My recent experience with errors and corrupted files on Lexar's SD memory cards made me to share my experience with you. This was the first (and the last time) I bought Lexar's SD memory cards because the unforgiven corrupted files and error occurred on two of their memory cards.Read More
It's not a typical photo gear review this time but it's a really awesome little gadget for a photographer or anyone who enjoys taking picture - a camera keychain with flash and sound! Yes, this camera keychain actually makes shutter sound and flashes when you press its shutter button! I found it on Amazon while searching for a new keychain for my car keys. It costs only about $6 and the great thing about it is that you can replace the battery when it dies. I think it's a great gadget or a gift for a photographer or for anyone interested in photography.
First time I heard about Fracture's glass photo prints was on the Tips from the Top Floor podcast few weeks ago. They advertise that the Fracture glass prints' colors are vibrant and beautifully saturated. Does it mean that Fracture's glass prints don't reproduce colors as they appear on calibrated monitors? I answer below this and many more questions you might have about Fracture's glass prints.
I thought it was a great idea to order a print from Fracture as a gift for a friend. I also took the opportunity to investigate closely the print for this short review.Read More
I got last Christmas a set of Domke Protective Wraps, which are produced by Tiffen. You can get these on Amazon for about $15 in 3 different sizes (11", 15" and 19") and in a variety of colors. They are designed to protect lenses and camera bodies when storing photo gear or transporting it, for example in a backpack. I think these are great but I don't think they will completely protect your gear. I explain why in the video review.
Not a typical camera review - Nikon Coolpix P7800 review for DSLR shooters. If you're a DSLR shooter and you consider buying P7800 or other point-and-shoot camera, this review might be just for you.Read More
Most of you heard of speedlight (flash) TTL triggers from PocketWizzard, Phottix and Pixel King. But I'm pretty sure that the majority of you didn't know about Aokatec's TTL triggers. Aokatec, like many other similar companies, is based in China. Honestly, I didn't know about Aokatec myself until I received their first TTL flash trigger for testing, a set of AK-TTL for Nikon. If you have been considering a TTL trigger from Aokatec (they have AK-TTL for Nikon, Canon, Pentax and Sony at the moment), then you might want to carefully read this short review because AK-TTL is not a typical TTL speedlight trigger and differs considerably from the TTL flash triggers currently available on the market.
How does the AK-TTL work with the transmitter?
The short answer is: unusually. The long answer is a bit more complex. I think the most important information for the potential buyers is that AK-TTL is very unconventional and I haven't seen a similar system on the market yet.
At first, I found the AK-TTL's way of triggering flash quite complicated, because the transmitter unit is not mounted in the camera's hot-shoe. Yes, you read it well and here is the complicated part. The transmitter doesn't obtain the TTL or triggering information from the camera's hot-shoe but from the built-in (little) flash. Therefore, you have to set up the camera's flash as a TTL off-camera trigger and pop it up. Then you place the AK-TTL's transmitter on a hot-shoe bracket.
I know that I still haven't answered the question how does it work. The Aokatec representative had to help me in solving the mystery and I was told that "when pop-up flash fires, there's an invisible electric wave around the (pop-up) flash. There's a special sensor inside AK-TTL TX (transmitter) that gathers information from electric wave. Then the TX processes the electric wave information into control signal data, and sends it to the RX (receiver)."
The problem I've found with the hot-shoe bracket (see picture) is that if you put it on the camera first before popping the flash up, the flash hits the bracket quite hard. I don't know if it might cause the built-in flash's plastic frame to break, but it's definitely something I would like to avoid from happening.
The Receiver - the missing hot-shoe
The AK-TTL's receiver (RX) doesn't have a hot-shoe for a an off-camera flash and I have to say that it's something I can hardly accept nowadays. So if you want to use the TTL capabilities of your camera and the off-camera flash in high-speed sync, things get a bit more complicated.
So to use the TTL, you need to take one of the cables that come in a box with AK-TTL - a cable with an IR sensor. You have to put this IR sensor (let's call it an IR transmitter) exactly where your off-camera's flash has it's IR receiver. To help you do that, Aokatec included a nice thick yellow rubber band that will hold the IR transmitter tight to your flash.
You have to be quite precise to match the IR transmitter to the flash's IR receiver, otherwise it won't work. Of course this adds few more steps to your workflow as well as extra cabling that you have to be careful about. For me, it's not a problem when photographing in a studio. However, I found it rather problematic when shooting on location, especially for clients, where everything has to be done quickly.
I found the AK-TTL for Nikon to be quite reliable. The only problem I had was that there was quite a lot of interference (probably from other household devices, like WiFi) where the RX (receiver) was triggering flash, even though the camera with a transmitter (TX) were lying on my desk untouched. Changing the radio channels solved this problem.
