Tuesday, December 29, 2009

PocketWizard Releases Version 5.0 Firmware for MiniTT1™ and FlexTT5™

Elmsford NY – December 29, 2009 – PocketWizard launched the newest and most advanced firmware for the MiniTT1 Transmitter and FlexTT5 Transceiver. ControlTL™ Firmware Version 5.0 for Canon incorporates several new features, many performance improvements and new camera and flash compatibility. Now, with a simple download, customers who already own MiniTT1’s and FlexTT5’s can upgrade them to get the same features found on brand new units. Owners are encouraged to upgrade all existing units at the same time for improved performance.  

Two key version 5.0 capabilities are Rear Curtain Sync and Pre-Flash Boost. PocketWizard’s rear curtain sync allows the photographer to set the shutter speed at which rear curtain sync automatically engages while optimizing the timing of rear curtain sync to fire at the absolute end of the shutter opening. Pre-Flash Boost provides enhanced E-TTL performance when using flash diffusers, doing bounce flash, or at ranges just beyond the normal E-TTL capabilities. By increasing the pre-flash power, PocketWizard has offset the loss of light in these challenging E-TTL situations.  

Another significant new feature is Automatic Camera Detection. The ControlTL system can now automatically detect exactly which camera is being used to optimize system performance precisely for that camera. For Canon 5D and 5D Mark II users, this means the system will set the High Speed Sync crossover point to 1/320th versus the default of 1/400th to compensate for those camera’s slower shutter mechanisms. Camera compatibility for the Canon 7D has been added as well as E-TTL flash compatibility for the Metz 58 AF-1 flash.

Several other new features and refinements have been made and complete details can be found at www.PocketWizard.com/downloads. Current MiniTT1 Transmitter and FlexTT5 Transceiver owners can upgrade to the new firmware for free via the recently revised PocketWizard Utility.

About PocketWizard and the MiniTTI and FlexTT5

The PocketWizard MiniTT1 Transmitter and FlexTT5 Transceiver for Canon allow photographers to wirelessly control single or multiple off-camera flash units. These radios interpret the flash and exposure data communicated through the camera’s hot shoe and digitally transmit the information through a reliable radio signal. Photographers can place E-TTL flashes connected to a dedicated FlexTT5 Transceiver for wireless E-TTL operation wherever they need to illuminate a scene, even out of sight or in bright sun. Any change in ISO, aperture, shutter speed and even flash compensation is automatically communicated and adjusted wirelessly. A ControlTL system for Nikon is in the works as well as compatibility with some studio lights. The ControlTL system is also compatible for standard triggering with all PocketWizard radios.

For More Information

For more information on firmware version 5.0, including all new features and refinements, please visit PocketWizard.com

NOTE:  These are the great wireless units that I use. The full list of features these products offer is quite amazing. I also own the Canon Wireless system with the ST-2 controller but these PocketWizards offer way more features, are easier to use, work at greater distances and do not require line-of-sight to work.

They are available from Amazon.com here:

Pocket Wizard FlexTT5 Transceiver For Canon TTL Flashes
PocketWizard MiniTT1 Radio Transmitter for Canon TTL Flashes

© 2009 François Cleroux

(Version 1.00 - December 2009)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Camera Strap – Update

BlackRapid quoted me on their BR Buzz page on December 17th:


They have donated a RS-7 Strap which will go to the Delta Photo Club Spring Bird Photography competition. Thanks guys. Great product.

© 2009 François Cleroux

(Version 1.00 - December 2009)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Carrying Precious Cargo – The Camera Strap

So BlackRapid touts their camera strap as the “World’s Fastest” camera strap. Although I have tried a ton of straps in my lifetime and until very recently I have used the award winning and nearly impossible to break UpStrap. I’m not sure about the speed claim.

The UpStrap strap portion is made of a very thin yet super strong Kevlar webbing. Yes that Bullet Proof material. The neck pad on the UpStrap is a great quality rubber material with tons of little knobs that help the strap from slipping and sliding around your neck. It stays in place. The UpStarp has no plastic parts.

Having said that about the neck portion it can be somewhat un-comfortable on a bare neck when wearing a thin T-Shirt. Those little rubber knobs can dig in. Also, that neck pad is not substantial in size and so ALL of the camera and lens weight pulls down on that small pad at the back of the neck. Not ideal specially when you are carrying a heavy camera and lens combo.

I have recently and in the past tried other straps including various Op/Tech straps. The Op/Tech EZ Comfort strap is very comfortable but more on this type of strap a little later. I have also tried a good and well made LowePro camera strap. I’m a big fan of LowePro products but more on this strap in a bit. I have tried or looked at several other straps or other camera carying systems also.

The issue I have with most of these straps is either the Quick Release Buckle or the D-Rings or some of the other hardware they use. They are plastic. My experience with plastic is not very good.

When I worked as a pro I had spent several days hiking into Carmanah Valley on the West Coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. As I was walking along the Carmanah Creek high up nearing the Carmanah Giant a similar plastic quick release buckle broke and luckily the strap caught in my 72 pound back pack! My camera and lens could have gone down a steep embankment into the creek never to be seen again. Not only would this have been costly, it would have ended my trip forcing me out of the valley to get another camera! This would have been a minimum 3 lost days!

After inspecting the strap, a small plastic tab that bends just slightly and then clicks into place just decided to break. Plastic is a bad idea at best of times but when you use it as a repetitive bending part under heavy professional use its a very bad idea. That day I swore never to use a plastic part in a strap again.

Yes, plastic has come a long way since those days. But, I still would not trust my multi thousand dollar camera setup to a ten cent plastic component. Another issue with a few of the straps is the thin nylon material that attaches or loops around the camera strap post. Some of these are very thin and after only a few short months a closer inspection shows that the thin material has already started to fray. Not much comfort there. How long will that last?

Since then I had a photographer friend that had an issue with with a Canon strap that came off because off a poor strap attachment design with at that time rather poor instructions. That mishap cost this photographer a camera. Canon would not repair it for free but since then they have include better instructions.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2008 Optech game me an EZ Comfort strap for my camera and using it on a body with a small zoom lens attached it was great and very comfortable. They also gave me a replacement EZ Comfort strap for my shoulder bag that I use for carrying all my Schwag. Wow, what a great and comfortable strap that was. My colleagues were very envious.

Again though, both of these straps had some plastic hardware. I did use the Op/Tech camera strap for a short bit but after some time I kept thinking about that Carmanah incident and decided to stop using it. I do still use the shoulder bag strap!!

That’s what drew me to the UpStrap. Kevlar, Quality Rubber, Metal Clips and NO Plastic. I have had that strap for several years now and love it. Until recently that is. . .

All of a sudden I had a Canon 5D Mark II with the Battery Pack and a Really Right Stuff (great products) L Bracket with a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS Lens attached and a Really Right Stuff (Did I mention they make great products) Wedding Flash bracket and a Canon 580EX II attached. With the UpStrap I had no thoughts that it would not hold. Actually I KNEW it was going to hold without any problems, a great strap, but boy was this now very uncomfortable. It needs to be held around the neck or over the shoulder. Either way, because of the way in which it attaches to the camera strap loops on the camera, it was very un-comfortable. Two problems. One was the weight all distributed on the small neck pad and the second was how the camera now front and top heavy heaved over and sat at my chest or my side at an odd angle. Not comfortable or easy to deal with specially while working outdoors in the snow trying to do other things.

