If you use flickr, you need these…

So I just built a new PC, meaning I had to dig through my archive to find the link to this fantastic collection of flickr greasemonkey scripts, so I figured I’d post it for reference 🙂

These are scripts for “Greasemonkey” a Firefox addon – and they *dramatically* improve flickr’s interface, and overall user experience (I can’t live without the “autopage” one – being able to scroll through an entire group pool or user’s stream without clicking through pages is amazing).

Like I said, if you’re a flickr (and firefox) user, check them out. Can’t go wrong.

I’m so… conflicted…

Ok, so the whole “selective coloring” thing is kind of cheesy at best, and completely cliched and overused for the most part…

but now you can do it on your iphone, which is kind of cool:

http://juxtaposer.info/Juxtaposer/ColorSplash.html

but… it’s selective coloring…

but it’s on the iPhone….

Argh… I’m so torn as to whether this is awesome or awful…

The RadioPopper PX review – part 1

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So as anyone who’s been following this blog for any amount of time knows, I’m a pretty big fan of RadioPoppers.  (http://radiopopper.com) I was an early adopter of the P1 system (really the first practical system for wireless TTL with strobes) and I pre-ordered the PXs the moment they came on the market (literally).

So I finally get my grubby little hands on the PXs.  As luck would have it they arrived about 4 hours *after* I wrapped a big shoot, but that’s ok… my P1s still performed admirably…

First impressions – they are small, noticeably smaller than the P1s.  This is a Good Thing™, since the whole point of speedlights is “small and light”  If I wanted to haul around 47 lbs of gear everywhere I would just use monolights and a vagabond, but I digress… No fiber optic = win (the light port is built in) and a removable battery cover for easy access – yay.  Overall if the P1s were more of a “beta” these are definitely the “release product” (see below for PXs vs P1s)

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Installation:

Installing the receivers is fairly straightforward – they come with a nice little diagram to show you where to place the velcro for optimal light-port alignment.  Im not crazy about velcro-ing the front of my flash up, but since the recievers are essentially permanent fixtures I’ll deal.

Operation:

The good news first – the PXs in basic TTL mode are pretty much plug&play – slap em on, and fire away.  The bad news is that once you get into the menus it gets a little more complicated.  The menu system is a bit arcane, an unavoidable consequence of a 2 character screen and only 2 buttons for adjustment.   Honestly it’s not that bad though.  Once you get the “cycle” of options down, it’s pretty easy to flip through.   The only downside is that with only 2 buttons, going through the menus is pretty much “one way” only – I think that the menu system could be *vastly* improved with the addition of a 3rd button – essentially giving you “up”, “down” and “select” buttons.

My ONLY real complaint with the operation is that I absolutely cannot use the “down” adjustment on the transmitter’s “group” menu (for clarification – the PX transmitter will allow you to remotely adjust the power on a AB/WL monolight connected to the upcoming PX jr.  This is done by going into the “group” menu on the PX transmitter (G1, G2, G3) and selecting a power level from 00 (off) to 32 (full power).  In theory, pressing the “X” button increments the power level, while *holding* X while simultaneously pressing “P” will decrement it.  Unfortunately despite about 10min of fiddling, I could not get the hang of the “holding x+press p”  every time it would either just increment it, or drop it by one and then increment it again.  Maybe I just need some practice 🙂   Again, this would be easily solvable by a 3 button control scheme rather than 2 (you listening Kevin – maybe something for the PX v.2? 🙂

Overall I am satisfied with the operation of the units.  Once you get comfortable with the menu system, making adjustments is not bad, and the real point is that in TTL mode, you shouldn’t really *have* to make adjustments to the units all that often while shooting.

One strange “gotcha” – probably more related to Canon than RP – When using the ST-E2 as a commander, it seems like it must be *on camera* with the camera on in order to operate.  Seems like a kind of “well duh” thing, right?  well, I initially started testing the RPs by sticking the TX on my ST-E2 and pressing the test button to try and fire my strobes (ST-E2 not on camera).  This works fine with the normal optical system, however *did not* work with the PXs – the link light on the TX goes off, but nothing on the RX.   Put the ST-E2 on camera though, and the test button functions normally, TX and RX link and the strobe pops.  Pretty weird huh?  Took me about 15min of frustration to figure that one out…

Performance:

Of course what it really all boils down to is “do they work?”

As mentioned I received my units right after finishing up a big shoot, so I have not yet had the chance to put them through their paces in a “real” environment, however from my testing performance seems excellent – it just works.  I did my darndest to try and get them to misfire, but was unable to 🙂  I tried using the auto channel select, as well as manually selecting channels and they consistently fired every time.    Tested them out to about 80 feet (stood at one end of my studio with the strobe/receiver by the door all the way at the other end).  No issues.

