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Messages - JerryKnight

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Software & Accessories / Re: Ioptron Skytracker Camera Mount
« on: August 27, 2013, 05:29:13 PM »
I also don't have direct experience with this tracker (first I've heard of it actually) but it seems pretty good on paper. It supports the same payload weight as the Vixen Polarie, which has gotten decent reviews from what I can tell. Personally, I have the Astrotrac TT320X. It supports a ton by comparison (15kg) but it costs a bit more as well, and it's not nearly as compact.

The only main difference I can tell between the Skytracker and the Polarie, apart from the Vixen reputation, is that for the same price, the Skytracker includes a polar scope. The Vixen polar scope is $130. Of course, for most short exposures, a rough visual alignment is sufficient, but going beyond a minute or two or focal lengths longer than 100mm or so, an accurate alignment helps a lot. In my opinion, you get a tracker so that you can take longer exposures, so you should do whatever you can to get good polar alignment.

If anyone is thinking of getting into this, remember the total cost of your system.

  • ~$150-300: Get a good sturdy, well-made tripod. Get something you can use for other things, or if you already have a decent non-Walmart tripod that can support the weight of everything, you can use it. I went with the Manfrotto 055XPROB, and I like it because its legs can swing outward and form a very wide base. Regardless of your tripod, you should get a sandbag or two to weigh it down. I also have a set of the Celestron vibration-reduction pads, but I haven't yet had a chance to evaluate their effectiveness.
  • ~$250: I highly recommend getting a geared tripod head to mount the tracking mount on. Manfrotto 410 or 405. It's just as important as the polar scope if you ask me, because it allows you to make very fine, precise adjustments during polar alignment while keeping a very stable platform. (B&H actually offers the 410 head with the 055XPROB tripod for a significant discount.)
  • ~$50-150: Don't forget a ball head for the camera side of the mount. Don't get a flimsy one, because it has to be just as sturdy as the rest of your platform.
  • ~$50-100: A timing remote is a very handy accessory for long exposures. Most cameras will only go to 30 seconds unless you go into bulb mode. Holding the shutter button on a sky-tracking camera is not an option, and IR remotes are problematic. Even with a simple wired remote, controlling the exposure time by stopwatch is tedious, and having the remote in your hand can cause vibrations in the camera. Timer remotes can do any length of exposures hands-free, and they can do automatic time-lapse, so you can easily get repeated shots and stack them together in software. The Vello ShutterBoss (B&H brand) runs around $50 for the wired, $100 for the wireless version.

(Prices are extremely rough ballpark estimates based only on my own experience.)

I think the important thing to remember with these systems is that they're for amateurs. Good results aren't guaranteed and it will take lots of patience and experimentation, but you don't have to get as much specialized equipment to enjoy the hobby. The required extras do add up in cost, but you get to use them for other things. The only thing that cannot be reused in some other way is the mount itself. I don't get out and do astrophotography often enough, but I'm frequently glad that I have a nice tripod, quality tripod heads, and the other related accessories.

You can get much better systems, but they'll be more expensive, less portable, and single-purpose.

EDIT: I wasn't familiar with the Losmandy Starlapse, but niteclicks is right - that one is very sturdy and would require a much sturdier tripod than the Polarie, Skytracker, or Astrotrac. Their website shows photos of it mounted to a heavy-duty video tripod (and those are not cheap). I would almost say that if you're serious enough to consider the Starlapse, you should probably consider a dedicated all-in-one system like the Vixen GP2 or others that I have no experience with.

All this talk of lumens, I think some clarification is needed. The physics of light are complicated, but essentially, lumens aren't the right measure of light for photography purposes.

Lumens measure the total light in the beam of a light source. It's a great way to compare two different lights of the same type, which is why it's required to list the ANSI lumen rating on almost all flashlights, lightbulbs, etc.

What's important to photography is the incident light on a scene (ignoring the complex reflectances of each object), which is measured in lux. A 1000 lumen flashlight will cast more lux onto an object than a 1000 lumen light bulb at the same distance, because a flashlight gives more light per unit of solid angle, measured in candelas. Of course, the distance of the light source also greatly affects lux. (Remember the inverse-square law?)

So don't say "1000 lumens is not enough" because it doesn't specify how much of that light is hitting the scene and being reflected into the camera.

That said, you can't ignore the uncalibrated, inconsistent color temperature of almost all flashlights, as well as the downsides of having a point light source (hard shadows, etc.). "Pro" photo/video (ie. expensive) lights and diffusers/modifiers are better, but the question will always be what's good enough for you. With a lot of experimentation, you could get good results from any light source.

Lighting / Re: 600ex as main lights
« on: August 15, 2013, 03:09:08 PM »
So the Yongnuo setup is no doubt the cheapest, but you may suffer from reliability issues, and good luck getting the product repaired in a timely manner if you do. A great setup for a budget amateur, but don't count on it when you need to use it hard every day.