After checking out some of the cool new products out there for holding cameras from belts to clips to multi camera systems and then doing a ton of Internet research on them, I decided to get the BlackRapid strap. What helped decide was also the fact that I had seen this strap being used at the recent Seattle Pocket Wizard trip (previous post) which was the third time I had seen the strap but this time I had a chance to ask the photographer about how he like it. With my research in hand and his recommendation, I choose to buy the BlackRapid RS-7 Strap along with the Joey 2 pouch and 2 spare FastenR-2 fasteners to attach to other lenses.

The on-line purchase was quick and easy and the Pay with PayPal option was as usual very welcomed. Shipping was quick.

Within minutes of receiving my package and getting home I had the strap out and attached it to my camera and my 400mm lens. Wow! what a great strap. No I must say it is a little odd or rather un-conventional. It sits slung over one shoulder across your body and it holds your camera upside down at your waist level. This at first seemed odd, but as I walked around and then tried grabbing the camera pretending to try to take a shot with it, I saw the wisdom in this setup! The camera was ready with grip facing forward right where my hand was, at the ready. Simple and very elegant design indeed.


So I took the lens off, added the 70-200mm f/2.8 lens and the flash bracket and flash and attached the FastenR-2 to the bottom of the Lens Plate and set it down. Again, wow, the camera and all the gear sat comfortably upside down at my side. Then it dawned on me, that the first time I tried it with the 400mm lens that I did not even notice the weight. Even with this large heavy camera/flash setup it was very comfortable on the shoulder. The weight was evenly distributed on the well designed and fully articulated shoulder pad.

I instantly fell in love with this strap. Since receiving it had a chance to shoot in the snow with it and even handling several portable light stands and doing several other tasks was very simple. The strap help the camera at my side away from the front of my body and out of harms way. The strap was still very comfortable after the shoot.

I have since then also showed this to two professional photographers that now both want to get this strap. This strap is very well designed and very well made. The strap and pad materials are well made and the stitching looks very well done. And, big AND, no plastic parts! The fasteners are all made of metal. The FastenR-2 that screws into your camera’s or len’s tripod socket. The FastenR-2 is machined from a solid stock of 304 stainless steel, and has an integral D-Ring for coupling to the R-Strap’s ConnectR which is also metal.

Everything I was looking for in a strap! Comfort and no plastic parts. I did gain the new hold the camera upside down at the waist design that appears to be superior than the traditional standard over the neck design. Oh, and after testing it out, it may just be the fastest camera strap in the world!

BlackRapid has three straps they offer but only the RS-7 is fully articulated which means the shoulder pad will sit properly on your curved shoulder and will therefore be much more comfortable. Having said that, I am sure the other two straps are still better than any over the neck strap.

If you are unsure of all this, please check out their site and watch their videos.

While there make sure to check out all the BR Buzz:


You can purchase the strap directly from BlackRapid using PaylPal or you can use Amazon.com. The link to the strap at Amazon is here:

Black Rapid Strap RS7 Black Fabric, Curved Ergonomic, with ConnectR-2 and FastenR-2

If any manufactures would like me to test out their newer better straps or camera carrying systems, please pass them along. I would love to review them.

© 2009 François Cleroux

(Version 1.02 - December 2009)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

White Balance

The importance of White Balance in the Digital Image Workflow is often overlooked. This is usually because of the lack of understanding of what White Balance is and how it affects the overall quality of your images, not just the color. Proper White Balance can add contrast, sharpness and detail to an image while proper color can make your images stand out from the rest.

Another misconception in the White Balance world is that since you shoot RAW, it’s not important because you can adjust White Balance and Color in Post Processing. Even though it may be true that you can adjust White Balance in Post Processing, but when you make adjustments without the proper tools, all you can do is make a Best Guess on the final White Balance and Color outcome. Best Guess as opposed to what the real or 'True' color is.

If you shoot in JPG, proper White Balance is even more crucial as any incorrect color captured in your image will result in much lower Dynamic Range, Lower Contrast and final un-balanced Color Correction in your images. Or worse, an incorrect in camera White Balance setting can render your images to be un-usable.

I am in the process of setting up a Workshop on White Balance, and X-Rite was kind enough to send me a new ColorChecker Passport. With this in hand and the fact that I always wanted to “Test” a bunch of White Balance products, I will be doing a full review of several products including the following:

In Camera Auto White Balance
In Camera Preset White Balance Settings
In Camera Custom White Balance
Photo White Card
18% Gray Card
RAW Workflow WhiBal G6 Pocket Kit
Expo Imaging ExpoDisc
Datacolor SpyderCube

X-Rite Color Checker Passport

If I can get my hands on a free or borrowed LallyCap, I will include that in the Review Roundup also. I do not own one of these as I find the $29.00 U.S. plus Shipping to be exorbitant for a piece cloth. They also charge a lot extra for shipping to Canada. I may change my mind later if it turns out to work really well, but for now I still will not buy one. (If you own one and don’t use it and would like to help out with this I would love to borrow it.)

I have several members of the Delta Photo Club that want to help out with this project and we will start working on defining our Testing Methodology and our Standard Testing Procedures. We will include testing in Studio with various lighting conditions and light sources and will also test outdoors under various lighting conditions.

Work will be performed on several Color Profiled (Calibrated) computer systems and Color Profiled printers. Final results will be evaluated by all members involved in the project but we will also report on the effectiveness of the products, ease of use, and cost.

If you would like to contribute a product to include in this test, please contact me.

© 2009 François Cleroux

(Version 1.03 - December 2009) - Update Notes: Added the Datacolor SpyderCube

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Canon News


The new season of NBC's Saturday Night Live (USA) opened not only with an a new cast, but with a new look for the opening title sequence. The entire opening montage was shot using the EOS 5D Mark II and the new EOS 7D digital SLR cameras. The concept behind the opening sequence was portraiture as the director and crew looked to capture "living" portraits of the city, the cast and the unique characters that make up the New York City nightlife.

The crew wanted to capture the city nightlife in as natural a look and setting as possible. This meant minimal additional lighting, and making those on-camera feel comfortable to act naturally. Their solution was the Canon EOS 5D Mark II and Canon EOS 7D Digital SLR cameras, with their amazing low-light performance, small form factor, and amazing depth-of-field, which enabled the crew to shoot in predominantly ambient light without big lighting gear. The crew also found it easy to covertly shoot around the city without drawing a crowd.
More on the NBC shoot here:

NBC Saturday Night Shoot

*From EOS Magazine


Canon has release the new Canon EOS 1D Mark IV that is capable of shooting a full 10 FPS with a greatly improved auto focus system. The Canon White Paper on the new EOS 1D Mark IV is available for download. The 123-page document takes a detailed look at the new features of the camera, giving an insight into the technology used. There is also an overview of compatible Canon accessories and software.


