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Topics - Mt Spokane Photography

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A Test of the color gamut of the Ipad Mini shows that its not up to photography standards, covering only a portion of the sRGB gamut, while other recent tablets like the Kindle 7" HDX are excellent.

 I've been considering one, and Apple seems to have a lot of advantages, but not the new mini.


The IPAD Air is much better, but still not matching the Kindle Fire HDX.  The 4:3 screen ratio should be good for camera phone and P&S users, but for DSLR's, the shape of the Kindle screen may give more display area.


Pricewatch Deals / Canon Refurbish Store (USA Only) Restocked
« on: November 13, 2013, 12:26:21 PM »
I see they have restocked this morning, Wed 11/13.  I managed to order a 1.4X TC MK III for $349, it took me several tries, first it would not go into my cart, then Ames rejected the charge and wanted verification.  Meanwhile I paid using a Visa, since the store merely returned a generic message saying it could not process the charge.  A few minutes later, Amex called, but I already had paid otherwise.

Canon General / 30 Days to Design Your Portrait Business
« on: October 31, 2013, 12:53:09 PM »
Creative live is offering a free intensive workshop called
Its for those who are serious about starting a business and runs for 33 days!  There is a initial 3 day introduction, then a one hour segment each day for the next 28 days.
I can't imagine a better opportunity for someone who is serious about starting a photography business, its free if you watch it live, or later, it costs $150 to have access to the video and be able to watch it on your own schedule.
"The strongest portrait photography businesses have one thing in common: a dedicated, strategic plan for artistic and financial success. Join creative LIVE instructor Lori Nordstrom as she kicks off Launch Your Portrait Photography Business in 30 Days, an intensive course that will give you the step-by-step tools you need to survive and thrive as a portrait photographer.
This three-day introduction will cover the key components of launching or revamping a portrait business. You’ll develop a plan of action for marketing, branding, and pricing that will keep your clients happy and your business growing. As she takes family portraits live in studio, Lori will demonstrate the lighting, posing, and shooting skills she uses to make sure clients come away from a session with photos they’ll love. During one-hour segments spread out over the next 28 days, you’ll also learn about how to pitch your services so every consultation ends with a “Yes!”.
By the end of this course, you’ll have the concrete skills you need to attract clients, build a successful, satisfying business, and deliver stunning results every time."

Software & Accessories / $100 Coralpix Gimbal Head Review
« on: October 19, 2013, 08:22:25 PM »
After being very disappointed in the quality of my $150 Opteka gimbal head,  I decided to give a
different brand a try.  I did not expect much for $100, after all, my Wimberly head cost six times that
However, I had already sold the Wimberly and was looking for something inexpensive to try out my
Nikon 200-400mm lens with, and did not want to spend a lot.
Even though a head is inexpensive, there are some things it should be able to do just as part of a basic
1.  Be able to handle a heavy telephoto lens up to 10 lbs.
2. The swing arm should be able to swing smoothly without binding or jerking. It should be possible to
balance a lens so that it stays in whichever position you want without tightening the lock.  Ball bearings
are desirable.
3. The horizontal rotation should be smooth and not bind or jerk when panning.
4.  The tightening mechanisms for vertical and horizontal  should loosen and tighten fully and be user
5.  The finish should be free from obvious flaws like scratches or areas where the paint is chipped.
6.  It should be able to mount a Arca-Swiss compatible plate.
7.  My final test is that it should be able to track a flying bird swiftly and smoothly with a heavy lens.
1.  The Coralpix is rated at 13 pounds, and is made of a aluminum casting which had absolutely no
discernible bending or flexing with the approximately 9 lb rig I mounted on it.  I think it could take a lot
2.  The swing arm rotated smoothly and easily balanced my lens / camera combination so that it stayed
put even though a touch of my finger could move it to a new position, where it stayed. 
Less satisfying and a concern for longevity were the plastic bushings located in the swing arm housing,
and the plastic thrust washer on the swing-arm side of the housing.  I'd be concerned about galling,
and possibly cracking with heavy use. (see the black parts in the tear down photo)
The end near the adjustment knob had a sandwich of two cheap sloppy tolerance washers with a
roller bearing thrust washer between them.  It seemed to work fine.
3. The horizontal rotation had way too much play, but with a 6mm hex wrench, it was easily removed
without reducing the ability of the unit to rotate horizontally.  No matter how loose or tight, it was
smooth but did have a small amount of jerking when trying to move it in fine increments.  I did not tear
it down to see what was inside.
4.   Both the horizontal and vertical adjustment knobs required about 1/4 - 1/2 turn from loose to
locked.  It was difficult to tighten them such that there was friction but still smooth movement, it
worked better with them loose.
5.  The finish was reasonable, there were obvious rough places in the casting, but they were well
covered.  I could not tell for sure if the finish was paint or powder coating, but it looked like powder
6.  The swing arm is able to accept a Arca-Swiss compatible plate, and a short plate was provided.  (As
though you are going to use this with something needing a 1.5 inch plate??)
But ...  there was a problem with the clamp.  The supplied plate, and any plate that you'd want to use
with a big and expensive lens has stop screws to keep it from sliding out of the clamp by accident.  The
clamp would not open wide enough to accept the supplied plate, or any of my pates, for that matter!  I
used a hex wrench to back off the adjustment screw, since It opened freely to a point, and then was
very stiff.  This worked, but the screw suddenly became loose and easy to turn.  Being curious, I
finished backing it out.  The lip of the clamp was nicely designed with a spring on either side to allow
for even clamping.  The screw had some sort of thread locking material on the end which kept it from
opening wide enough and was apparently functioning as a retention method.  It dosen't retain any
longer, but is in no danger of falling apart.
7.  In the finanal analysis, I wanted a gimbal head that could move easily in the vertical and horizontal
planes to track a flying bird without jerking or binding, and I'm happy to say that it passed the test with
flying colors.
The CoralPix CPGH Aluminum Gimbal Tripod Head  exceeded my expectations as far as price-
performance.  It functions very well for a low cost unit and did not disappoint.  Compared to the
Opteka GH1 head, it was larger, made of cast aluminum  instead of steel, and had much smoother
operation and adjustment.  (I gave the Opteka a FAIL).
At the price I paid ($100) it was a very good buy.
The use of plastic parts inside the vertical swing-arm housing.
The lack of cover plates for the adjustment screws, which will allow dirt and debris to fall into them and
make a otherwise nice looking head look cheap.
The poorly adjusted horizontal pivot, how hard could it be to adjust it properly?