I respectfully disagree. Plenty of professionals rely on many other brands than Canon and Pocketwizard. Equipment fails, and there's no evidence that Canon or Pocketwizard equipment fails less often. Sure, the warranty work is probably easier and quicker with brands that have direct US presence, but honestly, if I have a ~$100 flash fail, I'll buy a new one while the other one is being repaired. It's cheap enough to be able to do that. Canon needs good warranty service on their flashes because their stuff is so doggone expensive, even though it's probably manufactured in the same factories!

I shoot weddings exclusively with 3 Canon 600EX-RTs and I am very happy with the performance. I would eventually like an AlienBee or Einstein for on-location portraits in bright daylight, but 600EXs perform so well that I've found I don't really need to buy anything else. Canon RT -- expensive? Yes. Ridiculously so? Not really.

That's great, and I would never criticize anyone for their gear decisions, but many, many photogs use "other" cheaper gear and get the results they're after. It's a cost-benefit analysis that everyone has to do for themselves. You chose one way, I chose another. Don't look down on me for that or accuse me of being too amateur. (I know you probably didn't mean it that way.)

I'm not a total cheapskate. I buy Canon L glass and full-frame bodies. I'll spend a bunch of money on new things when they offer a significant benefit, but when I see something that Canon charges several times more for a negligible gain in quality, I call it ridiculous and go the other direction.

Look, I guess my main point is that shot-for-shot, these set-ups are mostly equivalent. Of course equipment can break. Firing a flash tube is an electrically violent process, and flashes can and do fail, regardless of brand. The warranty is great, but it doesn't protect you in the field. The only way to really prepare for failures is to carry spares. With my YongNuo's I can afford multiple spares, but it's painful to buy spare Canon speedlites.

To each their own - just trying to point out viable alternatives. Canon is great! All hail Canon! :-)

Lighting / Re: 600ex as main lights
« on: August 15, 2013, 01:46:26 PM »
The nice thing about the 600's and buying into the Canon system, is the control you can have over multiple units and put them into multiple groups...running various levels in manual, ettl or even mixing manual settings in different groups at the same time as ettl....

And the nice thing is, you can instantly control them all from the back of your camera which really is handy.

These are features of the E-TTL system, and from what I understand, you can do all these things with the YN-622C E-TTL radio trigger.

Of course there are benefits to staying with a Canon system (warranty work is probably easier) but I say it's grossly out of proportion with the cost. Yes, Canon speedlite prices are coming down, but they have a long way to go to compete in "bang-for-your-buck" with 3rd party systems.

Lighting / Re: 600ex as main lights
« on: August 15, 2013, 11:41:58 AM »
My opinion is that Canon speedlites are overpriced. For the cost of one 600EX-RT, you can get an entire lighting setup - 3-4 flashes and radio triggers.

I did a quick Amazon check.. Three YongNuo YN-565EX's, one YN-622C transmitter/receiver set, two more YN-622 receivers. The total is $550, the exact price of one new 600EX-RT.

I've used YongNuo flashes for a while, as have many other photogs, and they seem to be quite reliable.

EDIT: Of course, the 600EX-RT you already have could be your on-camera flash, but you'd still need the YN-622C transmitter on your camera as well. In my own setup, I keep a flash on-camera so that I can provide a low-power fill light no matter where my slave flashes are pointing. (My flash setup is almost exclusively for wedding receptions.)

EDIT #2: Also, this assumes you want to stay with all E-TTL flashes. If you were to go with manual slave flashes and radio triggers, you could probably get 3-4 flashes, radio triggers, and lightstands for about that price (depending on how nice of lightstands you want).

EOS-M / Re: Where is my backordered EOS-M w/22 STM lens?
« on: July 18, 2013, 03:58:04 PM »
I just received an email from B&H telling me that my back-ordered copy had shipped; presumably I'm not alone....

Yeah, my order from 7/5 just shipped too.

I would assume that before they listed the item as "In Stock" they would make sure their stock covers the back orders, so I hope that everyone's back orders are shipping today.

EOS Bodies / Re: EOS M Stock & Shipping Update
« on: July 18, 2013, 01:57:47 PM »
The EOS M + 22mm kit is now in stock at B&H.

And B&H just charged my credit card for my EOS M back-order placed July 5th. Status now says "in stock - sent to warehouse." So this backs up what we've heard that B&H will ship all back orders.

I think they temporarily set the item to "Discontinued" to stop the back-orders from piling up. Not that this isn't still a "fire sale" and the current M model is near end-of-life, but I think this means Canon isn't necessarily ready to reveal the successor.

Hopefully the fire sale response has shown Canon that if they price their products competitively, they'll see far more sales.

PowerShot / Re: P&S - Faster lens or bigger sensor?
« on: February 27, 2013, 07:37:24 PM »
If the bigger sensor wins in good lighting and it's a wash in low-light, well, that makes the decision a quite easy one.

Yeah, you might want to check that claim first. I won't repeat my earlier post, but I claim that larger sensors make the biggest difference in low light.