The AK-TTL proved to be reliable outdoor. Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to test the real maximum distance between the TX and RX (FYI: Aokatec claims that the maximum transmission distance is 110m/360ft.)
Unfortunately, the AK-TTLs' boxes have to be improved and you have to be really careful when buying the units: there are no marks or indications whatsoever. You don't know from looking at the box whether it contains receivers and/or transmitters and for what camera manufacturer (Nikon, Canon, Sony, etc.). This is quite unusual so pay extra attention if you plan to get AK-TTL.
No manual so count on yourself
I received 2 boxes of AK-TTL and unfortunately there was no manual inside. I don't think it's much of a problem because you can get it online from the manufacturer's website. If you don't print it, you will save some extra trees :) Maybe Aokatec did that on purpose.
When publishing this review, you can get a set of AK-TTL (1 receiver and 1 transmitter) for Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus and Sony for $109 (+ shipping and import taxes) directly from the Aokatec's online store.
I'll keep the final comments on AK-TTL short.
Pros: - relatively small and light units; - both the receiver and the transmitter use standard 2xAAA batteries; - quite reliable (I would give it 8/10).
Cons: - requires to use extra bracket for the transmitter that adds extra workflow and takes time to setup; - the IR cable with IR transmitter (attached to the receiver) has to be attached precisely on the speedlight's IR receiver, which often is hard to find on the speedlight - it adds extra cables and work, which I found problematic when working outdoor with a photo crew when things need to be quickly setup and ready; - no hotshoe on the receiver; - the price - looking at the pros, the cons and other alternatives on the market, the price could be a bit lower for AK-TTL.
I use a DSLR (I'm a Nikon shooter) for my regular photography jobs and assignments. I also take it with me when I travel but I was a bit tired of carrying it around on my travels, especially that it's quite heavy (the battery grip adds lots of weight to it) and I wanted to have an all-in carry-around small point-and-shoot. I decided to buy Canon S100 but, for some reason, I was postponing buying it. Then, just a couple months ago, I bought a second-hand iPhone 4s and everything has changed.
I was really surprised how quickly my new iPhone has become my point-and-shoot camera. I was every more astonished how it has become my main camera during my travels.
Quality - I think that the quality of the pictures for a phone camera is great. Although many (if not all) point-and-shoot cameras on the market have much more than 8 megapixels (that what iPhone 4s has), it's not about the pixels here.
Panoramas - Shooting a panorama is a new function built-in to the iPhone's camera software (I think panoramas were introduced in iOS 6). You just slide the phone from left to right and the software automatically stitches the picture together. It works really great!
Geotagging/GPS - That's my favourite feature when I travel and when I take pictures of potential future photo shoot locations.
Sharing - And of course I can instantly share the pictures on social networks or other websites.
It's always with me - I think it's self-explanatory. I always have my phone with me and so is my phone camera now. I don't have to worry to remember to take my point-and-shoot with me, because the phone is always in my pocket.
No RAW - that's quite obvious, iPhone doesn't allow you to shoot in RAW. I thought I would miss this feature but so far, I don't. I haven't had a need (or desire) to post-process pictures taken with an iPhone on my computer. I just use the phone for mobile photography, I edit pictures on my iPhone (or iPad) and that's it.
No Controls - Well, that's a big negative thing about the iPhone for me. I can't control the shutter speed, aperture, ISO - something that as a professional photographer I'm really used to have and use on my DSLR. Do I sometimes miss this feature on my iPhone - yes. Does it prohibit me from taking pictures - definitely not. And, some apps allow you to control at least some of these (I'm not sure how 'real' shutter or aperture control can be with these apps, so don't take my word on that, please :) ).
(All pictures in this article were taken with iPhone 4s and most of then post-processed with an app on an iPhone)
I published a review of the Orbis Ring Flash a while ago and I thought to share with you some of the pictures I took using it. When I started taking pictures with the Orbis Ring Flash, I noticed it was indeed producing a relatively* good light quality and that it can also be used as a light source positioned to the side from a model and the camera. The latter changes the purpose of the ring flash a bit, which is usually to produce shadowless photography.
Using it to the side from a model creates a desired shadow and also a round reflection in the eyes, which I really like. Because the reflection is round, it looks much like the sun, therefore it looks more natural than using other light modifiers (i.e. big softboxes, etc.) - hooray!
*Ok, let me explain why I wrote relatively here: I meant to use it for a double purpose. Firstly, the light quality from the Orbis Ring Flash won't be as good as the light coming out of professional and much more expensive ring flash. Secondly, when comparing the price and the light quality of the Orbish Ring Flash, it's indeed very good.