So, you might ask, am I switching to Nikon?  My answer is that they are just a tool, and I feel comfortable with either one.  I stumbled across a deal on the lens and was able to add the camera and gimbal head for far less than what the lens normally sells for used.  I'll probably sell it but keep the head and camera.  I'm not really into the use of large lenses, I prefer to hand hold them.  Suprisingly, I can handhold the lens for long enough to get good shots.  Packing it around for hours is out of the question, but a younger person might do just fine.  For BIF though, the gimbal head comes into its own.
Coralpix left, Opteka Right

Swivel Arm disassembly, the black bushings are plastic.

It comes packed in a nice closed cell foam protective support and includes good instructions, a rarity for a low cost item.

Here it is with my Nikon 200-400mm f/4G VR lens with a D300s attached.  even with the large lens, it has no problems and can take something bigger and heavier.  The lens does not balance well due to Nikon's habit of putting a foot on the tripod ring that is too short.  Fortunately, I has a 6 in Kirk Plate with two mounting screws, and it was still almost at the rear limit.  With a heavier D3 or D4, it would balance better.


Software & Accessories / Opteka Gimbal Head Review
« on: October 17, 2013, 12:26:53 PM »
I was wanting a low cost but sturdy gimbal head to try my new Nikon 200-400mmG with.  I've previously used the big Wimberly head with my Canon 600mm f/4, so I know how a gimbal head should work.
At $150 on Amazon, the Opteka was reasonably priced, and with a 30 lb rating, certainly heavy duty enough to hold my 9 lb combination of lens and camera.
I received it and sure enough, it was heavy duty, plenty big and strong for my purpose.
That's where my positive comments end.
This was a piece of junk.  Nothing worked right.  I did not expect a Wimberly head, but I did expect something useful.  I could have pried out the silly plastic compass thingy which likely covers a adjustment screw, but the swing mechanism was binding at some points, so even loosening up the screw would not fix the mis-machining.  They obviously did not intend for it to be adjusted, I'd have to damage the cover seals to pry them out and adjust it.  Really amateur construction, all heads need adjustment eventually.
I posted a review on Amazon, so I'll quote from it here:
Here are some of the things I saw.

1. Very stiff for swinging a lens vertically, even with the tightening know loosened, it was stiff and I could not move the lens. No need to balance the lens, even my heavy Nikon 200-400mmG stuck in whatever position I left it.