Not much else to say – we’ll have to see how they perform over time, but so far they have been 100% rock solid.

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Conclusion:

Bottom line is – if you use wireless TTL flash at all, these things rock.   All the good parts of the P1 and then some.  Better design, operation, and performance along with the inter-operability with manual flash using the JR system.  Super cool.   Even just the ability to use HSS wirelessly is worth the price of admission.   The P1 was a revolutionary concept and a good product.  The PX is a very good product.   The PX+JrX system combination elevates it to a *great* product.

Of course the big elephant in the room is: how are these going to fare against the 800-lb gorilla that is PocketWizard, and their newly announced TTL system.   There is no doubt the new PWs are cool, and basically do everything that the PXs can do *by themselves*.  The key that I think may give RP an edge is the system as a whole.  The integration of all the units, combined with the abilty to remotely adjust monolights and system flashes is *huge* for anyone who uses a combination of speedlights and studio strobes (which I do frequently).  On the other hand, PW has some neat goodies like “hypersync” so there’s that as well… we’ll have to see how it plays out.  For the time being I am more than happy with my PXs, and will be first in line for the JrXs when they hit the shelves as well.

EDIT:

Details are a bit sketchy, but THIS POST on the RP blog, seems to indicate some “hypersync”-like functionality with the JrXs.  My guess is that they are doing something similar – using the signal to “pre-fire” the flash at speeds over the x-sync, so that the strobe is already ramped up to it’s full luminance as the shutter curtain opens, essentially turning it into a very bright continous light for the duration of the exposure.    This has a number of technical ramifications, but another trick in the toolbag is always good.

stay tuned for part 2 – real world shooting and performance tests!

New RadioPoppers coming soon!

Some very exciting news over with the RadioPopper folks…

Looks like the new P8s are coming soon, and will be far more than we expected.  Syl over at Pixsylated has a bit of an insiders scoop on the new units!

No more fiber optic?  Fires TTL and manual(studio strobes)?

WANT!

I’ve been a big fan of my P1s, but they definitely have their limitations.  They are, well, a first gen product – almost more of a “proof of concept” 🙂  However, judging by the hints going round, these new units are going to be an atom bomb in the world of off-camera lighting.    My speculation (hope) is that they’ve found a way to interface/do ttl communication via RF directly through the shoe (no optical required).  Add a 1/8″ “pocketwizard” style jack for studio strobes and well sign me up because I’ll be ordering one for every light I own.

Even cooler is that they’re offering “trade in” credit for your P1s – As I understand it if you purchased P1s after Oct 12, you will get the full value of your P1 in trade in- having only to pay the price difference for the new unit!   Pre-oct 12, you should still get a credit, but not 100% (thanks for the clarification, Kevin!) Either way it’s a really nice move, especially for us “early adopters” who often get burned when “gen 2” comes out!

December 12 is supposedly the official announcement – let’s see what happens!

Quick and dirty radiopopper mod for Canon strobes (that won’t void your warranty!)

I love my radiopoppers. They are just super-awesome and make doing off camera strobe work sooo much easier. The only problem is that (by virtue of design) they are rather clumsy to use – you have to position the bead in front of the sensor, have some way of holding it there (tape? ugh…) and then affix the actual receiver body so that it won’t jiggle the bead off the sensor etc…

I’ve been playing around with a few different mods to affix the popper without drilling holes in the case or covering my flash with tape/velcro. So far this is the best I’ve come up with. It works extremely well, allows you to attach the popper super quickly and securely, and is dead easy to do (no actual “modding” of the unit required.) The one compormise is that it involves putting a little velcro on the flash body, but there is even a workaorund for that 🙂

So without further ado:
you will need the exact same materials described in my DIY snoot/bouncecard

  • velcro wrap (the kind that is hooked on one side and looped on the other (so it can stick to itself, often used for wrapping computer cables)
  • a small piece of self-adhesive velcro (loop side, this will form the mount points for the
  • “Foamies” craft foam (thin sheets of flexible foam, available at craft/art stores (pearl etc..))  If possible get the sheets that are self adhesive on one side, which allows you to skip the next ingredient 🙂
  • glue (optional, if you didn’t get the self-sticky foamies)

the procedure is simple.  Cut a strip of velcro wrap long enough to reach halfway around your flash body, with a little extra.   Take 2 small pieces of the self-adhesive velcro, and mount them on each side of the flash, these are the “mounting points” for the popper/strap.  Cut 3 pieces of foam with an x-acto, the width of the velcro strap, and long enough to go across/cover the IR sensor.   On one of the pieces of foam, cut a “channel” about the width of the radiopopper bead, splitting it in two.  Now stack the 3 pieces together and glue (with the “channel” piece on top obviously).  Hot glue works well for this, or if you got the self-adhesive foamies that will work too.   Once done the whole assembley should look like this.

