Every once in a while I like going back and taking a fresh look at the tools that I have been relying on for years. During my last trip to Death Valley and the California mountains, I met a few photographers who I spent some time with, talking about what photographers generally chat about – camera gear and our favorite photography spots. One photographer had a very similar setup as mine, using a Gitzo Systematic tripod and a Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead. His ballhead had a different quick release plate than mine, so we started chatting about the differences in the setup and what we both like and dislike about the BH-55. After this discussion, I realized that I have never written about the BH-55 at Photography Life, although I have continuously relied on it for years and take it with me everywhere I go. In a way, I have gotten emotionally attached to this remarkable ballhead and it has become an indispensable tool for my photography work.
It has been a while since Apple announced the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus and although I have had my Plus model for about 6 months now, I have not had a chance to provide feedback on what I think about this phone when used as a camera for occasional snapshots. Although I initially could not understand the point of such a large phone that is now known as a “phablet“, it did not take long before I was convinced that I wanted the iPhone 6 Plus. My main reason was reading – I no longer had to pinch with my fingers to zoom in to be able to read small text on a website. The larger surface area gave a lot more room, making it possible to use the device for email and web surfing. This meant that I could ditch my iPad and only carry one additional device when I needed to work, for which the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 fit the task perfectly, being a real laptop and not a laptop wannabe like the iPad is. After getting the iPhone 6 Plus, I realized that the built-in camera is actually pretty decent for photographing in daylight and when I do not have a real camera with me. It is certainly no Nokia Lumia 1020 or Samsung Galaxy S6, but I was not in a quest to find a phone with the best camera anyway. I was moving up from an older beat up iPhone and did not feel like switching to another system, so the built-in camera was certainly not a priority. I will be honest, I am not an iPhoneographer and I am not planning to be one anytime soon, so please take this review with a grain of salt. I only used the basic, built-in tools for capturing images, although I am aware of the fact that one can use third party apps to do plenty of cool stuff with the camera on the iPhone 6.
I used to have a wooden tripod. It was not as bad as it sounds — other photographers were always fascinated by the design, and it was sturdier than you might expect. Unfortunately, despite weighing 4.2 pounds, it had a maximum height of just three feet. Plus, it was bulky. I brought this tripod along on a hiking trip, thinking that these problems wouldn’t be too bad. I was wrong. It was too big to sit well on my backpack, and its weight started to bother me on long hikes. I researched my other options, and carbon fiber tripods began to come up in my searches. I wanted the best possible weight-to-stability ratio, so I knew that I needed to save some money.
Through the course of my research, the tripod brand Really Right Stuff (RRS) began to emerge as the one of the “best” tripod manufacturers. I already had the BH-40 ballhead, which I was quite happy with, so I began to save up. I ultimately ordered the Really Right Stuff TQC-14, a top-of-the line travel tripod.
The Impact Soft and Natural 4 Socket 3 Light Kit is a lightweight three-softbox continuous light source for studio shooting. MSRP is $604.90, but it seems to be perpetually discounted at B&H. As I write this it is priced at $348.95. The kit comes with stands, softboxes, heads and bulbs, everything you need to get started shooting portraits except the model and background (oh yeah, and camera and photographer, d’oh).
Ever since Nikon announced the introduction of the Nikon 1 V3 back in March of 2014 the camera has been met with mixed reactions. Some of the design choices made with this camera left many photographers scratching their heads wondering what the engineers at Nikon were thinking when they put the concept for the Nikon 1 V3 together. Specifically many people questioned the use of a microSD memory card, making the EVF and grip detachable, introducing yet another new battery, and coupling the Nikon 1 V3 with a new 10-30 PD zoom that does not accept filters. As a result many people simply dismissed the Nikon 1 V3 out-of-hand and did not give it a serious look. That is unfortunate since the Nikon 1 V3 actually is a very good camera that brings a lot of new features and capabilities to the Nikon 1 system. It’s too bad that the camera did it in a three-steps-forward two-steps-back kind of way. Had Nikon not made those rather quirky design choices I think the camera would have been met with a much stronger and more positive reaction from the marketplace.
