It has been an incredibly busy week for us here at Photography Life – we shipped out over 1000 orders of the Sensor Gel Stick! I am happy to inform that we finally have some stock left for those that have not had a chance to order due to the previous back-order situation. We have been in short supply for over a month and although we did our best to inform our customers, some were quite unhappy about waiting so long for their order to ship. We sincerely apologize for this situation and we thank everyone for being very patient with us while we were doing everything we can to get the orders fulfilled as soon as possible. Going forward, we will do our best to manage the stock better.
In this review, I will talk about my experience and impressions with using perhaps the finest tripod head I have seen to date, the Arca-Swiss C1 Cube. Targeted specifically at macro, architecture and landscape photographers that need ultra high precision, with the ability to handle large and heavy cameras, the “Cube” is a very specialized, high-end tool. It has been on the market for a few years and went through several changes. The version I tested is the most current model and this particular review is for the Flip-Lock quick release type head – the one that had the most problems (more on this below). As of today, Arca-Swiss manufactures two types of the Cube: one with the the “Flip-Lock” clamp and one with a “Classic” screw-knob clamp, both of which are capable of securely attaching Arca-Swiss compatible plates, rails and other accessories.
This is an in-depth review of the Linhof 3D Micro Leveling Head with dovetail track, a high-end precision geared tripod head specifically designed for handling medium to large format cameras and other specialized rails for macro and architectural photography. Fitted with an Arca-Swiss compatible screw-knob clamp, this specific version is designed to fit any kind of Arca-Swiss plate or rail (there is also another version of the same head, but with a quick-release “Quickfix” adapter that can be mounted directly to a camera).
After testing out the Manfrotto 405 Pro geared head, I realized that I needed something more precise and stable with no “play” whatsoever. Unfortunately, when it comes to professional gear heads, there are not that many options on the market today. Once you get into the high-end geared head territory, there are only three products on the market – the Arca-Swiss C1 Cube, the Photo Clam Multiflex (which is basically a Korean copy of the Cube) and the Linhof 3D Micro. When I pointed out that I was planning to review the Arca-Swiss C1 Cube and see if it would be suitable for my needs, one of our readers sent me some information about the Linhof 3D Micro and pointed out the fact that it uses an Arca-Swiss compatible screw-knob clamp. This immediately caught my attention, because the C1 Cube has been known to have an odd quick-release clamp that went through several revisions. I always prefer to use screw-knob clamps instead of quick-release versions, because some manufacturers like Really Right Stuff deviate from the original standard, which can create problems. As a result, I decided to test out both the C1 Cube and the Linhof 3D Micro to see which one would best suit my needs.
In this review, I will summarize my findings from about a month of use of both heads and discuss pros and cons of the Linhof 3D Micro, particularly when compared to the Arca-Swiss C1 Cube.
We recently reviewed the Sport Strap from BlackRapid which we really liked, but for some people straps are still too bothersome. There are alternatives that allow the photographer to clip their cameras to a belt and avoid the strap altogether if they so desire. The Capture Clip Pro from Peak Design and the SpiderPro Camera Holster from Shai Gear are both strapless camera carrying systems that give you the feeling of stepping back in time to the days of the wild west but instead of gunslinging, you’re a camera toting cowboy. In this head-to-head review, we will examine the Capture Clip Pro vs the SpiderPro Camera Holster and try to help you know which system might be best for you.
It should be noted that we are specifically reviewing the Pro versions here, but both companies make less expensive versions that are well suited for smaller/lighter gear.
1) Capture Clip Pro (v.2) from Peak Design
First up is the Capture Clip Pro (v.2) from Peak Design. Capture Clip was initially brought to market as a successful Kickstarter project and now they have their second version of the Capture Clip.
