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Friday, August 21, 2015

Ikan Microspot ... looking for a little light work

Sometimes you need just a drop of light to complete a photograph. While some DSLRs have small pop-up flashes built into their prisms, we used to call them wink lights, their position directly over the lens limits their usefulness.  One alternative is to use a speed light with either an off-camera cord or a wireless connection.  I've done this many times with my Canon 600 EX-RT, lowering the power output to 1/64  or 1/32 for that drop of light. It works, but it is a cumbersome solution if you are not working on a tripod.

While I am a still shooter I have found some LED offerings for video to be good solutions. The inherent advantage of a continuous light source in ambient light shooting is that you can see where your light falls and adjust its position as necessary. Recently I purchased a fascinating little item made by ikan, the iLED-MS microspot light. When I saw it I thought it would be useful in filling it small under-lighted areas I run into while shooting interiors. When I got it in hand I realized it had many other uses.

The light is very well designed. The size of a pocket flashlight, in fact, in a pinch it can be used as one, it is a high-intensity LED light with a 40-degree spread. It has two light-shaping barn doors with two more panels, one for diffusion, the other to convert the native 5600K light to 3300K. The light is continously variable from 10% to full output. It has a flash shoe mount threaded on the bottom to put on a light stand. It has a built in lithium battery recharged by a USB cable. This are two weaknesses in my opinion, it would be nice if an AC converter could be used with it as well.  When the light is mounted on a camera it has a little wiggle going on, I didn't want to torque down the retaining nut too tightly, but I would guess there is little danger of it falling out of the shoe.

3300K panel in place

All panels open

Shaping light with barn doors

Unlike small video panels, this light is easier to hand hold, it weighs just a few ounces and fits in a shirt pocket. This little light defines portability. This is great of course if you post images on Foodspotting.com or Yelp. As the light is not camera specific, you can raise the quality of your food shots whether you are use a DSLR or smartphone.  The Microspot is useful in pretty much any close-in shooting situation.

Hard light 

Diffused light, most noticeable in the foreground

 Unlike small video panels, this light is easier to hand hold, it weighs just a few ounces and fits in a shirt pocket. This little light defines portability. This is great of course if you post images on Foodspotting.com or Yelp. As the light is not camera specific, you can raise the quality of your food shots whether you are use a DSLR or smartphone.  The Microspot is useful in pretty much any close-in shooting situation.

Handheld shots

Shot on AWB available light 

With Microspot 5600K light as fill. 

Ambient light AWB under mixed light sources

Microspot with 3300K panel in place

Recommended 90 points

 Click here to buy...

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

You'll Get a Charge Out of This ...

We always buy extra batteries for our cameras, right? Did you ever notice that the cameras come with a single battery charger? Well, of course you have. I have two Canon bodies with four batteries. When I need to charge them I have to plug in two chargers and charge the four batteries in two shifts. I know many of you out there, especially event, wedding, sports shooters and photo journalists probably carry twice that many and you have my sympathy.

Well, cruising B&H Photo Video's web site, an almost daily exercise, I found the Hahnel Pro Cube charger. This nifty little device charges two lithium ion batteries simultaneously. It will charge Canon LP-E8, LP-E6 or Nikon EN-EL14, EN-EL15 batteries and Hahnel's equivalents. Changing the receptacle for the batteries is easy, and a nice bonus is a tray to charge 4 AA batteries. There is no need to remove the insert for your chosen camera battery, it just lays on top, held in place by tiny button magnets. See the photo below.

The charger will work with the standard wall adapter supplied or with a car adapter and various plug adapters for overseas travel. There is also a USB port for charging devices while it is plugged in.

  • 100-240 volts AC
  • 12 V DC car adapter
  • Charging time: 
          LP-E6: 2 hours for one battery, 3 hours for two.
          LP-E8:  1.5 hours for one battery, 2 hours for two.
          EN-EL14:  1 hour for one battery,  1.5 hours for two.
          EN-EL15: 2 hours for one battery,  3 hours for two.
  • Operating temp 32 to 104 degrees Farenheit
  • Storage tem 14- 104 F
  • USB charging port: 2.1 A
This is one very well thought out kit. At $74.50, this flexible 2 battery charger is only $22.00 more than a replacement Canon LC-E6 wall charger.