Check out a great Canon 1D Mark IV Review here at Canon Professional Network:


*EOS Magazine is an excellent British Publication that is worth paying shipping for. Great quality Magazine with great Canon specific in-depth articles. Check them out at:


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tripod-ology 101

Once a photographer purchases a camera and lens, they start looking at other accessories. Most often they will look at flash units and other lenses and then cases and so on. Very often the last accessory they look at purchasing is a tripod. Once they make the decision to purchase a tripod, they usually opt to purchase a ‘cheap’ tripod. This is a big mistake that usually leads to photos that are not much better than hand help photos and in turn leads to the photographer leaving the tripod in the closet never to be used again.

Why would someone buy a $700 dollar camera and perhaps several $400 or several $1000 dollar lenses and then trust an $80 tripod to firmly and securely hold their equipment steady? The investment of a great tripod will result in much more photographic flexibility and much sharper photos. A great quality tripod will also last a photographers lifetime and could span the life of three or four camera bodies. If a great tripod will last twenty years, would spending a minimum of $20 a year or more be worth having a flawless smooth working tripod and head assembly that gives you the results you want?

When choosing a tripod there are many considerations including of course the ‘budget’. One must however look at size, materials, head types and the requirements of the photographer or rather, your requirements. Will it be used indoors in a studio, outdoors, perhaps in water, or for travelling? Do you need to get down very low to the ground or very high above obstacles? Do you have arthritis that can hamper some hand motor skills? All these questions must be looked at closely in order to properly make an informed decision when choosing the perfect tripod. You may find that like me, you may require several tripods.
In this workshop, I hope to answer many of these questions.

Types of Pods

There are Monopods, Bi-Pods, Tripods, Quadropods, Gorilla Pods (Best selling most money making tripod of the past two years, unfortunately the original designer did not patent it and so it has been copied and made available by many manufactures. Many are poor quality knock-offs, please support the Original Gorilla Pod, it’s an excellent tripod), Bean Pods, Sand Pods, MonsterPods (Attach to walls and trees and such), and a whole variety of other devices and clamps for attaching to almost anything including trees, bikes, helmets and cars. Here we will only discuss the Tripod but the attributes of a good tripod is true of most other pods.

What is a Tripod

A tripod is composed of a head where the camera or lens attaches or mounts, a base sometimes referred to as a collar or neck, three legs and feet. Each of these components plays a vital role in the overall functionality and stability of the tripod.

Anatomy of the Tripod

01) Feet – Rubber, Spikes, Rubber/Spike, Plates (for Sand), Webs (for Snow), Wheels

02) Legs – Wood, Various Aluminums and Alloys, Titanium, Carbon Fibre, Legs come in 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 Sections

03) Leg Locks – Clamps, Rings, Levers, Screw Device and Push Buttons

04) Base – Again different materials used. Forged or machined are usually better than formed or stamped

05) Center Column – Or no column, Levelling, Crank or Geared, Short, Reversible, Hook

06) Head – There are thousands to choose from, Ball Heads, 2 Way Fluid Head, 3 Way Pan & Tilt Heads, Offset, Panorama, Bowl Heads, with Lock Levers, Screw Levers, Thumb Screws and Clamps

07) Mounting plates – The mounting plate is integral to the overall stability of the tripod and should be looked at closely. There are different styles, offset plates, rotating brackets, micro-adjusting plates for Macro Photography and a whole variety of special purpose plates and brackets. Note that some brackets ARE the mounting plate while some brackets attach to a mounting plate creating another weak spot and potentially allowing for more vibration.

08) Accessories – Cases, Straps, Shelves, Poles, Clamps, 3rd Hands, Hold Down Rings, Spreaders, Cradles, Levels on Tripod base, Levels on Heads, Panorama, Leg Pads, Leg Wraps, Lighting System Accessories and a multitude of other rare and bazaar items.

What makes a good tripod?

Steady as she goes – Tripods should be solid, vibration free and not wobbly, flex and wobble in any component of the tripod from the feet to the head will cause problems. A good solid heavy tripod is always better.

09) Flex (or “Bend”) comes from either the use of cheap materials or from components that are poorly designed or from a tripod that is over loaded with weight. Flex usually comes from the legs or from the thin neck of the tripod head. Flex in a tripod will enhance vibrations.

10) Wobble on the other hand comes merely from poor quality or bad design and rarely from the material. Most wobble comes from loose fitting leg sections or joints or some component of the head assembly, or where the head attaches to the tripod base and on occasion from the mounting plate. A slight wobble can be a disastrous thing when it comes to vibrations.

11) Vibration – Tripods with cameras mounted on them are subject to vibration. This vibration can even be amplified by the use of improper materials or from a badly designed tripod. On the other hand some materials excel at reducing vibrations. Good tripod design also plays a large role in reducing vibrations. When you combine a great material with a great design, you have a great tripod. Vibrations can come from the ground on bridges and platforms, from wind, even slight wind, and even from the camera or camera strap itself. When a photo is taken there are three mechanical things that happen that cause vibrations.
a) The first source of vibration is usually from depressing or releasing the shutter button. The act of pushing the camera no matter how sturdy the tripod is will cause vibration. This can easily be fixed by simply using a shutter release cable or the more modern day wireless remote.
b) The second is that the cameras mirror that directs light through the prism to the eye piece needs to be moved out of the way very quickly when a photo is taken. When this heavy glass mirror is pushed out of the way at high speeds it is brutishly jammed against a stop block which causes tremendous vibrations. The use of special mechanisms and materials and sock absorbing stops reduces these vibrations, but they are not eliminated. To eliminate this vibration one must use a mirror lock up feature available in some older cameras or the “live view” mode of most modern day cameras.
c) The third mechanical event that occurs is the movement of the shutter, or rather, shutters, itself. Again here we have two metal curtains (Usually metal but can be cloth in older SLR’s) that need to be sent across the sensor at high speeds, the mechanics required to do this causes some vibrations but again most of it comes from stopping these fast moving shutters. Like with the mirror, efforts are made to reduce shutter based vibrations but they cannot be completely eliminated.

Scientists in Japan recently did some tests showing that Camera Vibrations greatly enhance blur even in high end cameras. Scientists are studying the problems and trying to figure out how to minimize or eliminate these problems. Newer technologies are starting to allow for shutterless systems where sensors are turned on-and-off at quick rates or pixels are turned on-and-off in waves without the need for a shutter curtain or blades. Casio for example has a camera EX-F1 or EX-HF20 that shoots at 1000 frames per second. Because of the very fast electronics and ultrafast memory required, they are limited to a rather small un-printable resolution of 224 x 56 pixels. They are a long way off from doing this with say a modern 21 Mega Pixel camera. But it will get there.

12) So what makes a good tripod? A well designed and engineered tripod that uses low vibration materials throughout. Well designed legs that use low torsion and low flex materials. And finally a well engineered head with no wobble or flex.

13) Which is the right Tripod for you? I could show you a 150 pound tripod and tell you that it is perfect and will in every case hold your camera super steady; however, this behemoth of a tripod would not be suitable for most of you probably 99 percent of the time. Choosing the right tripod for you takes some careful research and a good assessment of your needs and requirements for a tripod. In many cases, no one tripod will be perfect and having several tripods may be a better solution.