And that’s basically all there is to it!  Now simply slap the body of the Popper on the still exposed loop side of the velcro, and loop the fiber optic over placing the bead in the channel.  Position the whole shebang on top of the sensor on the flash, and attach the loose ends of the strap to the velcro mount points on the side of the flash body.  The channel in the foam hold the bead securely in place, while the thickness provies a “cushion” that makes a flat/secure surface for the popper body to mount on.  I find that this is a very stable/secure method of mounting the poppers – once on I don’t have to worry about the bead coming loose or the body flopping around.  (I cut the fiber optic in half to make it “neater” but you dont have to)

a few caveats:

  1. because of the position of the IR sensor this will really only work for Canon strobes (nikon has the sensor on the side of the body, not the front).   I use it on a canon 580exII and a 550ex – it may work on others or not depending on the location of the sensor, as always YMMV.
  2. when mounting the poppers this way, make sure you rotate the flash head around 180deg.  (pointing “backwards” from it’s normal orientation)  The RadioPopper folks have pointed out that the electromagnetic pulse from the front of the flash head can damage the RP units if it is in direct proximity – as long as you turn it around it should be fine.

Hope that helps all you RadioPopper folks out there.  I’ve been very happy with this mounting system so far!

Thoughts on Photokina ’08

Now that Photokina is all wrapped up something occurred to me – I can’t say I was really all that excited about it.  Surprising, as Photokina is usually the main “gear lust inspiring” event out there, and you can practically hear the mobs of photographers panting and salivating over each new announcement.  And sure there was some pretty cool stuff this year – (Olympus micro-four-thirds prototype? – Awesome.  5DmkII? – sweet.  The new paradigm of video on SLRs? – very interesting development.)  Overall though, it was just kind of like “oh yeah, new gear…”

I dunno, maybe it’s the economy or maybe I’m just becoming one of those crotchety old photographers who is more concerned with light and composition than with gear 🙂  I think as is common with many photographers as our skills and experience improve, our interest in gear for the sake of gear decreases.  I’ve been doing this long enough that I know what I want out of a camera (high quality, light weight, fast wide glass- particularly primes) and I’m happy with what I’ve got.

I’ll probably take a hard look at the olympus “pseudo rangefinder” micro four thirds camera when it comes out (probably not for another year is my guess) but for now I just want to go out and take pictures 🙂

Olympus’ micro four-thirds entry – this could be the one!

After my initial reaction of “meh” to Panasonic’s first micro-four thirds entry, I was eagerly anticipating Olympus’ announcement (after all they, co-developed the standard, so it stood to reason they would introduce their own camera).

…and with the announcement this morning, I could practically hear the “digital rangefinder” crowd give off a collective “Oooooooo…”

Sure it’s only a prototype, but the body looks exactly like what we’ve all been clamoring for… super compact (looks about the size of a DP-1 in hand) “EVIL” body… and good lord is that a pancake prime on it?!?!?  Retro-rangefinder styling is just a bonus 🙂

DPreview has the announcement here along with photos of the prototype… check it out!

Aaaaand here it is… (the first micro four thirds, Panasonic G1)

The first Micro Four-Thirds camera and leses dropped today from panasonic… DPreview has the hands on preview here

I have to say, my initial reaction was “somewhat dissapointed”.   The thing looks just like a regular SLR.  I thought the whole point of getting rid of the mirror box was to, well, get rid of the mirror box!  What’s with the big hump on top and pseudo-optical finder.  The whole point of this was to make a more compact interchangeable camera, so why do it half-assed?  Get rid of the finder completely, and either use EVF exclusively, or make a rangefinder style add on finder that mounts to the hotshoe.  (coupling it to the zoom would be easy).  Speaking of which – no primes?  Yeah, I know it’s just the first announcement, but “compact” camera system just *screams* for primes.  The 14-42 zoom it comes with is just “meh”.   To be fair, there is a 20mm f/1.7 on the roadmap for 2009 (40mm equiv – awesome), but hey – lets see a 12mm and a 40mm too.

After reading more of DPreview’s preview however, I was slightly mollified.  From the comparison images the thing *does* look pretty small (and light – 630 grams *with* battery and lens? holy cow!)  Check HERE for some size comparison and “in hand” images

from the reports, the biggest technical hurdle (making a usable contrast-detection AF) has been handled nicely as well, seems like AF is fine (and it has a built in AF assist light).