This review is for the Rolleiflex 2.8 FX Medium Format Twin Lens Reflex Camera. The Rolleiflex is an intriguing camera – a long list of inspiring and master photographers considered this camera one of their favorites. Some famous Rolleiflex camera users include Richard Avedon, Robert Doisneau, Diane Arbus, and Vivian Maier, among others.
When I’m not scratching ever upwards toward the pinnacle of the high-stakes editorial bird photography world I find it helps my bottom line to prostitute myself as an HPLS. It’s not a pretty job, but imagine how ugly the world would appear if it weren’t for the services of us Human Powered Light Stands. When were not schlepping monolights, downloading memory cards, witnessing model releases, or checking to make sure the model’s sports bra isn’t wrinkled, we’re usually found holding the Venerable Shiny Disk.
My experience with shoulder bags has not exactly been great up to this point. As much as I liked the idea of carrying equipment in a shoulder bag, that convenience of quick access, I’ve not found one that would serve the part flawlessly before. There was always something not quite right – it’s either too square or too wide, the strap – too narrow or likes to play heart-stopping jokes on you.
You probably saw the next bit coming. You may even think it to be a cliché of sorts. But, yes, I found the shoulder bag I was looking for. I absolutely adore the Seven. Whenever I use it, I am constantly fascinated by all the things it does just right. Almost as if people who actually do photography came up with the design! So I will go on and say the following: if you need a medium-sized shoulder bag for daily use, just go and buy this. Need a smaller one? Get the Retrospective 5. Need a larger one? Get the Ten or Twenty. It’s great, and I can’t see someone not liking it for all the things it does well.
It’s been bugging me that I only have a handful of decent insect photos, despite owning a macro lens primarily for that purpose. When they weren’t flying or running away from me, they were biting me, and when I tried the pop-them-in-the-fridge-to-cool-them-down trick – well, let’s just say Mr. Tarantula is still napping. I felt awful about that and vowed never to ice down a critter again unless it was a penguin with heat stroke. Still I’ve been seeing tons of great bug photos lately and it rekindled my interest. If I could just dial in the lighting, maybe I could start nailing some great macro wildlife shots.
pOctober 16 of 2013 marks an important milestone in the history of photography, because it is the date when Sony announced world’s first full-frame mirrorless cameras, the Sony A7 and A7R. The Sony A7, being the cheaper model aimed for general use, sports a 24 MP sensor and offers hybrid autofocus, while the A7R with its high resolution 36 MP sensor is targeted at more specific types of photography including landscape, architecture, studio and product photography. Since the official release of these cameras, I had a chance to test both in 2014 as soon as they were available. However, I did not write detailed reviews for a number of reasons including native lens shortage and availability, all kinds of initial firmware bugs and lags, shutter vibrations (A7R), slow start up time, compressed RAW, terrible menu system, poor battery life and a number of other annoying issues. On top of that, 2014 was also a year of personal transformation for me, so I was incredibly busy trying to shuffle a lot of things at the same time. To put it short, my lack of time and my negative experience with these cameras contributed to reviews being put off for a later date. When Sony released the A7S a bit later, I did not see drastic changes aside from the camera sensor, so I put off reviewing that camera for a while as well. However, when Sony announced the second iteration of the A7-series, the A7 II, I immediately requested a review unit for evaluation. By then, Sony already had a few more native lenses to choose from and I had high hopes that Sony perhaps addressed many of the concerns from the original A7 in this new camera. In addition, the Sony A7 II came with in-body image stabilization (IBIS), which interested me a lot – with so many different adapters available for other lens mounts, the A7 II looked rather promising as a versatile tool that could stabilize pretty much any lens on the market. And that in itself sounded really good, so off I went with my journey to assess the new Sony A7 II.