To best asses what tripod is right for you, you need to have a good understanding of what a tripod is used for.

What is a tripod for?

Note: When using the tripod, always check with the manufactureres recommendations on wether you should turn off the Image Stabilization or keep it on!! Most newer IS Lenses can now hve the IS enabled when on a tripod. With very big and long lenses (500 and 600) you can always hace the IS enabled.

14) Holding the camera – This is rather self explanatory here, or so it seems. Yes there is the simple basic hold the camera steady scenario, but what about holding the camera where it may otherwise be difficult to hold it steady, say at ground level, or hold it steady for a longer period of time with a heavy lens, or in the exact same spot for a complex HDR Panorama, or where the slightest movements make it impossible to get the right shot when doing macro work.

a. Hold Camera Steady
b. Hold Camera steady for many exposures over a long period of time (Sunset example)
c. Hold Camera Steady for Composition
d. Create a level Horizon (Don’t waste valuable pixels)
e. Unattended Camera (Kids, Hummingbird)

15) Holding the camera in other ways – With a little thought, creativity and ingenuity, tripods can become very valuable artistic rendering tools
a. Snake or other critters down low
b. High elevation above head (Concert or just to see over people)
c. Hanging over the edge (Cliffs Example) CAUTION: Used a safety strap system!!

16) Self Portraits – The tripod can be used for creating self portraits or even photos with everyone in them, especially when on holidays.

17) Testing – Tripods can also be a valuable tool for testing:
a. scene or studio setups of props and such re composition
b. exposure
c. lighting

18) Preventing Camera Shake – If you want ultra sharp images you need a) a good tripod and b) you need to use it! Creating razor sharp images or what we call ‘tack sharp’ images is an art in itself. One must assess their optics and then use the right techniques to create these images. Note that ‘tack sharp’ images make great images and usually look much better even smallish sizes like 5x7 inch print sizes but will look way better than non sharp images at 11x14 or at 16x20. For more on ‘Tack Sharp’ images, check out my article on the subject at www.eyesonphoto.com.

a. Tack Sharp Images for Print (Describe Process) Need good glass, Prime Lens, good tripod, skills, sweet spots Aperture and Zoom level, remote shutter, Low ISO, Image Stabilization OFF, Corrected Focus System, Live View, Auto Bracket Focus, Composition perfection, move in if required and Don’t waste valuable pixels.

19) Long Exposures – When trying to capture partial image blur where some of the image is sharp and other components are blurred, like a long exposure waterfall or stream shot, you need a tripod. Camera shake on a long exposure of this type will negate the nice smooth long flowing lines you want to achieve.

20) Panning – can be a great aid for panning (Note: If the tripod has a very smooth head assembly)

21) Ultra Long Exposures – Although these may also be used for capturing motion, ultra long exposures are usually reserved for night photography or when using a very dense Neutral Density Filter. In these cases of shooting clear Nightscapes, a tripod is a must.
a. Stars
b. Make Night look like Day
c. Light Painting and Writing

There are other great artistic uses and technical uses for Tripods

22) Multiple Exposures – There are various types of multiple exposures, but the basic single scene multiple expose is best done with a tripod. Hand holding without moving the camera at all for two or more shots is impossible.
a. Use the tripod
b. Manual exposure
c. Manual Focus

Note: Explain Parallax and slight side to side or up and down movements.

23) Time Lapse Photography – Self Explanatory and again just a multiple exposure. It is built into some cameras but devices are available including digital shutter cables with built in timers and time lapse controls and external battery supplies for the camera.

24) The Disappearing Trick or ‘How to Delete People” – This is just the reverse of the Multiple Exposure. Instead of adding components from each photo, just remove components from each photo. Great for:
a. Landscapes to remove unwanted cars, boats, birds
b. People from scenes like Lighthouses with many visitors
c. Washington Capital Steps
d. Malls or roads

25) Or Delete Parts of People – How about just having shirts and pants walking around? I will be showing an example of this in an upcoming competition.

26) Panoramas (Stitched Images) – Stitched images are usually used to create Panoramas. Here, two or more images are taken of different areas of a scene and then the two (or more) images are pasted (Stitched) together to create a single continuous long image.
a. Use the tripod
b. Manual exposure
c. Manual Focus

27) High Quality Standard Images – This is a great technique similar to creating a panorama where when combined with good ‘tack sharp’ image techniques, ultra high quality images can be created. Instead of using the camera in Landscape (horizontal) mode, the camera is tilted at 90 degrees and then three Portrait (vertical) images are shot and then combined to create a standard 4x6 format image. This results in a typical 10 mega pixel camera being turned into an approximate equivalent 23 mega pixel camera (or more).

28) HDR or High Dynamic Range Images – Again, this is similar to a Multiple Exposure Image but instead of adding or removing components, you can combine multiple ‘Exposures’. HDR can be done at any time but works best for High Contrast Scenes. Also, even though it can be faked with a single image, it is usually done with 3 exposures and best done with 5 or 9 exposures.
a. Use the tripod
b. Manual exposure with a fixed Aperture or Shutter Priority
c. Auto bracket exposure (3) with Caution about camera shake
d. Manual Focus

29) Macro Photography – The tool of choice here is the tripod and some sort of micro adjustment bracket, plate or rail device.

30) Stereoscopy or 3D Photography – Again, custom brackets and tools are made for doing this type of work. The basis for these systems is the tripod.

And finally my favourite use for the tripod:

31) Composition – The tripod excels at slowing the photographer down. Giving the photographer time to smell the roses or in our case, closely examine a scene and then closely examine and adjust the composition. Time to check “all four corners”. Time to really see a scene.

This is only a first draft of this document as it was used as "notes" for a Workshop I tought. I will update this document several times and will post the updates here.

Although there are a lot of great reasons for having a ripod, the first and foremost is to have sharp images. I would recommend reading this article or creating "Tack Sharp" images:

Start to Finish 'Tack' Sharp

And again, comments are always welcome. Do you use your tripod for something I havent listed? Let me know. Some readers have already asked about my recommendations which I will post soon, but for now, check out my equipment list.

© 2009 François Cleroux

(Version 1.02 - November 2009)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

X-Rite ColorChecker Passport

I was lucky enough to get my hands on one of these and recently used it at the 2nd annual Family Fright Night held at the McKee Centre. Members of the club took photos of about 150 scarry little monsters (and some little princesses). We used the ColorChecker with each of the photographers.

Not all the results are in yet and not all the other members are going to get the benefit of the Lightroom Plug-In at this time. I have not started the editing yet for the Portraits but once I do I will report on this. From all accounts on the Internet the software is excellent and it makes color correction a snap.

The product itself was small and easy to carry in a pocket. It is well made as are other X-Rite products. So far I am very happy with this ColorChecker Passport. Below is some information from X-Rite.

