Radiopoppers working with Pentax! (preliminary testing)

After eagerly following the saga of the Radiopoppers, from their vaporware inception to their current production I finally have a pair in my grubby little hands.  Oh happy day 🙂

(you want a review?  Here’s my review: radiopoppers rock my face 437 ways from sunday.  Get some.)

Now I got them to use with my newly acquired Canon 5D kit, but as it happens I still have some Pentax gear as well.  Officially Radiopoppers do not support Pentax PTTL, but I figured what harm could it do to test.

I mounted the P1 receiver on a Pentax 540FGZ flash.  Flash was set to wireless pttl slave (SL1).  Note that on the 540 the sensor you need to position the bead over is the lower right corner of the face, as you look at the flash *not* the round part in the middle (that’s just the AF assist light)

I set the K10d onboard flash to wireless controller mode, and covered the actual flash itself to ensure no light was coming out and triggering a false positive.   I fired off a few shots, and sure enough no slave firing – good!

Then I turned on the P1 transmitter, and placed it on top of the k10d.  The popup actually seemed to support it’s weight, and the transmitters fit rested nicely against the top of the eyecup.  I think it would be mountable with a little piece of velcro on top of the pop up flash!

The big moment – I fired a shot and sure enough, the slave popped!  Exposure looked correct too (roughly, just by glancing at the LCD.   I ran through a few apertures from 2.8 to 8 and the flash exposure seemed to remain consistent, indicating that metering info is working!  I could visibly see the difference in light output as the flash popped at different apertures as well.
So it seems that at least the basic functionality of the P1s works with Pentax’s PTTL wireless sytem.  it actually fires the flash, and ttl metering appears to work.   Bear in mind however, that this is far from a scientific test and YMMV.  Further testing will be needed 🙂

the 15 second DIY adjustable snoot!

So I’ve done the cardboard snoot thing.  It’s cheap.  It works.  but I find they don’t last too long trashing around in a camera bag.   I really like the idea of a flexible snoot like the Honl speedsnoot, so I figured I’d try to make my own…

A quick trip down to Perl (art supply store) yielded the required materials.  2 9″x12″ sheets of “foamies” craft foam (it’s a thin, neoprene like foam material – flexible yet rigid enough to hold it’s shape) one white, one black and 4′ of velcro “wrap” (the velcro that has hooks on one side and loops on the other, so it can stick to itself if you wrap it around something)  The neat thing about the foamies sheets is that you can get them either plain or with one side covered in adhesive.   I opted for a plain black and an adhesive-backed white sheet.

total cost for materials: about $5 (the velcro was $3 and I think the foamies sheets were .59 each)

Once at home, I simply peeled the backing off the white adhesive side, and laid the black sheet on top.  Pressing firmly secured the 2 together.  They can bend and flex together without wrinkling or buckling.

I then cut 2 velcro wraps long enough to wrap around the flash head and secure it tightly.

TaDa!  instant snoot – total time to construct: about 15-30 seconds 🙂

the best part about this snoot is that it is adjustable.  For a normal throw, wrap it into a cylinder shape, and secure each end with a wrap.   If you want a tighter throw, wrap it into a cone shape.  You can get a very tight dot of light this way.

Another added benifit is that it can be used as a bounce card – simple wrap one end around the flash head pointing up, and leave the other end free.  presto bounce card.

For five dollars and a minute of work, this is something that will have a permanent place in my camera bag!

Quick tip – keep track of your charged/uncharged batteries!

If you are like me, you probably have a *lot* of batteries.  Particularly on location with a couple of strobes.  You’ve got a bucket full of AAs, and maybe 3 or 4 batteries for your SLR.  All well and good up until you start changing batteries in the field.  Maybe it’s just me, but once I start swapping batteries, when I get home it they are generally all jumbled up and I have no idea which are still charged, which are dead and which may have been partially used, but still need a “top off”.   To solve this I came up with a rather simple solution – when I charge my batteries, as they are charged I put a rubber band around them.  This serves two purposes – 1) it keeps each set of AAs together in a nice neat group of 4, but more importantly it “marks” them.  Since I obviously have to take the rubber band off before using the battery, at the end of the day, I know that any battery with no band has at least been used, and the ones still banded are fresh.  Then I simply charge the loose ones and re-band them.  Works with both AAs and SLR batteries, quick and easy.

Eye-fi redux!

Earlier this year I got rather excited over a new product from a little company called “eye-fi” – it was basically a SD card with a wireless transmitter built in.

