeric indicator

One of the reasons for the upgrade - Sony 70-400G lens with a900... ~5.5 lbs.

First impressions:

This ballhead is a night-and-day improvement over the original Tiltall head. I haven’t even shot any pictures with the setup yet, but I have played with it some. With slight tension on the ballhead, I can position the camera easily without having it flop around. A quick twist of the main clamp knob on the ballhead, using very light force, and the ballhead is locked solid as if it were welded in place, even with this fairly heavy lens and camera(Sony a900 with 70-400G, ~5.5 lbs). A bit more of a twist and I’m sure something else would break before it moved.

I have lived with the shortcomings of the original head for many years, because once locked down it was very stable and overall the tripod has been trouble-free. With this upgrade I think I’m going to be very happy. The one downside is that with such a shiny ballhead on it, now I want to grab a toothbrush and clean the dirt build-up from the rest of the tripod. πŸ˜€

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About My Tiltall tripods… http://dave-anderson-photo.com/blog/2010/03/29/about-my-tiltall-tripods/ http://dave-anderson-photo.com/blog/2010/03/29/about-my-tiltall-tripods/#comments Tue, 30 Mar 2010 03:49:54 +0000 http://blog.dave-anderson-photo.com/?p=40 This subject was the catalyst for me to set up a blog. Gary Regester has a terrific page dedicated to the history of Tiltall Tripods plus sources for updated center columns, spare parts, etc. here and a Tiltall-specific blog here. I contacted Gary to point out some differences between the knowledge posted on the two sites above and my own observations based on the tripod that I bought new about 20 years ago, also to share some enhancements I have made with the help of my brother. Gary suggested that I provide links to my blog so that I could offer these enhancements to “The Cult of Tiltall” followers. Funny thing is, I didn’t have a blog at the time. πŸ˜€

Well, here is that info. I have not yet spoken with my brother about producing the parts in quantity, if there is sufficient interest I will do so. Before proceeding I will need to understand the specific differences between Tiltall variations that would affect fitment of these parts, so if I have anything wrong please let me know.

Also in this post I will show the Leitz version that I picked up recently for about $40 that was manhandled and needs some TLC, along with my observations as to how it differs from my Uniphot model.

First off I want to say that I have been extremely satisfied with my Tiltall over the past 20 years. It’s a bit more fiddly than a high-end ballhead in that often the camera will move as the tilt handles are tightened down, but once tight it makes for an extremely stable platform.

What’s Different…

The first difference that I noted is that as far as I can tell, all of the tripods shown at the two links above(including the exploded diagram in the blog) have the same size knobs for column height and swing; either both are fat or both are thin; mine has one of each, which I find helpful to avoid loosening the wrong one. These are visible in the pics below. Neither has ever been replaced. Note the Leitz pictured further down this post that also has two knob profiles.

Secondly, the column base on my tripod had neither the hole like the Leitz/Marchioni version nor the 1/4-20 screw that appeared in later versions as shown here. My end cap is threaded 1-3/16×24, as near as I can measure.

Third, and perhaps of interest to the Cult of Tiltall, my tripod came with a monopod head as shown in the next two pictures. This cap has the same 1-3/16×24 threads as the column plug and a leather hand strap. Below are three photos that show what this piece looks like.

Monopod Adapter, oblique view

Monopod Adapter, side view

Monopod Adapter, bottom view

The steel ring appears to have been manufactured with a round opening, at the time of assembly it appears that it was crushed into the groove in the aluminum head to keep it in place. The markings that can be seen on the exposed face of the steel ring are from use, where the top of the monopod tube binds against the ring. Anyone with a mechanical engineering background will tell you that this is less than ideal — there ought to be a washer there that provides a uniform bearing surface — but it seems to work well enough for the occasional, casual use that it’s seen under my care. I have more use for the monopod these days, so will be looking for a good tilt adapter and yes, a washer to prevent damage to the top of the monopod tube when tightening.