Buy the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport from Amazon.com

Press Release: X-Rite Introduces ColorChecker Passport Into Digital Photography Raw Workflows – from Capture to Edit

All-new Hardware/Software Solution Also Offers Adobe® Imaging Solutions Users Even More Power With Seamless Integration of DNG Profiling & Many Other Passport Features

Grand Rapids, MI –September 15, 2009 – (NASDAQ: XRIT) X-Rite, Incorporated – the world leader in color management and measurement technologies (www.xrite.com) today introduced ColorChecker Passport, an all-new solution for digital photographers working in a Raw workflow to quickly and easily capture accurate color, instantly enhance portraits and landscapes, and maintain color control from capture to edit. The powerful color control and creativity possible with the all-new X-Rite ColorChecker Passport are designed to be adopted into any Raw workflow – a solution made even more powerful when combined with Adobe® Imaging Solutions for those who want to benefit from DNG profile creation and the many other seamlessly integrated features of Passport. JPEG shooters benefit, as well.

“We developed ColorChecker Passport primarily for photographers working in a Raw workflow. It’s a powerful capture to edit solution for color control and creativity that becomes even more powerful for DNG profile creation when combined with Adobe Imaging Solutions. Users will benefit from the included Camera Calibration Application and Lightroom® Plug-In software to create Custom DNG Profiles that accommodate different lighting sources, even unusual artificial lighting. The extended functionality from the all-new camera calibration software also ensures an accurate color foundation, image to image and camera to camera,” states X-Rite Senior VP of Sales and Marketing Iris Mangelschots.

Introducing Raw Color Power From Capture To Edit
Based on X-Rite’s renowned ColorChecker product line, ColorChecker Passport allows those working in Raw to quickly and easily capture accurate color, instantly enhance portraits and landscapes and maintain color control from capture to edit – significantly reducing image processing time and improving quality control. In addition, ColorChecker Passport delivers valuable color control benefits to JPEG shooters.

This all-new hardware/software color solution comes in a durable, protective “passport” sized case for the ultimate in functionality and portability, and combines camera calibration software and three photographic targets.

The Total Package Comes With:
  • White Balance Target
  • Classic Target
  • Creative Enhancement Target
  • Camera Calibration Software
  • Protective Case & Lanyard
All-new Creative Enhancement Capabilities: The Look You Desire In A Few Clicks
Whether it’s a studio shot, a colorful landscape or a multiple scene photo event, ColorChecker Passport extends the power of photo editing software with one-click enhancements that articulate your inspiration in a fraction of the time.

The Enhancement Target also provides a visual reference for judging, controlling and editing images for shadow details, highlight clipping or color shifts. This includes multiple levels of warming and cooling patches for portraits and landscapes to help create pleasing and repeatable edits with a single click. When it comes to clipping, the all-new Passport Creative Enhancement target offers the ability to quickly verify any clipping and ensure that the image has optimal shadow and highlight detail as well as ensure color fidelity across all hues.

Extending An Industry Classic: Color Referencing For Specific Color Evaluation – PLUS DNG Profile Creation
The customary functionality of the Passport Classic Target is now extended with the included camera calibration software that produces DNG profiles of your camera’s response to the individual scene’s lighting. As a result, you get consistent, predictable and repeatable results from image to image and camera to camera. You can quickly establish an accurate color foundation, minimize color differences between cameras and lenses, and easily adapt for mixed lighting.

The Passport Classic Target still provides a built-in point of visual color reference. Photograph the Classic target in the same lighting as your images; then open it in your photo processing software as a reference to help with color correction.

The Classic Target also includes the 24 color reference patches, a long-time industry standard, with each patch representing the colors of natural objects, such as sky blue, skin tones and leaf green; and each patch reflecting light just like its real world counterpart. Each square is individually colored using a solid tone to produce pure, flat, rich color without dots or mixed tints.

The Classic target can help photographers make global corrections based on accurate information, saving hours of time by giving them a point of reference to see exactly how changes will affect the rest of the colors in an image before application.

White Balance Target: Capture True Colors from the Start
The ColorChecker Passport White Balance Target is a newly formulated spectrally flat target that provides a neutral reference point that reflects light equally across the visible spectrum, compensating for varying lighting conditions. With the Passport White Balance Target, you’ll be able to eliminate problems that can arise from inaccurate white balancing such as color casts, and improve camera display previews for more reliable histograms as well as speed up post-production editing by eliminating the need to neutralize each image individually.

All-new Camera Calibration Software: Custom DNG Profiles with Adobe Imaging Solutions for an Accurate Color Foundation
With the included ColorChecker Passport Camera Calibration Application and Lightroom® Plug-In, shooters can quickly and easily build DNG profiles for Adobe® Imaging solutions including Lightroom®, Photoshop®, Photoshop® Elements, Camera Raw (ACR) and Bridge.

This new advanced profiling technology provides excellent results with just the small 24-patch ColorChecker Classic target, producing DNG profiles that work exceptionally well, even in unusual artificial light sources. Whether shooting with just one camera, or multiple cameras, photographers can easily establish an accurate color foundation and maintain control of their colors.

Passport Camera Calibration advantages include:

  • Camera calibration for Raw shooters for greater capability to calibrate and correct color
  • Accurate color that provides a consistent foundation for creative interpretation
  • Minimized color differences between cameras and lenses
  • Automatic adaption for mixed lighting
  • Color balance matches across different scenes
  • Dual-illuminant profiles that take into account two different light sources in a single profile
Create Dual-Illuminant Profiles

A very powerful feature of the software is the ability to create dual-illuminant DNG profiles. This type of profile takes into account two different light sources to create a single profile, which can be applied to an even wider variety of lighting conditions. Dual-Illuminant profiles can be made with any two of twenty-one supported illuminants, allowing you to create a profile for just about any kind of lighting condition you may encounter. Dual-illuminant profiles allow you the freedom to move between the represented lighting conditions without switching profiles.

Great for JPEG Shooters, Too
From the start, ColorChecker Passport has great benefits for those who shoot in a JPEG workflow. You can ensure your JPEG files are captured correctly from the onset, giving you greater freedom to evaluate and optimize shadow details or highlight clippings as well as an excellent visual reference for color spectrum and color adjustments.

A Portable Protective Case: A Passport For Any Shoot
Rugged enough to take anywhere, small enough to fit into a camera bag or pocket, the protective casing adjusts to multiple positions to self-stand, providing the flexibility to place the targets exactly where needed and includes a lanyard for additional convenience for scene placement.

“With ColorChecker Passport, you can expect much faster image processing time, improved quality control, all in a cool little package that you can take anywhere,” Mangelschots confirms.

See For Yourself: Passport Featured On All-new Website
To view ColorChecker Passport’s features and benefits in action, visit xritephoto.com and click on the product page to view a ColorChecker Passport video. Featuring pro photographer and X-Rite Coloratti Seth Resnick, the video is one of the many informative tools available on the all-new website. xritephoto.com is both an online resource center and virtual community for anyone interested in digital photography to learn, explore, and exchange ideas about color.

(Version 1.01 - October 2009)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Delta Photo Club Print Night

Sometimes your day to day work and your personal life seems to work against you. You get sick like I was last week but couldn’t take the time off to rest properly to get better. More work piled on and I had several evening commitments I had to keep including one night of teaching. I managed to get through a rough week but I have still been busy. Today I managed to rush home after a 3:00 to 5:00 meeting. I should have rested but I wanted to get some prints entered into this evenings print competition.

