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Monday, March 14, 2016

Foldio - Tiny Table Top Studio

Every now and then I have occasion to photograph small stuff. Setting up an elaborate product table is a pain in the tuchis, so what's a boy to do. Break out a cute little table top studio called the Foldio by Orangemonkie.
There are a lot of choices in this category. Some of them are pop up tents, with or without lights that you set up around the exterior. Some other systems are more elaborate and expensive. When I came across this thing, I was intrigued. It has a small footprint, about 15 inches, and its own lighting system, so I had to order it.

This is truly an ingenious design, so much so that I wish I thought of it. Then I could have gone on Shark Tank and made an alliance with Mark Cuban to make millions! Yes, millions I say! Unfortunately that ship has sailed, so let's get back to earth.

The Foldio is make of a corrugated translucent plastic with integral magnets. As you see above, this gizmo folds flat, when it is opened the magnets work to hold the sides and top in position. There is an additional flat piece, also with magnets in it to hold one of the supplied backgrounds. Finally, the key to all of this, is the thin LED tubes that provide the soft light to illuminate whatever is in the Foldio cube.

Let me demonstrate. I have little room in my office for anything. This is about my only space to set up. So I bring in a small folding top utility table, flip the top up and set up the Foldio.

Here I have it partially assembled, it is sitting upside down on the table. 

The lighting is supplied with two long LED tubes, each with its own dimmer control. 

The following macro shot of the watch back was taken using the black suede background supplied with the Foldio.  

For the next two shots I used  an LED panel to provide some fill light from a 45 degree angle in front of the cube. If the items were smaller I could have placed them further back in the Foldio and probably wouldn't have needed the fill. 

Here is one more with the supplied white background. 

One more thing. This product was really designed for use with a smartphone. As such, they offer a free download, a Foldio app for smartphones. It gives you the ability to edit the photo for the usual stuff; crop, exposure, etc. and use real time chromakey with it with various background images provided by orangemonkie.  Stuff I'll never use, but you might. 

Small profile, LED lighting with dimmer controls, folds flat and I forgot to mention comes with 4 backgrounds. What's not to like? Order the Foldio 2 for $75.00 from orangemonkie.com. It is shipped from South Korea by DHL and their charge is an additional $19.00. Still for under a C-note you have a very useful tool for your arsenal. 

Recommended 95 points

Friday, February 12, 2016

Pristine Photo Gear for Sale

Every now and then I go through my equipment closet and pull some items which I find I have not been using enough to warrant keeping them. Here are some available immediately. Unless otherwise noted all of the items are in pristine condition, have boxes and paperwork and all accessories as when purchased new. All items were US versions. Payment can be made by wire, ACH, checks or credit cards, Prices do not include shipping or other transaction fees. 

If you are interested in buying any of the items drop a note to dweckphoto@gmail.com. 

This is the Pentax AF540 FGZ flash, one of the most powerful available for Pentax cameras. It has tilt functions, works in multiple modes from automatic to manual and automatically adjusts its light pattern to match the focal length of your lens. I am selling it with a Vello TTL-off camera cord. SOLD

This is Canon's 5D Mark III. I've been using this camera in my work for about two years or so. I have it equipped with the Canon battery grip and a L bracket for use with an Arca-Swiss style tripod head. The camera has under 25,000 actuations of the shutter. This one has never let me down. I bought it new from B&H Photo and it comes with the box, all manuals, cables and other accessories. 
Cosmetically the camera is 9.5, functionally 10.  SOLD

This Zeiss Distagon 35MM 1.4 ZF.2 is not my lens, it belongs to a friend who lives overseas. He sends me a few items once a year to sell for him in the USA. 
He bought this lens from B&H (receipt included). It has had light use and is in marvelous condition. It includes the items in the first photo. The Zeiss lens cap has been replaced with a better fitting Nikon center pinch cap. Zeiss lenses produce the traditional warm and high resolution images of German designed optics with fabulous micro-contrast. This lens is for the Nikon mount and has the chip set to communicate data to the camera. This is a manual focus lens that offers TTL exposure in automatic modes on your Nikon. $1190 plus shipping.

