Reviews

DJI Osmo Mobile 2 smart phone gimbal Rio Grande test

DJI Osmo Mobile 2 smart phone gimbal Rio Grande test

I have been flying my DJI Mavic Pro drone all over New Mexico making dozens of 4K videos.  But what to do about places the drone cannot fly?  Or if I wanted to actually record the sound of the place I am recording video of?  The iPhone 8 records good 4K video, but if you just handhold it the video is all choppy.  In my search for a smooth solution, I discovered the DJI Osmo Mobile 2 smart phone gimbal.  However, it was sold out everywhere.  Finally it was back in stock and mine arrived just last week!

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iPhone 6 first HDR sunset photograph example Pass-A-Grille Beach Florida

The iPhone makes for a great always with you photography device.  The camera in each successive iPhone model is supposed to be markedly better than the previous one.  Having pre-ordered and received an iPhone 6 on launch day, I was excited to see how much better its camera (two generations newer than my iPhone 5) was.  I was at Pass-A-Grille Beach at the southern tip of St. Petersburg and was treated to a great sunset view.  I made one photograph using the regular single exposure mode in the standard Phone app and then another photo right after using HDR mode.  Sunsets are great for HDR as the sky is often much brighter than the foreground, however, there was little difference in the single exposure and HDR iPhone 6 photographs.  The HDR one did produce a little better detail around the sun, but not enough in the rocks in the foreground.  

This was just one test of a particular photography situation, but a very common one, and overall I disappointingly did not see much difference from past iPhone 5 shots.  I will be testing out more shots using both the default Camera app and the pay Camera+ app on the iPhone 6.

Photography Tip - Posing App for iOS and Android helps photographers

One of the hardest things about making a portrait is often the pose.  Now I like to make as candid of portraits as possible, but not every client has the personality for such a shoot.  Likewise, as a photographer it is not easy to memorize exactly a whole catalogue of poses, and even if you have done so, describing that in words to a client is not so easy.  

This is why I really like the Posing App (available for iOS & Android).  It is a visual way out in the field for me to show clients how to get into natural and attractive poses that will result in great portraits.  The app breaks poses down by the number of people in a shot making it easy to find a collection of poses for the number of subjects.  There is also a tips & tricks section.  Just for how to better pose hands and arms the app is worth it.  

iO6 Panorama Feature on iPhone 5 first photo example St. Petersburg Florida

Before I went to bed last Thursday, I set the alarm on my iPhone 4 for 2:55am.  This was not because I have a new paper route or decided to follow in my grandfather's footsteps and be a milkman, but because I want to insure I was able to get one of the first preorders in for the new iPhone 5 that here on the coast would be first available at 3am Friday morning.  So I rumbled out of bed and began refreshing the iPhone 5 page on apple.com.  Another reason to be one of the first was that I had already secured in my buy-back price for my 2-yeard old iPhone 4 on the great site gazelle.com for a whopping $146!  That's right, it basically meant that the new iPhone 5 would only be $54 out of pocket, if I could get one before October 1st.  

Well, my early rising paid off as my iPhone 5 (white, 16GB, AT&T) was delivered on the first available date (Friday the 21st).  It took almost four hours to sync all my backup data to it, so I did not have much opportunity to test the new iOS 6 panorama feature until yesterday (Saturday).  I was walking Kiki around Crescent Lake Park, a common Saturday evening activity and with the wide open views from the lakeside, I had my first chance to test the panorama function.

I saw a video of how it works so I knew you do not take five or six separate shots in a row, but rather turn the panorama feature on and then glide the camera over the area you want to photograph.  There are visual guides to keep your framing on track, and I must admit I was rather wobbly in my first attempt as you can see in the unedited image above.  

Still, there was a large portion of the image that was usable.  I cropped out the left, right and bottom edges and found a decent remaining image.  The exposure was a little off and there was a lot of noise in the sky, but overall I thought the new panorama feature in iOS 6 on first impression seems to be very usable.  I look forward to trying it again with a more steady hand and in different light.  

Have you made any panoramas with iOS 6 yet?  Post your examples in the comments below.

Nikon MC-30 Cable Release Review & Photography Tip

My own well-worn Nikon MC-30 cable release which is an essential piece of gear in my bagI am a very firm believer in having the right tools for the right job, and if you own a tripod, then you certainly should own a cable release as well.  Cable releases tend to only work with a select few DSLRs based on the connection the camera has.  The cable release for my Nikon D300 is the Nikon MC-30 which at the time retailed for $99, but thankfully Amazon.com had it for just $49 on sale.  It currently is priced at $55.61.  There are cheaper cable releases for other cameras and of course much more expensive ones with LCD screens and more functions.  For my $49 I got the most basic cable release you could get, a small rectangle of plastic with a shutter release button and a lock button.  That said, it does its job very well and I have gotten my money's worth out of it.