“Christ” – At a great old church and cemetery
in Miscouche, PEI

With only about 1:45 minutes to edit, print and mount 3 images and cook dinner to boot I wasn’t sure I was going to get anything done. I rushed as I did all week and managed to quickly rifle through several thousand images from my recent trip to Nova Scotia and PEI. I found six I liked and quickly edited them. After selecting what I thought were the best four, I printed them as 11x17’s and mounted them onto plain white 16x20 card stock backing boards. Done.

“Bill the Cat” – From a small shop
in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia.

OK, devour dinner, spaghetti and home made marinara sauce with hot Italian sausage. Yum! A quick drive to the McKee Center and submit my photos. This evening judge was the two time award winning professional photographer of the year, Greg Schurman. The three photos I entered I posted here. I received a lot of great comments from my first photo of “Lichen On Rocks” and more great comments on my next two photos, “Christ” and “Bill the Cat”.

“Lichen On Rocks” – On a beach just North of
the Englishtown ferry in
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

There were a lot of other great images and not winning is OK. I was finally relaxing listening to Greg's great critique and commentary. When the final three winning images and the three honourable mention images were posted up front I was shocked to see two of my images there! 1st place for “Christ” and an honourable mention for “Bill the Cat”. Wow, after my long endless week, I had my best showing ever. It’s a great feeling doing well. I have posted the three images here to share them with you and in my own way to just show them off.

© 2009 François Cleroux

(Version 1.00 - October 2009)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Portable Backup - Part 3

In this last part of this series I will cover a few other Portable Backup options. We have covered using Laptops, Net Books, various Multimedia Storage Devices including what I believe to be the best Multimedia Storage Device, the Sanho HyperDrive ColorSpace UDMA 500 GB. Here will we look at three other options, Portable CD/DVD backup units, your iPod Classic or iPod Video, and Off-Line or Web Based Backup.

Once again though I would like to take this last opportunity to stress the importance of backing up your images when you are on the road. In future articles I will be talking about good home or business based backup solutions and things to look for with a few tips or things to watch out for.


These types of portable units became popular years ago when a portable large capacity solution was required for portable digital backups of data, images and video. Sony and other manufacturers made similar units for this “Photography" or “Video” solution but many no longer make them as the small, high capacity and relatively cheap portable hard drive solutions like the Sanho HyperDrive ColorSpace UDMA 500 GB. Some companies still offer them a portable CD/DVD solutions for computers and where DVD compatibility is required for playing Video in standard DVD players. These types of units are making a bit of a comeback with Netbooks as most Netbooks do not have CD/DVD players or recorders built in. Something to think about if you are looking at purchasing a Netbook.

EZDigiMagic DM220-08 Portable DVD Recorder


The EZDigiMagic unit will copy various memory card formats (CF, CF UDMA, MicroDrive, MMC, SD, SDHC, MemoryStick and MemoryStick Pro) to a CD or DVD all with the push of one button. The unit will automatically span onto several disks if the Memory Card is larger than the CD or DVD can accommodate.

The unit is small and portable and can be powered by batteries or with the included AC adapter. The menu system is easy to use on the backlit LCD display. There is also a Ultra-Verify Mode for verifying that all your data or images are copied over properly.

The speed of the unit will vary depending on the speed of the memory card and the media type used but generally 1 Gig of information can be copied in approximately seven minutes (using real world tests). A 4 Gig memory card takes about 26 minutes. This unit works well and if you use 4 Gig memory cards with Standard DVDs, it is perfect. Using larger capacity cards requires the use of Spanning onto multiple disks as this unit does not support the higher capacity Double Layered disks.

All in all this unit worked well but found that traveling with the unit was not as effective as using smaller and faster hard drive based solution. Having to carry a bunch of 4.7 Gig blank DVDs also proved to be more cumbersome. Even with a small capacity hard drive solution of say 120 Gigs, it would take 26 blank DVDs to store the same amount of photos.

Power is another issue for the portable user. Whereas the San Ho unit is capable of backup over 200+ Gigs of images on a single charge, the EZDigiMagic is not capable of doing even one quarter of that on a set of NiMh Rechargeable or the more expensive Lithium Ion batteries.

If you require an external CD/DVD burner for a Netbook, this is a good option. On the plus side also is the fact that multiple copies can be made and thus copies can be given out. You could technically give out copies of photos to a bride at a wedding minutes after the event is over. In my opinion however, for a good portable Photography Backup solution, the portable Hard Drive/Card Reader is much better.

Check out the new DM220 Plus here: EZDigiMagic DM220PLUS Portable Digital Photo & Video Backup DVD Burner & Viewer


Several attempts were made to create CF/SD card readers for iPods starting way back in the days of the first iPod Video. The new iPod OS allowed for Photos and Videos to be displayed. Several devices came out promising Compact Flash memory card reading capabilities but the two units I tried back then never actually worked and were quickly discontinued. Apple had its own Dock unit with a built in CF Reader but it was also quickly discontinued.

Since those days several more companies including Belkin have come up with solutions, again with mixed results. Apple also has a USB Camera Connector that allows an iPod to be attached to a Camera via a USB Cable. There are issues with this also and it could possibly be the “slowest” backup method ever created next to Off-Line Backup. For the money the Camera Connector could be worth a try if you own a newer generation iPod Classic or iPod Video. Note that your Camera will act the the card reader and will not be able to take photos while backing up a memory card: Apple Camera Connector for iPod 5G, 5.5G (White) Note that this kind of setup will quickly drain your iPod’s battery as well as your Camera’s battery.

Belkin Media Reader with Dock Connector for iPod


Belkin’s solution is small and portable. The unit connects to your iPod using FireWire technology and then using the iPods screen and menu system you can copy files from CF and SD cards onto your iPod. I stated FireWire technology but the Belkin device is not capable of using the full speed of the FireWire connection resulting in extremely slow backup speeds. A 1 Gig CF card takes about 21 minutes to do a full backup. A 4 Gig card would take about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Wow, compared to the 26 minutes above for copying to a DVD or even faster using the San Ho HyperDrive UDMA unit, this is very slow.

Another issue is battery life. Although the unit uses 4 AA batteries for the Card Reader, the process of moving and copying photos onto the iPod also quickly drain the iPod batteries.

All in all this is a small portable solution that would work if you only had smaller memory cards or did not take many photos. I could not see myself copying 2 or 3 - 8 Gig memory cards every day on this unit.

There are several other similar products out there but this is the best one if this interests you. Do your homework as some of the others who’s names I will not mentioned are absolutely awful products. If you find a good one, let me know. For now, check out the Belkin unit here: Belkin Media Reader with Dock Connector for iPod (White)


Where ever I go now I keep hearing that Off-Line Backup is the way to go. I completely disagree with that statement, specially for a portable photography solution. Off-Line Backup is also not a very good solution for your Home Base for Photography Backup although there are a few good upsides. I will discuss this issue when I cover Home/Work Photo Backup options in a future article but for now, here are some reasons why it’s not a very good option for mobile use.

The single biggest reason is the need for a laptop or Netbook. If you have a laptop or Netbook you can simply use that for your backup. If you are going to erase your memory cards and require a second backup bring along a small USB based Hard Drive like the Western Digital Passport Hard Drives. Small and Cheap.