During the last few weeks, I have been trying to come up with a good solution for testing lenses that did not require constant movement when dealing with slightly de-centered lenses. The idea was to build a setup similar to macro rails, but one that is bigger in size and very stable at the same time. Stability is extremely important, because even a slight vibration can negatively affect lab results. Using an Arca-Swiss quick release setup was a no-brainer, because it allows moving the setup without having to deal with mounting and dismounting anything, while being rock solid when tightly secured. While my BH-55 Pro tripod head from Really Right Stuff has been serving me well for a while now, it was hard to use for minute adjustments that are often necessary when testing lenses. Therefore, I decided to replace it with a geared head that would allow very precise vertical and horizontal tilt adjustments, along with the ability to pan, when needed. My quick search revealed that unlike the army of pan/tilt heads and ballheads, which are made by a myriad of companies, there are only a few options available for geared heads today. One of them is the Manfrotto 405 Pro Geared head, which I am reviewing today.
When testing lenses, I have to make sure that my setup is calibrated and the camera is perfectly aligned with the test chart. The process can take quite a bit of time, since I have to take a picture, make minute adjustments, then take another picture and retest again. In some cases I have to repeat the process many times over, which can be very painful. To simplify and speed-up the process, I have been connecting my laptop (which sits right under the tripod) directly to the Nikon D800E with a USB cable and have been using Nikon’s Camera Control Pro to dump files into a local folder, from which I pick up and process images using Imatest software. The problem with this approach has been speed – Imatest is pretty demanding when it comes to processing large RAW files from the D800E and my laptop just could not keep up. So I ended up moving the software to my powerful desktop machine, which created another problem. Every time I take a picture and need adjustments, I have to walk back and forth between the camera setup and the computer to analyze the results and make adjustments. USB 3 cables have length limitations and even with “active” USB 3 extension cables, the maximum length is typically under 10 meters. And that’s just not going to work for me, since I often test telephoto lenses and I have to be more than 10 meters away. To address these issues, I decided to try some wireless solutions that are available on the market. The first and the cheapest product to try was the Eye-Fi Pro X2 memory card. I got a 16 GB version and wanted to see just how well the card with its software could work for my setup. In this review, I will be focusing primarily on the transfer speed of the card and its usability with the Nikon D800 / D800E DSLR.
This is a short review of the Lexar Professional 400x SDHC UHS-I Class 10 card, which I have been using for the past 6 months. I have owned 4 of these cards in 16GB capacity and decided to write a review after every single one of them failed. I have never had such problems with memory cards, especially those that have a “professional” label attached to them. So this is more of a warning to potential owners, rather than a full-blown review of a product.
When it comes to memory cards, the market is simply overflowed by so many different brands and different types of cards, that it can get quite overwhelming for a first time buyer. Out of all those brands, the two most popular ones in the USA are SanDisk and Lexar. They put a lot of effort into marketing their products, particularly in the professional photography arena. For years I have been relying on SanDisk cards and have owned many Compact Flash and SD cards from them. Perhaps I have been lucky, but during the last 7 years, I have never had a single SanDisk card fail (I still own some pretty old 2 GB SanDisk cards). So last year when there was a good promotion on Lexar Professional cards and after I heard so many good things about the brand, I decided to give Lexar a try and purchased four of the professional 400x SDHC class 10 cards.
Chris Hejnar from Hejnar Photo Store is kindly giving a special 10% off discount coupon code for Photography Life readers. So if you want to buy his products at even a better price, please use the coupon code below. As I have pointed out in my Hejnar Photo Accessory Review, their Arca-Swiss compatible products are top notch in terms of quality, easily comparable to Really Right Stuff, Kirk and other top brands in the industry. Plus, Chris makes products right here in the US, so by purchasing from him we are supporting a growing small business (and at PL, we do care about US businesses competing with cheap foreign labor).
To take advantage of this 10% offer, please use the 012ccfcfb1 discount coupon upon checkout. This coupon is good for a year and if we continue supporting Chris, he will be able to extend the offer even more going forward. Please note that Photography Life does not earn any revenue from this offer. We are purely doing this to support a local business.