It just plain feels cool to use a cable release, like you are an old-time photographer.Why do you need a cable release if you already have your camera on a tripod?  Because the act of pushing the shutter with your finger can and will produce shake even with your DSLR on a stable tripod.  Using a cable release along with a tripod insures the most stable shooting method.  Plus, it just plain feels cool to use a cable release!  It will make you feel like an old-time photographer.  It is just another tool, along with a good tripod, that really, really helps you relax while out in the field making photographs.  

The lock button on the Nikon MC-30 helps when shooting in bulb modeThe one feature of the Nikon MC-30 cable release is its lock button, or rather switch on the side of the device.  Being able to lock the shutter open is very convenient when using bulb mode.  This way you do not need to keep the shutter pressed the entire time, you can just lock it.  When I photograph fireworks, I lock the shutter open allowing me to concentrate on blocking the front of the lens with a card.

The unique connector port for the Nikon MC-30 on my Nikon D300Refer to your particular's DSLR maker's website for which cable release will work with your camera because there are several different port connectors on cameras.  One complaint about the Nikon MC-30 is that connecting it is awkward due to the small line up point markings on it, but I actually always attach it blind because the bend of the cable naturally lines up with the pin connector!  Likewise, I never screw the cable onto the port, I just push it in and it has never popped off.

Even at its current price, the Nikon MC-30 can seem very expensive for essentially a piece of wire with a button on it, but I believe the value of having one and using it will definitely help your photography.

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  • Induro CT214 Carbon 8x Tripod & BHD2 Ballhead review

    Induro BHD2 ballhead on top of Induro CT214 carbon fiber tripod legs - $600 well spent - all product shots in this post by Jason Collin PhotographyPhotographer's say to buy the best tripod you can afford because you only ever want to buy one tripod.  If you go the cheap route, you will utimately end up spending more replacing the flimsy tripod you first bought with a proper, stable tripod eventually.  I can state that this is 100% true.  Now, if someone asks me what tripod should I get, I tell them the Induro CT214 carbon 8x legs with Induro BHD2 ballhead.  That is also something not widely known, the best tripods are bought in pieces, legs and head separately.  After a lot of research looking for a "no compromises" tripod, and by that I mean:  

    • very stable, light weight, made of carbon fiber, very easy to use, great build quality, taller than 5 feet without using extension column, collapses to a relatively small size for easy transport

    . . . I found the Induro CT214 with the Induro BHD2 ballhead to be the cheapest optioin that meets all the above requirements.  So exactly how much does the cheapest no compromises tripod I could find on the market cost?  $600 . . . and in the nine months I have been using it, it has been worth every penny.

    52.6" without column extended offers a very good height on the Induro CT214 legsIt also helped that Scott Bourne, a photographer I respect very much, recommended this tripod and proved it by switching from decades of using Gitzo tripods.  For those using lenses 70-200mm f/2.8 and smaller, the CT214 with BHD2 offer a very stable platform that is still light to carry.

    Induro BDH2 ballhead -- from left to right: tension knob, head rotation knob, ballhead release knobWhen first using a ballhead, it may take some getting used to.  Adjusting multi-lever tripod heads meant one lever moved the camera only one way.  With a ballhead, you can move the camera in any direction by loosening just one knob and than swiveling the camera any way you need.  

    The Induro BDH2 uses and comes with a standard Arca-Swiss mounting plateWhen you attached the Arca-Swiss compatible plate to the bottom of your camera (tool required) and then mount it to the ballhead via its vise-like grip, you feel absolutely sure of the connection.  Everything about it feels rock solid.

    Induro CT214 tripod leg features a built-in bubble levelA small bubble level built into the Induro CT214 legs helps make sure things are level especially when working on uneven ground, though I do not use it much when composing shots, instead using the grid lines in my Nikon D300's viewfinder to fine tune levelness.

    Induro CT214 has foam grips on all three legs for comfort holding & carryingEach carbon fiber leg had a foam grip for ease of holding and using the tripod in very warm or cold climates.  I find them to be most useful when carrying the tripod with my camera attached for providing cushioning on my shoulder.  