Another reason for not using Off-Line Backup is the speed of the backup. Yes, in this day of ultra high-speed Internet access you would think backing up 4 Gigs of memory would be quick, but remember that doing a backup this way requires a fast UPLOAD speed which is almost always much slower that the fast DOWNLOAD speed of standard High-Speed Internet connections. This can made common slow connections found in many Hotels and Smaller Cities very slow. A 4 Gig memory card could take several hours to upload completely.

Other that the very slow connection is the possibility of NO connection. Very often when traveling abroad, you get to locations that do not have Internet access at all or sometimes in large hotels where 15 minutes of access can cost you $10.00 or even $20.00 dollars. If you are out in the field, on the best photo shoot ever, how will you backup a card so you can format it so you can keep shooting with no Internet Access?

Another issues with costs even for home or work is that many Internet Service Providers have Bandwidth Limits with a Maximum Data Upload/Download. If you exceed these limits which is easy to do when doing photography specially with new 10, 12 or more Mega Pixel cameras, you could find yourself paying a ton of extra cash per month.

Anyways, there is a time and place for Off-Line Backup but for a portable solution it is not the way to go. If you are wanting to check this option out I would recommend looking at iDrive, Mozy and Carbonite. Some are free with limits on how much can be backed up and some offer packages with more backup storage space for a monthly fee. Carbonite is $54.00 per year as of October 2009 with un-limited data.

One word of warning with Off-Line Backup Companies, make sure you read all the fine print! Some companies will retain the rights to your files, documents and artwork should you leave, quit, cancel services or die. Again, do your homework. Also, there have already been several Off-Line Backup Companies including a Large Photography Specific Company in the Eastern U.S. that shut down leaving owners of Photos scrambling to get their images back. Some have shut their doors never to be heard from again and leaving photographers without ANY images. Make sure you have your own backup if you use an Off-Line solution.


It becomes obvious that backup is essential but the question is how When travelling, size, weight and ease of use are extremely important and must be considered. After trying out many of the options discussed in the three “Portable Backup” articles, I have found that the Sanho HyperDrive ColorSpace UDMA 500 GB meets all the requirements.

Check it out at: Sanho HyperDrive ColorSpace UDMA 500 GB.

I will be updating this article with an update soon as I am trying out yet another device . . .

Portable Backup - Part 1

© 2009 François Cleroux

(Version 1.01 - October 2009)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Think Tank Pixel Pocket Rocket
product highlight by Francois Cleroux
***** 5 Gold Star Award Winner

Buy the Think Tank Pixel Pocket Rocket at Amazon.com

The Perfect Memory Card Carrier. I used this excellent well designed and well made Memory Card Wallet for my eight Compact Flash Cards that I brought along on my recent trip to Nova Scotia and PEI. This exceptional Card Wallet worked like a charm because of its great design.

It holds 10 CF Cards each in their own area. The see thru compartments allow for flipping the CF card around if it has been filled or used. The see thru compartments also allow for quickly viewing your cards if you like labeling them with numbers or other markings. By attaching the strap to clothing like a belt loop (or belt) and keeping the unit in your pocket. It is kept safe out of harm’s way and yet, kept in the safety of your pocket with a safety line.

The great Velcro closure strip allows for one handed opening of the wallet and then the design un-folds and naturally stays “upright” so cards cannot fall out. Once open, again a single hand can quickly insert a used memory card and quickly grab a new one to insert back into your camera. Finally the unit can be easily folded and put back away in the safety of your pocket. You can also just leave the wallet dangle from a belt or an accessory loop on a pack or camera case.

The Pixel Pocket Rocket also sports a see thru Business Card Holder that serves as an Identification Tag. There is also a baby version of this unit available in Red called the Pee Wee Pixel Pocket Rocket. Like all other Think Tank Products this wallet is very well made and comes with a lifetime warranty.This is one of my favorite products of 2009.

© 2009 François Cleroux

(Version 1.00 - September 2009)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Portable Backup - Part 2

Some people do not like backing up their images or CF or SD Cards because of the time it requires and because of the size and cost of the required equipment. Laptops generally fit into that category and if you do not require any of the functions of the laptop while you travel, it may not be a good backup solution for you.

So what then can you do to resolve your backup problems. Well, there are some great devices designed just for that purpose called "Multimedia Storage Drives". Companies like Epson and Canon and others make small portable devices that will read your Compact Flash, SD and other memory cards directly and will save all the data onto a hard drive. These devices are all small hand held devices that come in different capacities from 40 Gigs to 500 Gigs.

Multimedia Storage Drives

Epson - Epson makes a series of devices, the P-3000 (40 Gig), P-4000 (80 Gig), P-6000 (80 Gig) and P-7000 (160 Gig). These devices also have slight differences in the LCD Display size and Hard Drive Capacities and they also act as Media Players so they can play video and music. This can be a nice option on long trips.

I am not sure of all the specs of the other units but on the P-7000 which I used, (I briefly tried the P-6000) it had a great quality LCD monitor that displayed RAW and JPG files in Adobe RGB colorspace. The LCD display is reported to be capable of displaying 94% of the Adobe RGB Color Gamut. This unit is noticeably faster than the other models at copying files from your Memory Card. Like with other models you can zoom into photos so you can better inspect your images for quality and sharpness.

Like most Multimedia Storage Devices, there are some issues with these units. The P-7000 cannot copy files to your computer without the AC power adaptor being plugged in which is annoying when on the road or on location. This in not a big issue and it can be overcome in a car with a 110 Volt Inverter for about $20.00. There are a few other small issues, not problems just annoyances. All in all this is a great device but it is way over priced at $749.00 for a device that only has a 160 Gig drive. On the plus side it is one of a very few devices that fully supports RAW images.

*Image supplied by Canon.

Canon - Canon made two different Capacity Multimedia Drives. The Canon Media Storage M30 and M80 with 30 Gig and 80 Gig capacity drives respectively. Both these units have high quality 3.7" TFT monitors and Highs-Seed CF and SD Readers. Both units support RAW, JPG, MP3, and MPEG and so will play Audio and Video tracks as well. Both Units support Canons Image Security Password features and various other Canon accessories like their Wireless File Transmitters.

With their tough, robust magnesium alloy bodies and intuitive navigation familiar to EOS owners, the devices add an important link to the workflow chain of professional photojournalists and photographers on location, outdoor and expedition shoots. However, the limited sizes of the drives and the overly expensive prices set at the factory has made both Canon Canada and Canon USA opt out of bringing these units into North America citing they "just would not sell at those prices". The M80 would sell for about $800.00 U.S.

This unit also has Extended PictBridge functionality that will allow you to print directly to any PictBridge capable printer.

I was lucky enough to get one of the M80 units directly from Japan in the first week they were released. I love the unit as it is well built and fairly fast with its High Speed USB 2.0 connection, but it is way overpriced. Note also that the unit is just slightly larger than the Epson (above) and the SanHo units (below).

Sanho - In my "forever looking for the best technology" quest, I did see several Sanho units and after their very first original attempts, I finally decided to give them a try when they released the "HyperDrive ColorSpace". Wow, what a great unit this turned out to be.