I always feel compelled to buy an on camera flash even though most of may work requires studio strobes or hot lights. The trouble is I do not use them enough to justify their expense. Offered here is Canon's Flagship on camera flash, the Canon EX 600 RT with a Bolt PP-3- Cyclone battery pack. The flash can be used with regular AA alkaline or lithium batteries of course, but if you want faster recycling time, virtually instant, and long battery life to photograph an event for example, an outboard battery pack is essential. I've use the setup with the Bolt compact battery pack about 10 times. The flash itself was used on less than three dozen occasions. 

Included: Canon 600 EX RT, Vello off-camera cable, Canon gel filter holder w/ filters and the Canon manual. The only marks on the flash are on the plastic red front panel from going in and out of the camera bag. I would rate this a 10 on performance and a 9 on cosmetics.

Bolt Cyclone PP-300 Compact battery pack, charger and Canon flash cable. Simply in pristine condition.
Li-Ion Battery, 5-Pin Connector
1 Sec. Recycle Time with Most Flashes
Up to 500 Full-Power Flashes
LED Charge Level Indicators
100-240VAC Charger for Worldwide Use
Removable Belt Clip, QR Shoulder Strap
Lightweight: 14.1 oz
Cable connector for Canon flash

I have the box for the Canon flash and the Vello off camera cord only. 

Price for the kit is $639

I may be adding a few more items later, but that is it for now. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Learn this technique: Focus stacking in Photoshop

Every now and then I come across something that I didn't know about photography ... make that every day I come across something I don't know about photography. Some of those things are applicable to my work and some aren't. If you follow this blog you may know that my work is primarily architectural. Two key elements required in architectural shots are sharpness and depth of field. Being that I use tilt-shift lenses I am able to achieve both at the same time. However, using the Scheinpflug technique, tilting the front of the lens to achieve greater depth of field can be time consuming and somewhat difficult as multiple adjustments are often needed to get the right combination. On the 24MM wide angle T/S lenses, things can be a bit more forgiving, but if you are shooting a deep room or using a longer lens, Scheinpflug is necessary so I use it.

Totally by chance I read about focus stacking. I knew of the process, I tried it a couple of times but I simply didn't have the patience to go through six layers of images to remove the out of focus areas and stack properly. About a month ago I learned that Photoshop has stacking, with alignment and blending scripts that determine the proper focus points and produce a sharp image with no fuss. It has been a feature since CS4. Well, don't I feel stupid. 

There is a major consideration when stacking of course, nothing in the image can be moving, at least not in architectural shots. The same thing applies of course to still life, product, etc. So, looking around my apartment I found a vase with flowers dying in it. Now you may wonder, why would I pick this? I could tell you it was because of the color range, varying textures and depth of the subject, that is all true, but it was also because it caught my eye and I didn't want to look further. 

I used my Canon 5DSr with a 90MM Schneider T/S lens on a tripod. I wanted to keep registration of the multiple images perfect. More about that later. I did the following progression of photos, starting with focus in the front and going to the rear in six steps. The orange box within the photo shows the prime point of focus for each shot. 

Using Photoshop open the files you want to stack. Under File, choose Scripts and then Load Files Into Stack. Go to layers and shift-click to select all of the images in the group. Then go back to Edit and select Auto-Blend Layers. If you had kept everything properly aligned, you are done. It really is a bit of magic. When I processed these images the first time, something was out of alignment. I assumed because I was working on a tripod that everything was OK. So, what I learned from this is before going to the Auto-Blend Layers  step, it would be smarter to go to the Auto-Align Layers action. I did that, and the image below was the result. Pretty impressive if you ignore the fact the flowers are dying.