My custom carry strap setup…

My oldest brother is a machinist, specializing in custom designs, prototyping and short-run machining. He made up some pieces to address the lack of a quality carry strap for the Tiltall as well as a binocular mount(which may not fit all binoculars but will fit any tripod). I looked around at various straps, and decided that I liked the Bogen strap design. It’s wide, long enough, and has a nice threaded plug and swivel at the top. I’d rather not advertise for Bogen, but I really liked the plug/ring setup and I wanted something that I could possibly replace somewhere down the road, if I was going to have custom mounting hardware made up for it. Now, nearly 10 years later, the same strap is still available in camera stores.

I had tried a number of methods of carrying the tripod in my first 10 years with it. My first iteration was a simple camera strap, one loop around the column between the head and the crown and a second loop around the column near the bottom plug. The problem with this was, the loop around the lower part of the column would slide up the column sometimes, unbalancing the tripod and leading to a lot of cussing. Also, as detailed below, the legs had a tendency to flop around. I tried to mitigate this with a velcro loop but I had two of them blow away in the wind over the years.

I worked with my brother on this design with the intent of solving all of the above issues and adding some usability enhancements. IMHO it worked out very well; one of the things I wanted was for the strap to be useful for short moves; for example, I’m shooting somewhere, and I want to move 50 yards from my current position. All of the ideas I had been presented with were fiddly enough to make this operation a pain. A loop over the legs requires that you retract the legs for carrying. A bag requires that you dismount the camera from the tripod(usually). With this setup, all I have to do is grab the strap near the top swivel and hike it over my shoulder. The legs swing inward and snap in place on the spider. This works well even if a camera is attached to the tripod, though I have to watch the balance. Then when I get to my new spot, I simply stand the tripod up, swing the legs out, and I’m back in business.

The only things I have to watch out for are making sure the top swivel is pointing between the two legs that the strap threads through, and making sure the legs don’t swing too hard when picking up the tripod and break the fingers off of the spider. No issues with that so far(10 yrs), knock wood. Here’s how it looks.

Tripod with strap, stowed for travel

Below you can see the black anodized aluminum fitting that the swivel/plug on the strap threads into. Clearance was allowed for the oval-head screw that secures the tripod head to the column.

Detail of fitting for Bogen Strap

Here you can see the top fitting a bit better. It has a ramped profile so that it does not interfere with folding the long handle all the way down. I will see if the top fitting will work on the Leitz, the protruding head/column screw might mean adjustment is needed. Certainly the lower column plugs are different.

Another view of the top fitting

The column plug was modified to accept the “spider” that retains the legs in the closed position. This took a couple of iterations to get just right. The spider itself is made from Delrin, and we had to experiment with the profile a bit. Too loose and the tripod leg opposite the strap would come loose while hiking rough trails. Too tight and it was too difficult to engage/disengage the legs from the spider. Side note here — I am well aware that the tension on the legs is adjustable and in theory this adjustment could be used to mitigate the flopping around of the tripod legs. I found that once I had adjusted this tight enough to keep the legs in place, it was very inconvenient to set up the tripod or break it down – it was too stiff. And one leg still managed to swing free after a bit of hiking.

The spider and the standoff that the strap attaches to are both made of Delrin and pinned together. They rotate freely on a bearing that is mounted via a screw through the bottom column plug, which facilitates removal of the plug without winding up the strap and allows the spider to align with the legs without having to worry about the precise rotational position of the column.

Top detail of the 'Spider'

Bottom view of the 'Spider'

We didn’t design this with mass-production in mind, but if there is enough interest in making these for “The Cult of Tiltall” I will contact my brother and see what I can work out.

Leitz Tiltall that I picked up in need of some TLC…

Well, when I started talking to the previous owner of this tripod, he said it was pristine. Getting back into the swing of work after the Christmas break, I put it on the back burner for six days. The previous owner had this to say about what happened in the interim:

There’s a thin circle of cardboard-like material that works like a bushing lining the column base. It snagged when I inserted the column and wouldn’t let it slide in. Finally I drove the column down with a hammer, and succeeded in jamming it firmly four inches into the base. It’s stuck there now.

:(

He knocked the price way down, I think I got it for $30, $40 shipped. Generally it seems to be in OK condition except for the damage he did. There are some interesting details though. First, a general pic of the crown & head area. I see no indication of where he was hammering, maybe he used a wood block to protect it. I should note here that just like my Uniphot Tiltall(and unlike all of the examples mentioned/linked above) this tripod has different knobs for the column and the swing knobs.