It gets dark and gloomy outside now in autumn so it's a perfect opportunity to do a review of a product that will lighten things up a bit - a ring flash. I got my hands on the Orbis Ring Flash (and the Orbis arm) already some time ago but I didn't have time until now to sit down and write a proper product review. But before going into details with the Orbis Ring Flash review, let me just highlight few things about ring flashes and what they are for those of you who hear about them for the first time. A ring flash is basically a circular flash which provides even illumination and therefore almost shadowless results. Ring flashes are popular in macro photography but also in portrait and fashion photography. The unique features of a ring flash make shadows much softer and create circular catch-eye / highlights in the subject's eyes, not to mention an interesting light halo effect.
I. Features of the Orbis Ring Flash
The first thing I noticed when I got my Orbis Ring Flash was the size of the reflecting area which is bigger when compared to other similar ring flashes. This means that the light source will also be bigger creating even softer light. I probably should have mentioned earlier that the Orbis Ring Flash is not a typical ring flash but it's an add-on on your speedlight. In other words, you can slide your speedlight into the Orbis Ring Flash to produce the desired light. This makes the ring flash portable because you don't need to connect it to a power source, which is usually required with the traditional ring flashes. The Orbis Ring Flash fits with most speedlights available on the market nowadays and it fits perfectly with my Nikon SB-900. Although it requires a bit of force to slide my SB-900 into it, the speedlight sits there tight and secure.
The other thing I got with my Orbis Ring Flash was what they call an Orbis Arm which is basically a mounting bracket for your camera and the speedlight with the Orbis Ring Flash on it. I used this setup recently while shooting an event in Gent, Belgium (yes, ring flashes are usually for close-ups, fashion and makro but they have many other uses as well) and I found the mounting bracket (Orbis Arm) quite useful but extremely heavy to carry around - this is because of the total weight of my DSLR (with a battery grip), speedlight SB-900 and the Orbis Ring Flash (I have to mention that the Orbis Ring Flash is relatively light-weighted by itself). Therefore, I recommend using this setup either on short assignments (preferably indoor where you can easily put aside it to let your arms rest) or on a tripod (the Orbis Arm supports tripod mounting but I haven't tested it myself yet and it probably won't fit onto all of the tripods due to its L-like shape.However, what I have noticed is that it was very hard to operate my zoom lens (18-100mm) while having the ring flash on the mounting bracket - no matter how I adjusted the ring flash around my lens, it was always getting in way with the zoom ring on the lens.
Another important aspect to consider is a way you will trigger your speedlight. In general, you have 3 options: (1) you can use a built-in flash commander in your camera, (2) use a wireless flash trigger or (3) use a sync cord (TTL cable). I prefer the third option because it's much more reliable (especially when you use the Orbis Arm and your built-in flash commander is hidden behind the ring flash which might not always communicate well with a speedlight which is positioned below the camera) and I don't like having fragile wireless receivers hanging below my speedlight when operating the ring flash in my hand.
II. Light Quality and Light Distribution
I did few photo shoots with the Orbis Ring Flash so far and I'm very happy with the light quality. It acts exactly as a ring flash should behave and produces the desired light. However, you have to remember that the power of light will most likely be less than in stand-alone ring flashes. This is due to 2 factors: (1) the power of light produced by the speedlight depends on your speedlight's power capabilities which is sometimes less than stand-alone ring flashes and (2) some of the light's power produced by a speedlight is lost in the ring flash itself as it travels across the mirrors before it's out towards your subject - this is a normal and expected behavior for such add-on ring flashes.
The pictures in this article clearly show that the Orbis Ring Flash has a very good light distribution and dispersion across the whole ring when comparing the opposite sides of the ring flash where the speedlight is inserted. In fact, the Orbis Ring Flash has an additional white coating on the side of the speedlight. This prevents the stronger light from dominating the rest of the light in the ring flash and ensures more or less equal light distribution.
III. Price vs. Quality vs. Product Ratio - Summary
I like to compare the product's price to its quality and overall purpose and my needs as a photographer. Before anything, you have to realize that Orbis Ring Flash might not be necessary a good choice for you, especially if you know that you won't be taking any outdoor macro/fashion shots and that you'll have a different use for your speedlights indoor other than using it with a ring flash (for example to do hair-light, background light etc.). However, if you're like me who takes lots of pictures outdoor and on-location, who looks for a versatile product and doesn't mind using one of the speedlights as a ring flash, then Orbis Ring Flash is perfect for you. The quality of the product is very high and seems to be durable (just don't throw it from the second floor to test its durability). When it comes to price I have to say it's a bit expensive - you can get the Orbis Ring Flash System (the ring flash with the mounting bracket) from their online store for $249. However, if you compare this price to the self-contained AlienBees ring flash which is on the market for around $399, then the Orbis system might look expensive. Overall - is it worth it the price?-Yes.