About 3 weeks ago, I decided to make some changes to my tripod setup in my lens testing lab, in order to make it easier, more consistent and fluid to test lenses. My decision was based on the fact that I found myself moving the tripod a bit too much when testing lenses, especially the de-centered ones (those that do not have a straight optical axis due to a slight dislocation of one or more lens elements). I decided to replace shorter macro focusing rails for much longer and bigger rails, so that I could have more room for side to side movement and more focus bracketing options for testing telephoto lenses. As I was configuring the setup, I realized that I needed to spend close to $2K in a more versatile tripod head and lots of Arca-Swiss rails, clamps and other accessories. The first task was to replace the standard quick release plate of the heavy duty Manfrotto 405 Pro Geared Head (to be reviewed later) with an Arca-Swiss quick release clamp. As usual, I started researching for a proper solution on Google, which pointed me to Hejnar Photo Store on the first page of search, with exactly the product that I was looking for. I then spent another 30-45 minutes researching the solution and read a number of posts on different forums, where people were raving about Hejnar Photo’s products, including the adapter that I needed. This was very important for me, because I needed a setup that would be extremely reliable and stable, especially for handling heavy super telephoto lenses.
Although I have never heard of the company before, I decided to give it a try and purchased the Arca-Swiss adapter and clamp for the Manfrotto 405 tripod head, along with a bunch of other accessories for my custom setup. The pricing was very good, so I wanted to see how Hejnar Photo’s products would compare to the most popular brands like Really Right Stuff. My order was processed on the same day and the package was shipped to me right away without any delays. After a few days, I received everything I ordered and started modifying the Manfrotto 405. After going through the instructions on Hejnar Photos’s website (which are nicely laid out with images), I was able to modify the head in less than 5 minutes. Once everything was put together, I was pleasantly surprised by how solid the setup was. I slid one of the long rails on Hejnar Photo’s tripod clamp and once secured, it was rock solid. No vibrations of any sort – and that’s exactly what I need for testing lenses! Here is the image of one of the configurations:
Many of our readers frequently ask us questions about tripod heads and accessories to support heavy camera and lens combinations. Those that are especially new to super telephoto lenses quickly discover that tripod feet supplied by all manufacturers on modern lenses are simply not suitable to be mounted on regular tripod heads. Unfortunately, whether it is Nikon, Canon, Sony or a third party lens manufacturer like Sigma, they all supply non-standard tripod feet with their lenses. For new lens owners it can be a rather frustrating experience trying to figure out which tripod head would fit their large and heavy lenses, because nobody wants a lens worth thousands of dollars to end up crashing on the ground. And since most tripod plates are only equipped with a single mounting point, it can be extremely unstable and even potentially dangerous to mount anything heavier than a few pounds on them. The solution, which has become somewhat of a standard nowadays, was developed by a company called Arca-Swiss back in 1990s and since then has been popularized as “Arca-Swiss Quick Release System”. The idea behind this quick release system is quite simple, but very effective. Almost all professional photographers that use super telephoto lenses have adopted the Arca-Swiss quick release system and more photographers are converting even their regular cameras to this format for ease of use, stability and compatibility reasons.
1) Arca-Swiss Quick Release
The Arca-Swiss quick release system is based on a two piece mechanism. The first piece, generally referred to as a “plate”, is attached to a camera or a lens (or any other device). It comes in a standard, “arca-style” 35mm wide form with a 45° dovetail and can vary in length (a sample plate is illustrated above to the right of the tripod head). The second piece is the mounting base, generally referred to as a “clamp”, where the plate gets attached and secured. The clamp can be fully opened, allowing the plate to be dropped in and secured, or can be partially opened to allow the plate to be slid into the position. The biggest advantage of the Arca-Swiss quick release system is this ability to slide the plate without having to worry about mounting or dismounting anything. The 45° dovetail on the plate, as pictured below, allows equipment to be moved across the clamp and secured in a specific location using a side knob or a locking release.