Leitz Tiltall Tripod

Here is what the end of the column looks like. I think that a bit of time on a disc sander to remove the bent area and a bit of deburring/shaping of the last thread, and this should be fine. Side note, the thread is 1-3/16Γ—32.

Bunged up column base

Another angle.

Bunged up column base again

This is the bushing that got caught – I asked him to send me all of the pieces. He also drove the soft pad out of its seat as well; you can see it protruding alongside the column. Looks like I’ll be trying the film canister fix from the Tiltall Support Blog.

Munged/hammered center bushing

It is in fact the Leitz with the brass insert. A bit of good news… Though I have to say, my Uniphot with the not-so-good threads has been fine for 20 years, but I lubricated the threads with nickel-based anti-seize long ago.

Leitz tripod foot and thread detail

This next part may be of historical interest, and I will most likely follow up with whatever final solution I decide on. One of the feet came off during shipping. All of the feet are cheesy rubber feet, pressed into place with a bit of glue. There was some discussion about what feet came on which tripods here and here, this seems to be yet another variation. There are no threads or evidence of any metal parts having been press-fit into the lower sections; as far as I can tell these feet are original. Too bad this just adds to the mystery rather than clearing anything up. :) I’m going to be looking at ways to mount the replacement spike/rubber feet.

Leitz tripod foot removed

Custom Binocular Mount for Tiltall…

This was a little fun project that my brother made up for me as a thank-you for the many hours I had spent helping him through computer issues. I have a pair of 9x-27x binoculars that are very difficult to hold steady at full magnification. They have a cap on one end of the hinge that covers a 1/4-20 female thread. My brother made up this incredibly nifty mount for the binoculars. Every part of it was made from bulk raw material, e.g. billet, rod stock, etc. Here is what it looks like on the tripod:

Binocular adapter

Here is a better look at the one-off captive screw and the steel plate that bears against the binocular mount point:

Binocular adapter showing captive screw

Here we have an oblique view of the binoculars mounted to the adapter:

Binocular adapter in action

Here is a side view of the binoculars mounted up. I can rest my hand on the tilt knob, and my chin on my hand and it keeps me stable in the right viewing position relative to the exit pupils. It’s a very handy setup, but I think I need to send it back for an adaptation now that I have a Really Right Stuff clamp living full time on the tripod – it needs a dovetail on the bottom.

Binocular adapter in action, side view

In Closing…

Hopefully this information will be of interest to Tiltall owners. I have a feeling that many of these tripods will outlive their owners(surely some have already) — I feel as if mine will, though I may update it a bit. If you have any thoughts to share, interest in parts, etc. please leave a comment below.

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Photoshop CS5 gets "Content-Aware Fill" http://dave-anderson-photo.com/blog/2010/03/28/cs5-content-aware-fill/ Mon, 29 Mar 2010 01:48:29 +0000 http://blog.dave-anderson-photo.com/?p=86 Photoshsop CS5(along with other Creative Suite applications) launches April 12, 2010 “at 8am PDT”. :) I guess they state a time so everyone can stand by with their finger on the download button. πŸ˜€

Anyway, the “Content Aware Fill” has been in the buzz on various forums, so I thought I would go ahead and post a note about it, and include the demo video plus an extra demo that you may not have seen:

//www.youtube.com/watch?v=NH0aEp1oDOI

Some operations are sped up, but that’s OK. Some of them would have taken hours to do properly without this feature. And that’s sort of the question, isn’t it? How much fine work is left to the user? Does the user face hours of touch-up anyway? The first spot removed after the fence posts were removed didn’t blend in very well. The shadow from the woman’s leg needs more work, etc.Β  The sky is probably not going to need much additional work, that seems like a real benefit. You just can’t tell from the video. Anyway, time will tell, and even if it’s not perfect this looks like a really helpful tool.

Take, for example, this user’s first experiences:

//www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ScWu7pG7r0

OK, sign me up. I have my finger on the download button! Ah wait, April 12… yeah. πŸ˜€

What do you think?

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