Featured Articles and Reviews

Leica M7 Review

This is a review of the Leica M7 TTL .72 rangefinder film camera that I used with the Leica 35mm f/2.0 Summicron M Aspherical Manual Focus Lens. I had … [Continue Reading]

Leica M7

Profoto B1 500 AirTTL Review

When Profoto announced their first truly portable setup with the Profoto B1 500 AirTTL battery powered flash last year, the news immediately caught my … [Continue Reading]

Profoto B1 with Battery

What is Ghosting and Flare?

When light rays coming from a bright source(s) of light (such as the sun or artificial light) directly reach the front element of a camera lens, they … [Continue Reading]

Lens Flare

How to Photograph the Milky Way

Many travel and landscape photographers, including myself, try to avoid shooting scenery with a clear blue sky. As much as we like seeing puffy or … [Continue Reading]

Arches Night Sky by Tom Redd

Arca-Swiss C1 Cube Review

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. … [Continue Reading]

Arca-Swiss C1 Cube

Wildlife Photography Tips Part One

I hope the idea I have in my head for this wildlife photography series of articles turns out on paper the way I imagined it and you find some useful … [Continue Reading]

Coastal Grizzly Bear Photo

Hand-holding Large Lenses vs Using a Gimbal Head

I recently bought the Nikon 800mm f/5.6E VR (see Nasim’s review) and took it out for my first field test. It turned out to be extremely poor light and rough snowy weather, but sometimes that’s when you get some great photos. I have some samples to show here and even though they are not tack sharp because the conditions didn’t really allow that, they are moody and show nature in its true beauty. I also wanted to talk about gimbals on tripods versus hand-holding on large lenses to get flying or action shots. I hear so many times you cannot hand-hold that 600mm, but I do and some of my best shots are because I hand-held.

Since the snowy owls have moved to the Seacoast of New Hampshire and Massachusetts because of a shortage of food on the tundra, we have been travelling down to photograph them and here are some sample images taken with the new Nikon 800mm f/5.6E VR lens. This first photo is taken on a tripod with the Wimberley II gimbal, there was no real panning involved and the conditions for photography were pretty terrible. The light was low, the snow was in the way but I would try anyways because the Nikon D4 has shown me it can handle tough situations. It was captured at ISO 2000 @ f/5.6, resulting in 1/1000th second speed. I needed at least a thousandth of a second to stop motion as I was hoping for a landing pose:

Snowy Owl with Rodent Landing Shot

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Eye-Fi Pro X2 Review

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.

Eye-Fi Pro X2 Review

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Lexar Professional 400x SDHC Card Review

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.

Lexar Professional 400x SDHC Card

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.

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Lightroom Loupe View Options

In the previous Mastering Lightroom series article, “Lightroom Grid View Options”, we learned how to set-up Cells in Grid View so that they display the information of your choice. Grid View options are only available in Library Module, but that is not the only view mode available in Lightroom. In this article for beginners we are going to learn how to set-up Loupe View, which is available in Library Module and is also the default and only view mode in Develop Module.

Lightroom Loupe View Options

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Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 Review

This is an in-depth review of the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art lens, world’s first constant f/1.8 zoom lens for DSLR cameras that was announced in April of 2013. Despite the recent trend of manufacturers to move their customer base to full-frame format, Sigma took a bold move and announced the professional-grade Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 Art for DX/APS-C format only. With a focal range equivalent to 27mm-52.5mm in 35mm format, the lens provides a good range to work with for a variety of different needs and applications. And with its fast constant aperture of f/1.8, the Sigma 18-35mm opens up opportunities to shoot in low-light situations, something that was previously only possible with fast aperture prime lenses. Lastly, Sigma’s pricing of $799 MSRP for the lens made it the top choice in terms of value when compared to pro-grade lenses such as the Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G DX, which sells for almost twice as much and does not offer the same low-light advantages.

Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM

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Lightroom Grid View Options

In Lightroom, image information, such as Metadata, can be overlaid on a photograph in some Modules. It helps you find out information you might need at a glance, such as aperture and shutter speed at which that particular photograph was taken. Such information can be overlaid in Grid and Loupe View modes in Library Module, and Loupe View mode in Develop Module. In this article, I will discuss the Grid View options, which are available in Library Module only. Loupe View mode, which is available in Library and Develop Modules, will be discussed in detail in a follow-up article.

Lightroom Grid View Options

Lightroom Grid View Information Overlay

In Grid View mode, the additional information display modes are called Grid Extras. The Grid Extras are further split into Cell Extras, as there are two types of Cells – Compact Cells and Expanded Cells. You can set different information for both types of Cells and toggle between them by hitting “J” key while in Grid View mode. Doing so will toggle between bare Cells that show no Grid Extras at all except for Color Label; Compact Cells that show Flags, Star Ratings, Quick Collection Markers, Thumbnail Badges that show whether that particular file was edited, and an additional piece of information of your choosing; and, finally, Expanded Cells that show more additional information that you can specify, such as file dimensions, date the photograph was taken on and so on.

A side note: a Cell is the area that surrounds and contains image thumbnail along with additional information in Grid View mode, but is not the thumbnail itself.

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Hejnar Photo 10% Discount Coupon

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).

Manfrotto 405 Arca Swiss Hejnar Photo

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.

Hejnar Photo Accessory Review

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:

Manfrotto 405 Arca Swiss Hejnar Photo

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What is Arca-Swiss Quick Release System?

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.

Arca Swiss Z1 with Plate

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.

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Please welcome Charles Hildreth!

I am excited about presenting yet another addition to our Photography Life family – please welcome Charles Hildreth! Charles is an amazing portrait photographer, who is coming back to Denver after spending the last several years working in Hollywood, California. I found out about Charles through my wife Lola, who showed me some stunning work by Charles on his 500px account (which happens to be one of the top). We will be closely working with Charles on some projects in the future right here at PL, so please give him a warm welcome!

Charles Hildreth

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