PowerShot / Re: P&S - Faster lens or bigger sensor?
« on: February 27, 2013, 07:17:22 PM »
The bigger sensor will perform better in favourable lighting (e.g. when you don't have to crank up the ISO). In less than ideal lighting, it's a wash (though again the difference in maximum aperture may be smaller at the wide end in which case the camera with the larger sensor may still do better)

I'm not a P&S expert at all, but I think you got that backwards. A larger sensor, all else being equal, will perform better in low light than a smaller sensor. In bright light, every sensor tends to do well (again, not considering every other camera component). Even the microscopic sensor in my phone can produce decent images in full daylight.

Canon General / Re: Digital Rev!
« on: February 18, 2013, 01:44:34 PM »
Kai lost a few rep points there for sure.

You really think the production crew has anything to do with the online store? Kai did what Kai does - he's not supposed to treat the equipment like it's going to be sold as new afterwards. It's the store's fault for letting the review camera back into their inventory. Probably an honest mistake, but a potentially costly one.

He represents DR in the public's eye. Tell me where did I say he had anything to do with the screwup? Are you just in the mood to be a net corrector?

I'm slightly offended that you're accusing me of being a nit-picker.

"Kai lost a few rep points there for sure." As near as I can tell, you were using English, and in most forms of English, that statement would imply that Kai had something to do with the mix-up, beyond being a representative of the name. You're saying he actively did something - he "lost"... What exactly did he do to lose points?

If you're more deliberate with your words, you won't attract so-called net correctors. Saying something like "This sure looks bad for Kai" more accurately represents your point.

Canon General / Re: Digital Rev!
« on: February 18, 2013, 09:37:14 AM »
Kai lost a few rep points there for sure.

You really think the production crew has anything to do with the online store? Kai did what Kai does - he's not supposed to treat the equipment like it's going to be sold as new afterwards. It's the store's fault for letting the review camera back into their inventory. Probably an honest mistake, but a potentially costly one.

Canon General / Re: Bag question
« on: February 15, 2013, 12:25:13 AM »
My main shooting bag is a Thinktank Retrospective 30 and I love it. They claim it can hold "two pro-sized bodies plus 3-6 lenses" but I don't think it's the best to hold camera bodies, especially if they have grips. My bag usually holds 5 or 6 lenses, flash, batteries, and a small "hero kit" for the occasional fix (tissues, Tide pen, safety pins, etc.).

The bigger Retrospective 40 or Retrospective 50 would probably be better for holding lenses and bodies.

Just saw your $150 price range... These are all a bit above that, but they're fantastically made. I don't think Thinktank knows how to make a flimsy bag.

Lenses / Re: Lens Rebates
« on: February 13, 2013, 10:56:18 AM »
Dang, neuro, you beat me to it.

Yes, their pattern suggests that they like to put a month or two between rebate cycles, so I would guess that more likely than not they'll have a spring or summer rebate that covers lenses like the 50L, but that's only based on rebate history.

They seem to spend more time in rebate season than not, but I think that's standard practice. Post high prices and have constant sales to give the illusion of a good deal. And since they're enforcing minimum pricing now, they have complete control over us. :)

EOS-M / Re: EOS M Firmware Coming Soon
« on: February 12, 2013, 10:57:46 AM »

Still, if Fuji is able to get the AF performance the X100S has in the preview videos, it's a little disappointing that the M has to be so sluggish.

Please don't compare EOS M with X100 with regards to AF performance.  Fuji has a smaller sensor thus focusing is a little bit better.  Focus is much more forgiving for smaller sensors.

waynew beat me to the punch, but yeah - You might want to check your facts before you make claims like that.

EOS M Specs - APS-C sensor: 22.3mm x 14.9 mm
X100S Specs - APS-C sensor: 23.6mm x 15.8mm

A little bit of a tangent, but Fuji is proving that APS-C sensors with built-in phase-detection can perform quite well in autofocus. Of course, they've been in the mirrorless game longer than Canon.

Lighting / Re: Professional Sports Lighting
« on: February 11, 2013, 02:23:51 PM »
There was never any thought of abuse on the lighting setup, more so I wanted to find out if they were using any type of secured channel was the reason that I originally brought the PW. I did end up firing off about 10-15 shots during the evening. That being said, I was there as a sports fan and not a photographer.

One guy a few seats away from me must have known that I had the ability to fire the strobes as with the PW attached it looked a little out of the norm.

I wasn't implying that you had any thought of abuse. I was still playing the hypothetical thought experiment game. Even the "secure" channels can't be 100% effective, because with the right setup, a 4-digit code isn't hard to break.

To play the other side a bit, if you wanted to be less conspicuous, you could just put the "pocket" in PocketWizard - run a sync cable from your camera to the PW in your pocket. It would be a lot harder to notice a fan who has a small cable coming out of their camera than a big Plus2.

The other thing is that they usually run a bunch of strobes at lower power, and their flash is so fast and from such a high angle, most people don't even notice when they fire. You'd have to go nuts on the trigger button to get anyone to notice, and I doubt the media photographers would ever have a problem with recycle times or overheating.

Still... It's wrong. Don't do it.

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