My master plan was to use a laptop to set up a ad-hoc network (meaning the laptop acts as wireless router, creating it’s own network) and set the eye-fi to auto-upload shots to it, in essence creating almost like a wireless tethering solution.

Unfortunately, speaking with eye-fi support, they informed me that this would not work, as the card needed an actual “internet connected” router to send the photos through. Bummer.

However, their new offerings are enough to make me look at them again. Notably they have 2 new models in addition to the basic eye-fi card the Eye-Fi Home, which strips out the internet functionality and just has “upload to computer wirelessly” and the Eye-Fi explore which adds *geotagging* to the photos.

The “Home” looks promising as it may finally do what I need (connect via ad-hoc network), and the “Explore” is simply cool. I love the idea of geotagging. Maybe it’s not a big deal for studio work, but it would be awesome to throw one of those in my G9 and tag my street/travel shots. From what I can tell it needs a wireless AP to do this, so it’s not as good as a dedicated GPS module, but still. very cool concept and definitely something new and cool in the world of photography.

And how often do you say that about a memory card!

Eye-Fi homepage

what’s your travel kit?

So in preparation for my upcoming trip to St. Johns, (which will include much shooting!) I’ve been thinking long and hard about my travel kit. I tend to be torn between the two extremes of taking everything but the kitchen sink (2 bodies, wide zoom, normal zoon, telezoom, fast normal prime, fast portriait prime, macro lens, flashes etc…) and ultra minimalist (1 body, 21mm prime +50-200 zoom)


Both have worked for me in the past, and have their own pros and cons. However now I’m trying to find a middle ground. basically I’m trying to break it down into 2 categories: camera gear and lighting gear. I love the compact/lightweight pentax primes, but shooting on the beach etc… I’d like to avoid lens switches as much as possible. Luckily the new DA* 16-50/2.8 should give me acceptable quality (*almost* as good as the primes, but not quite 🙂 while staying on my camera 99% of the time.

I’m also debating whether to take the 35/2 or live with 2.8 as my fastest lens. On the one hand I love the 35/2 but on the other hand its one more piece to carry! I do 99% of my shooting at 50mm or less, so really the 16-50 should serve for 99% of everything. Then it comes down to either the 50-200 for the few times I want reach, or ditching the telezoom entirely and relying on my G9 when I need >50mm. I know it sounds crazy, but I kind of like the idea of just running the k10d w/16-50 and G9. That covers me from 24-210mm equiv. I’ll be missing Fast+long, but I really never find myself needing that anyway. plus no need to change lenses on the k10d.

so here’s my tenative list:
K10d
DA* 16-50/2.8
(maybe) 50-200
(maybe) 35/2
Canon G9

Lighting: (for beach portraits/shots)
Pentax 540FGZ
Vivitar 285hv
2x Bogen compact stands
2x westcot 43″ folding brollys (1 white, 1 silver)
40″ collapsible 5-in-1 reflector

(and of course the various batteries, memory cards, filters etc…)

So what is all of y’alls travel kit?

First shots with the DA* 16-50

After drooling over this lens since it’s announcement, I finally got my grubby little mitts on the DA* 16-50/2.8. In my opinion, despite the moaning on the various web forums (*cough*dpreview*cough*) this lens is well deserving of Pentax’s “star (*)” moniker.


Build quality is top-notch, definitely “solid”, what I’d expect in a pro-grade lens. SDM focus is fast and accurate. Image quality is excellent – maybe not quite up to the level of the limited primes, but pretty close – easily as good as the comparable canon/nikon offerings (the 17-55/2.8s) especially when you consider that this lens goes to 16 instead of 17(don’t underestimate the difficulty of engineering that 1mm!) all in all an excellent offering. So without further ado, here are some of the first shots taken with it on the k10d. All were shot raw, minimal post processing in lightroom (just some exposure +/-) (click the thumbnails for larger) Nothing special, just some “walking around” snapshots.

Quite a foggy morning this morning, swallowing up the skyscrapers downtown:

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Some fall foliage around Penn’s campus:

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For all us off-camera speedlighters…

From Rob Galbraith

This guy (David Honl) makes and sells several useful light-modifiers for speedlights (snoots/gobos/barndoors) (LINK)

this is great for folks doing “strobist style” off camera lighting using speedlights… and the prices aren’t bad!

the strap that the attachments hold on to is also great for attaching gels to the flash – just stick 2 pieces of Velcro onto the gel (cut to fit) and bam…

Definitely worth looking at for someone looking to build a portable/light “lighting on location” kit.

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