    Full Carbon 8x build quality is found in the Induro CT214 along with 1/2 turn only leg locksIt is easy to understand how a lighter, more stable and taller tripod would be easier and more comfortable to use.  These qualities of the Induro CT214 can be shown in the included photographs.  However, what made me love the tripod from the very first time I used it were the leg locks and the solid locking of the ballhead.  

    I was suspicious of turn style tripod leg locks being easy to use.  I thought, what could be easier than just flickind and shutting a clamp leg lock?  Well, only having to turn the leg locks 1/2 a turn before they slide gracefully down and then a 1/2 turn back to firmly lock them in place, that is much easier and a very elegant solution to extending and closing tripod legs.  

    Then the grip with which the BHD2 ballhead tightens means the camera does not move a few extra millimeters after you compose your shot.  That use to drive me crazy about using a flimsy tripod.  I get everything framed just right, lock the head, take my hands off the camera, only for the tripod head to creap down a little ruining my carefully composed shot.  In nearly all situations, the BHD2 eliminates this.  I did notice some ever so slight creep when using my large 105mm macro lens angled downwards.  For the most part, once you frame the shot, lock the ballhead, everything stays right in place.  I cannot tell you how much of a pleasure that makes using a tripod.  

    Basically, using a tripod like the Induro CT214 with Induro BHD2 ballhead feels like driving a luxury car, while using cheap & flimsy tripods feels like driving an economy rental car.  The price is steep, $600, but if you use a tripod for commercial work like I do, it is a no-brainer, and even if you do not make money from your photographs but love to make photos that require a tripod, the price I believe is still worth it.

    --Induro Product Page 

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  • BlackRapid RS-Sport Camera Strap Gear Review

    Gunslinger hip to eye shooting style demonstration using the BlackRapid RS-Sport strap system with a Nikon D300 & Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8D - photo by PedroLet me start by just saying that the BlackRapid RS-Sport strap has made me excited about using my DSLR again because of just how cool it feels to slide the camera up and down the strap.  Readers of my movie reviews will know I am a big western fan, and I definitely feel like an old gunslinger when using my BlackRapid RS-Sport.  So this is the emotional part of the review, which is mostly what determines buying a certain product or not.  I decided to buy one even before I knew it would make me feel like a gunslinger.  Just trying a photo student's RS-7 strap for a few seconds instantly convinced me to free my neck from its burden and get a sane camera carrying system.

    For the ergonomics and practicality part of the review, the BlackRapid RS-Sport strap still gets a very positive gear report from me.  I have only had the RS-Sport for exactly two weeks, but I have already put it through many different shooting situations and it has performed great in all of them.  On a 2-day event shoot (5pm-8pm Friday; 9am-12am [yes 15 hours] Saturday) I got home early Sunday morning with zero shoulder pain.  Normally after only a few hours using my old Nikon Professional branded Optitech neck strap, I would have lingering sourness after a job.

    The effectiveness of the BlackRapid strap system comes from taking the weight off your neck because when do you ever carry anything around your neck ever besides for some reason a heavy DSLR?  Instead, the BlackRapid strap system puts the weight on your left shoulder like any other style of bag one carries.  It has to be your left shoulder too.  If you are left-handed like me and concerned because you usually carry everything on your right shoulder so your left hand has easy access to the bag, it immediately felt normal to me to have the BlackRapid strap on my left shoulder because you grab a DSLR with your right hand first anyway.  The grip on the DSLR body is designed for the right hand so do not be concerned about having to use it on your left shoulder, even if your are left-handed.

    Your camera on a BlackRapid strap can hide behind your hip in tight spots or can easily be held in front to squeeze through places.

    I chose the RS-Sport model for the extra bit of strap that goes under the armpit area for extra stability.  I have to admit I did think at first that this is not comfortable and maybe I should have just gotten the RS-7 which is similar to the RS-Sport but minus the underarm strapping.  However, in real world use and not hyper nitpicking when trying it on in one's house, I am definitely glad I got the RS-Sport because the main shoulder pad is more ergonomically tapered and the underarm strapping is not noticable to me anymore.  

    How anybody can use the first party straps that come with a DSLR is beyond me.  I immediately got a cushier Optitech neck strap, which sells for about $24.  Now I wish I had gotten a BlackRapid strap long ago.  The RS-Sport sells for $69.95 and the standard RS-7 for just $58.95.  There are several other styles, including a dual strap system for carrying two cameras!

    Take a 1-on-1 DSLR Photography Lesson with me and I will let you try out my RS-Sport strap for yourself! 

    --thanks to Pedro for taking these shots of me