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:

http://www.blackrapid.com/buzz/

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.

rs7-04

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:

http://www.blackrapid.com/

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.