On the down side is the rather small full color display, but other than that one draw back, this is by far the best unit I had used at that time. The speed of the HyperDrive is way faster than the competitions and the features are also way better. The unit sports xD, MMC, SD, MS, MS Duo and CF cards and with adaptors will support other card types as well. The built in rechargeable batter last longer than the competitions and you can purchase an Extra Battery. It will backup 120 Gigs on a single charge.

The other great feature of the Sanho unit is the excellent software support and features. The unit can Verify that your Memory Cards are OK but it can also Recover Images or Files from damaged or corrupted cards. You no longer require a Laptop or Computer with special software to retrieve lost or accidentally deleted images!

This drive is also available in a variety of drive capacities from 120 Gigs to 500 Gigs but what drew me to this unit is that it can be purchased without any hard drive installed. Buying the bare unit it is very affordable. Then you can either use an old Laptop drive you have laying around, or you can buy a used one or even a new large capacity drive from a well priced small retailer such as A-Power or NCIX. In the end, the price will be way better than Canon or Epson solutions.

I installed a 250 Gig Hard Drive into this unit. This has been a great portable backup device and this is the unit I chose to bring with me to Australia.

*Image supplied by SanHo.

Sanho more recently introduced a new model that has won many Awards called the "ColorSpace UDMA". This unit has a much larger Color Display and now supports the much faster UDMA technology making this unit the fastest portable media backup solution. I purchased this on-line again with no installed hard drive. Upon receiving the unit I installed a new 500 Gig Laptop hard drive. I also purchased the unit with a spare battery and a battery charger but I see that they now sell an easier to use external 1800 mah battery that can also be used with Blackberry and other devices. Something else to buy!

They also sell the COLORSPACE UDMA OTG Sync Adapter unit that allows you to connect and sync to any USB device! You could use a standard Computer External Hard Drive as a second backup unit. So a quick trip to Costco to purchase a Western Digital MyPassport external hard drive and you are set.

This new UDMA unit copies 2.0 Gigs per minute with real time CRC checking to verify images have been copied properly. You can create "scripts" to simplify repetitive tasks. This unit supports 14 media card types and True RAW images. This unit will also monitor your Hard Drive using the S.M.A.R.T. drive technology and will notify you as soon as or even before hard drive errors occur.

I used this unit on a recent trip to Hawaii and loved it even more than my original unit because of the larger display. I will be bringing this unit with me to Nova Scotia in September and I will be leaving my original Hyperdrive ColorSpace and my Canon M80 units on the shelf.

I highly recommend the Sanho ColorSpace UDMA unit and even purchasing it from Amazon.com with the 500 Gig drive pre-installed, it is a great deal and still much cheaper than lower capacity Epson or Canon Units. Check it out here at Amazon.com - Sanho HyperDrive ColorSpace UDMA 500 GB

In Part - 3 of this blog, we will look at a few other backup options.

Portable Backup - Part 3

© 2009 François Cleroux

(Version 1.12 - August 2009)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Portable Backup - Part 1

Being in the computer industry I have the privilege of seeing, trying and testing many new products. As a technology geek I also work hard at getting my hands on as many new technologies and electronic toys that I can get my hands on. In the area of portable backup, making a good first time decision that you will be happy with for many years can be a very difficult task, especially if you are not tech savvy.

Over the years I have tried a lot of products and in general they all work. Some work better than others and some are just not very suited to the photography industry. Here I will outline what are the requirements for good effective backups in a portable device for photographers, a few of the many makes and models I have tried out including some pros and cons and will let you know what products I use.

Why backup on the road? Well several reasons. First off you want to make sure that ALL your images get backed up as soon as possible. This is to prevent that disaster strike. At any time your SD or Compact Flash memory card could die. Yes, this has personally happened to me with a high end Lexar CF Card. I have also had two other photographers mention to me that they have had cards die on them. This may not seem so bad when you are walking around town shooting just to get a few images for the fun of it, but what about if you were at a wedding or some other for pay shoot and you lost some data? Or, perhaps, you were away on holidays, let's say Australia, and when you came home you realized that that one of your CF Flash Cards had died and that you had lost over 200 precious photos including some of your grandchildren? How would you feel then?

Secondly, what if your luggage gets lost or your camera bag gets stolen? Then perhaps you would lose everything. Now that would be a disaster.

In the computer world we live by the statement that you need "Three copies at all times". This would be your original and two backups, one of which should be an off-site backup. So no, not just one backup but rather two. This is obviously not very feasible for most photographers specially when traveling on holidays but it is doable. I am not advocating this for most of you but rather just want to re-iterate that you do want at least one backup and preferably one that is not kept with your originals. So, back to Backup Products.


Laptops are an obvious solution to look at. If you are just road traveling or going to a location by car, it is easy to bring a laptop along. As a photographer, when purchasing a laptop, you need to decide or compromise between speed (power), size and cost. Ideally you want at least something with a large hard drive which often is not available. Buy the laptop that suits your needs and have the hard drive replaced with a larger 320 or 500 Gig laptop hard drive.

Some laptop manufacturers have a hard drive caddy available that can slide in and out of the CD/DVD drive bay. My Lenovo ThinkPad W500 laptop has a 500 Gig main drive and a second 500 Gig drive that I insert for when I want to do a backup. The 500 Gig size allows me to have my operating system, all my applications and still leaves ample room for all my trips RAW and JPG files.

If your manufacture does not have the built in drive bay you can always purchase a portable external hard drive like Western Digitals Passports. These external USB powered drives will work on your laptop and workstation, but they are a little slower than the internal drives.

Having a laptop with sufficient power also lets you run Adobe Lightroom directly on your laptop. So, when traveling you get to properly see your images and can see the final results. Adobe Lightroom 2 has the ability to easily move Catalogues and Images around and once back home, all your images can be moved to your desktops version of Adobe Lightroom 2.

This setup gives you the one backup and if you have the removable hard drive option, you get your second backup that you can keep in a different location. Done. I love my Lenovo ThinkPad W500.



- 1st Backup- Very big
- 2nd External Backup- Heavy
- Large Capacity Drive- Expensive
- A Computer
- Graphics Software
- Internet/E-mail


So what if laptops are just too big or too expensive. I tried the HP 2133 Notebook fully loaded with the biggest drive available at that time at 160 Gigs and 2 Gigs of Memory. This is what I brought along on my trip to Hawaii last November.

The Netbook was great with its small size for portability and was great for Blogging and retrieving E-mail at the airports and at our hotel. Lightroom v1 was very sluggish on it but worked. With the OS, all my applications like MS-Office and Lightroom and the usual antivirus and such, the 160 Gig hard drive filled up rather quickly and left me with a few CF Cards that did not get backed up at the end of the trip. Overall I was NOT happy with the Netbook.



- 1st Backup- Bigger than a small drive
- 2nd External Backup- Slow
- A computer- Small drives
- Internet/E-mail
- Relatively light

People always wonder about hard drive space requirements so I will discuss this in a future post. In my next post Portable Backup - Part 2, I will discuss Portable Photography Backup Hard Drives including solutions from Epson, Canon and two HyperDrives from SanHo.

Portable Backup - Part 2

© 2009 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.02 - August 2009)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.