So what’s the verdict?

Well, it’s definitely cool, and I think a step in the right direction for opening up a new niche in the industry *but* I think they could have done more.  If you’re selling the concept of “small and light” go all the way – commit to the true rangefinder form factor, lose the big grip on the right side, lose the bulky pop up flash (stick it on the side if you must a-la the lumix LX3).  Oh yeah, and let’s see those primes.

Give us something like THIS

or THIS

Honestly if it was something like one of those renderings, I probably would have sold my G9 and bought one on the spot.  As it is, I’ll wait and see what comes down the pipe

(and Olympus hasn’t announced anything yet, so fingers-crossed)

Sony full frame A-900 finally released!

No longer vaporware, sony has finally announced their flagship A900 slr.  A serious competitor into the full-frame market, the A900 should shake things up a bit for the “big two” – particularly with it’s lineup of Zeiss lenses.  Hey, competition is good for the market!  Let’s hope Pentax’s full frame is next 🙂

DPreview and Luminous Landscape already have previews posted  HERE and HERE respectively!

A micro four-thirds competitor already?

Micro four thirds is still vaporwave, and it seems there is already a competitor.

Samsung is introducing what they seem to be calling a “hybrid” camera system – in other words the “EVIL” (Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens) system we’ve all been drooling over (hopefully!).  Not much said about specs/lenses – hopefully they will at least have a model aiming at a higher level “advanced amateur” feature set rather than the “bridge” market (the folks going from a compact to SLR).

However what makes this really interesting is the fact that Samsung SLRs use the venerable “K” mount.  If they somehow preserved the mount compatibility with this new system that would be *huge*.  Imagine a compact, mirrorbox-less body that was compatible with K mount lenses… drool… of course now then I would absolutely *kick* myself for selling off my DA LTD primes 🙂

It’s just an interesting thought, unfortunately I suspect they will likely *not* be using the K mount (registration distances on SLR lenses and all that).  But it’s certainly within the realm of possibility.

Another analysis of the micro four thirds standard…

Dave Etchells over at the Imaging Resource has a great analysis on the micro four thirds standard:

http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1217960634.html

I pretty much agree with his analysis, unfortunately even with the contrast-af part (boo).  Hopefully though, Oly/Panasonic will realize the market for a higher end “EVIL” camera will demand a phase-detection AF system and build one in somehow. (crosses fingers)

Regardless, I’m still looking forward to seeing what they actually come up with on this standard.  The sensor technology is already there, we know oly does great optics – the only potential dealbreaker for me would be usability (mainly the af issue).  I dont even mind an exclusively electronic VF as long as the AF is responsive and there is no shutter lag.  If they can surmount those two obstacles I think they will have a winning technology

Is Olympus re-inventing the digital rangefinder?

pretty much since the advent of digital SLRs, there has been a group of photogragraphers (myself among them) clamoring for the release of a digital rangefinder (a niche market to be sure!)

There have been a few forays into this territory, Epson and Leica released true rangefinder bodies with digital sensors, using their existing mount, but they were recieved with… shall we say… mixed reviews 🙂 (plus the astronomical pricetag on the leica put it out of range for most casual shooters.

For the rest of us searching for the ever elusive “compact, quiet, unobtrusive ‘street'” camera, we’ve so far had to make do with high-end compact digicams, such as the Canon G9 (my weapon of choice) and the new Sigma DP-1

However it just may be that Olympus plans to change that…

Olympus just announced a new lens/mount standard dubbed “micro four-thirds” based on their current “four-thirds” standard.   The significance of this is it keeps the standard 4/3 sensor while making a smaller mount, and significantly shortinging the flange (lens->sensor) distance.  Additionally the specification of live vew, *completely eliminates the mirror box* which makes up the majority of the “bulk” in an slr body

What this means in english is that the mount will combine the benifit of interchangeable lenses with the compactness of a digicam (or rangefinder) body (in other words, it’s The fabled “E.V.I.L, or Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens” camera we have heard discussed ad-nauseum)!

Personally I think this is a great (and bold) move for olympus.   They seem to have recognized the appeal of a compact system while maintaining the flexibility & quality of an interchangeable lens setup.   In other words, they are looking at the traditional “rangefinder” market, but instead of trying to work with current mounts/standards they are totally re-inventing the concept, embracing the unique advantages of digital.   Particularly when combined with the absolutely stellar optics of the new zuiko lenses, this could be a real killer combo, and is *definitely* somthing I (and I’m sure many others) will be keepting my eye on!