2, Very Stiff horizontal panning, again, pretty much useless.

3. Machining of the swing arm and vertical slider was rough and so loose that it would catch when trying to raise or lower it, with or without lens.

Its really useless for tracking a bird in flight, and so jerky that its difficult to get it pointed at a stationary object.

Being a optimist, I ordered another low cost Aluminum Gimbal Head from Amazon.  I'll post my comments when I use it.

Third Party Manufacturers / New Lens Today
« on: October 08, 2013, 09:37:55 PM »
I keep a eye on our local Craigslist, and a few days ago, I noticed a Nikon 200-400mm f/4 G VRI for $2500.  The write up did not sound like a scam, so I sent a e-mail and received nothing back.  It stayed there, and finally, I sent another e-mail and got a reply. 
Today I went down to the owners office, (He is a Doctor in Spokane), and looked it over.  He bought it new and it was used twice.  Not a mark on it, clean and like new.
Being a doctor, he has been extremely busy, and probably did not return e-mails promptly, so my perseverance paid off.
Now, if I only had a Nikon Camera :)
I have been negotiating for a used D3 that needs a shutter, but I am a bit scared of it.  I do have a Nikon to EOS adapter, so I'll use manual focus at full aperture to take a few test shots tomorrow.
Its such a nice lens that I may go ahead with the D3 Deal, or even buy a D7100 to use it with.  I'll certainly never afford $11K for a new Canon one, or even 7500 for a new Nikon lens.

Third Party Manufacturers / 100-400mmL + TC Versus Sigma 600mm Mirror lens
« on: September 29, 2013, 04:42:56 PM »
I bought a used 600mm Sigma lens this morning for $135, and thought I'd compare it with my 100-400mm L + 1.4X TC.  First, I took several shots and found that in the dark windy rainy weather that a 1/1000 sec image took a very high ISO setting on my 5D MK III, such that the image was noisy.  So, I mounted the lens on a monopod, held my breath, and set the shutter speed to 1/320.  My tripod was in the studio, and I did not want to brave the weather to go out and get it.
Then, I used the same setup with my 100-400 + TC.  I could immediately see the difference thru the viewfinder, but went ahead and took the image for a first shot at comparing them.
To be fair, $135 versus almost $2000 worth of lens is a bit extreme, but I wanted to see the difference.  I may have to get out that tripod after all, because there was a lot of difference, and some of it was movement.
Here is my first try, with images cropped and sharpened in Lightroom.
Sigma 600mm

Canon 100-400L + 1.4X MK II TC

To be fair, if you were printing the images at 8 X 10, I doubt that most people would see the difference, they look pretty good at a small size.
I'll try again later with my heavy duty tripod just to compare.

Lenses / There is No Perfect Lens - Article by Roger Cicala
« on: September 20, 2013, 11:09:10 PM »
Roger has not only the knowledge, but the very rare talent and ability to explain things in a way that we can understand.
There are lots of posts asking which lens is best, or asking if I have poor resolution, too much flare, or decentering, and more.  Roger addresses the variables in lens design and manufacturing in a way that most of us can understand, and having a background as a designer, lab manager, and tester of some very tightly specified components and systems, I think he has hit it right on the head.

Landscape / Sunset Frustration
« on: September 15, 2013, 10:25:32 PM »
I am a inpatient photographer.  Last night, there was a brilliant red sunset lighting up half the sky.  I went into the house, mounted my 16-35mmL, and back out to the front yard.  By then, it was mostly gone.  I took 4 or 5 shots a few seconds apart.
I admire those who wait and capture that right moment, but I never seem to make it.
Here are the examples, not processed or enhanced.  you can see how fast that sunset goes away.  less than 30 sec, and I missed about 2 minutes of it.

Pricewatch Deals / Yet another Canon Refurb Store Sale Starts Sunday
« on: September 13, 2013, 11:51:59 AM »
Its not a big sale, but if you are planning to buy anyway, be aware.

Pricewatch Deals / Canon Refurb Sale Starting 8-25
« on: August 24, 2013, 10:34:41 AM »
I received the following info.
If lenses are discounted, it might be worth staying up until the sale goes live.  Sales usually run from 15-20% off.
A sale on refurbished items at the Canon Store will begin early morning Sunday, August 25th. It runs until the evening of Wednesday, August 28th. At this time we know bodies will be discounted but are unsure about lenses. 

This is the tallest 190 series tripod, its aluminum, and while most are looking for carbon fiber, it might be a good choice for someone trying to save money.

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