The fit and finish on the Hahnel Pro Cube is very nice and it has some heft to it. It won't easily tip over and it has four corner rubber dots to keep it from sliding around on a smooth surface as well.

If you are a Sony or Olympus owner, Hahnel has a Pro Cube version for you as well with a handsome bronze finish to it, also at $74.50, shipping included from B&H.


For Canon and Nikon: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1016537-REG/hahnel_hl_pro_cube_procube_twin_charger_for.html

For Olympus and Sony:  http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1120549-REG/hahnel_hl_procubeso_procube_twin_charger_for.html/prm/alsVwDtl

Monday, August 10, 2015

Capture This for Your Mac

Kuuvik Capture screen

Do you shoot tethered? If not, and your work allows you to do so, there is no doubt the 13" image on a Mac laptop beats the 3" image on the back of your camera. I shoot tethered for all of my interior photos and studio work. I used to use Capture One with a Phase One back, however I always thought it complicated. For the past couple of years I have been using Lightroom, but there is no live view and no camera controls, still, quite a competent program for the most part. I did try out Canon's capture program, I don't remember what I didn't like about it, I just didn't. 

I just learned of a capture program for Mac available at the App Store called Kuuvik Capture 2.  As you can see from the picture above, the interface is simple - and intuitive. I enlarged elements of the tool bar in the photo below so you can get an idea of the easy access to the tools you might use most, The AF pointer, zoom tool, focus peaking to check your AF or manually focus, the grid overlay - there is a selection of 13 and my favorite, the Depth of Field Preview. 

The blurb on Kuuvik's offering at the App Store says this newest version of the program and that it was designed for the Canon 5DS/r.

From Kuuvik's posting

Simple mirror lock-up and release with variable times 
15-shot exposure bracketing
30-shot focus brackets 
Live View 
Full Camera Controls 

In addition to the previously noted features we implemented quick culling of large photo sessions by employing a positive mindset: focus on only the best photos, star them, and Kuuvik Capture will purge the rest in the blink of an eye. You will be amazed how fast you can cull your photo sessions.
Kuuvik Capture's vast feature set uses less CPU power than similar app so you can enjoy tethering in the field much longer with slower battery drain.
And one more thing:
We not only support Canon’s new 5DS and 5DSR cameras, but Kuuvik Capture was specifically designed for them. Downloading and display of the ultra-high resolution 50 megapixel images takes less than 2s. 

I found working with Kuuvik 2 to be a very simple and straightforward exercise. I set up a new session, hooked up the Canon 5DS r, clicked on the camera image in the upper left of the screen and live view fired up. I played with the sliders for different functions and response was almost instant. Adjust the exposure and watch the changes on the screen before you hit the capture bar on the lower left of the screen. The image you are seeing on the screen is of course the image that you see through the lens. Click on the Depth of Field icon - clever done as a lens diaphragm, and see what else snaps into focus before you shoot. Nice touch. As advertised, the captured image popped up in just a couple of seconds. Remember, this is a 50 megapixel image, about 225MB. Lightroom does not do that and LR offers no camera controls. Meanly complaint was with the AF function. Now I was shooting close to the subject but as I moved the AF cursor around the image, I found that it hunted quite a bit. At first I thought it snapped into focus, then it would go full out and finally find its way back to sharp focus. It was much quicker to use the camera for this function than Kuuvik Capture 2. 

I was shooting this ceramic bowl of fruit using aperture priority at F8 with an 85MM lens. This is the image as seen through the camera with the lens wide open to 1.8. Focus was on the apple in the front, and you will notice the background falls off fast. 

The image above is the screen with Depth of Field engaged prior to the exposure. 

I can't think of any worthwhile feature that Kuuvik Capture 2 omits. This is a very well thought out program. Keep in mind that this is a capture program and it offers no post-processing features. For that you would take you images over to Photoshop, ACR or Lightroom. 

I've saved some of the best news for last. The program is being offered at an intro price of $59, it will go up to $99 at the end of August. 

Based on my initial evaluation, I would rate Kuuvik Capture 2 at 

97 - Highly Recommended