RRS Pocket Pod Review

The Mini Tripod – Pocket Pod

I had a RRS BH-25 mini ball head shown on top, and came across this Really Right Stuff Pocket Pod. It’s small about six inches high without the ball head, light and very well made. As with most of RSS products, the parts of various ball heads and clamps all inter change.

The leg positions can be adjusted independently, if the surface isn’t flat. It has a fully open, fully closed and two intermediate  leg positions. The Pod has a load rating of 15 lbs, more than the BH-25, which I believe is rated at 8 lbs. That still is pretty strong and lets you attach a normal DLSR camera body and a small to medium size lens.

The ball head (not included) has one dedicated vertical slot and can be adjusted for virtually any angle. So for table top work or self portraits, it does allow you to manipulate the camera / lens safely. I know that I often don’t carry a tripod, unless I know I am going to use one, as in I am shooting video or have something specific in mind.

The pocket Pod let’s you hedge your bets, because it takes no room in your bag, so your more likely to have it with you. Specifically for those times when you didn’t plan to use a tripod, but suddenly find yourself thinking, I wish I had a tripod!
Really Right Stuff
Specs:

Material: 6061-T6 black anodized aluminum
Load Capacity: 15 lbs
Leg Positions: Vertical, plus 2 positions and also fully open
Thread: 1/4-20 with 3/8-16 adapter
Folded Lenght: 5.9″ (with stud)
Height Fully Spread: 1.5″ (without ball head)
Weight: 4.8 oz

Nikon 300F4E PF Review

Nikon 300mm F4E

My review is a brief summary of what works and what does not work for me related to VR. Nasim Mansurov from Photography Life has an extensive review, with excellent comparisons to other lenses completed in 2015 at the link below:

https://photographylife.com/reviews/nikon-300mm-f4e-pf-ed-vr/

Unfortunately the VR issues reported two years ago in different reviews have not improved, no new firmware or design changes.  Nikon officially acknowledged the problem with only the D800 series bodies, and indicated that lenses with serial numbers below 205101 were affected (Nikon did issued a firmware fix for those lenses, but it was only slightly effective in reducing the problem).

It seems like Nikon really doesn’t want to face the reality that many other bodies are also impacted in that same shutter speed range. Hello – Nikon, it’s now 2017 and my recently purchased lens has a serial number that starts with 226XXX. I don’t own a D800 series body, so why would my D7200 and to a lesser extent on my older D700 body have the exact same VR issues with my new lens?

My bodies are only affected in a limited shutter speed range of 1/100 sec to about 1/160 of a sec. However down at 1/80 of a sec, VR works well, yielding sharp images. Also, images taken over 1/200 of a sec with VR on are very good. Note: Images with VR off at 1/160 sec are better than with VR turned on.

I happen to be shooting some test shots of a rabbit in my back yard one morning and my shutter speed fell to 1/160 of a second.  So a pretty normal use case in my opinion, not trying to find or doing anything unusual. Viewing shots in the camera at 100%, I could easily see the VR blur. Once I pushed the ISO to 3200, to get the shutter speed high enough (1/320 sec) to overcome the VR limitation, the images look nice (see the bunny below).

1.4TC, f5.6 @ 1/320 sec, ISO 3200

As an update I did a little more testing the next morning (after the bunny shots) and found a couple of interesting things at lower shutter speeds. Specifically with my system of the D7200 and 300 f4E, it seems that with VR on 1/160 of a second is the worst possible shutter speed for IQ. Going up slightly to 1/200 sec or faster solves the issue. Also, reducing shutter speed below 1/100 sec helps a good deal.

Again, a 300mm lens advertised with 4 stops of VR should do fine at 1/160 sec. In fact, VR actually works well at 1/60 – 1/80 sec, indicating the lens can provide 3 stops of stabilization from one over the 300mm focal length. In my case, I just need to avoid 1/100 sec to 1/160 of a second at all cost if VR is turned on. In the bad range it’s better to simply leaving VR turned off and the hand held images improve. So counter intuitively, if I cannot go to a higher ISO,  I should lower the shutter speed to obtain better images with good IQ at around 1/80 sec with VR on.

Outside of the VR limitation, it’s a nice lens, close in sharpness to the 300 f2.8G. It focuses fast with 1.4TC, and is generally fun to shoot with. On the D7200 with a 1.4TC, you get a very good effective crop focal length of a 600mm lens at f5.6 that you can easily carry with one hand. Just learn the VR specific limitations with your bodies.

Tamron 10-24mm VC HLD Review

Tamron 10-24mm F/3.5-4.5 VC HLD Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

   I have been shooting more with my DX camera, and was missing an ultra-wide lens, in my kit. In the past I had used a wide angle FX setup, but it’s not always convenient to take two bodies and multiple lenses with me. During a quick search online, I discovered the new Tamron 10-24 VC HDL lens had just came out and while not widely reviewed seems to be very nice.

Tamron list the optics as: “The optical design includes 16 elements in 11 groups. A new large aperture aspherical lens and LD (Low Dispersion).”

But does it work? – Well, after using it a couple of days the short answer is yes. I am impressed with this lens. I have owned the older Nikon 10-24mm f3.5-4.5G AFS and the 12-14mm f4G AFS lenses in the past. In looking at test shots from those lenses, I have two general comments. The new Tamron is sharper than the Nikon 12-24 f4G at f4, and has less distortion than the 10-24 f3.5-4.5.

Its body style is very close to the new Sigma “C” Contemporary series lenses. I also own the Sigma 17-70mm Dc f2.8-4, and it would be hard to tell them apart from the side. They both use 77mm filters, and have the same texture and sleek black poly carbon body. It does come with a lens hood, but no pouch. If anyone is interested, a Tamrac Goblin 1.4 lens pouch fits this lens with the hood attached.

The lens is impressively sharp at 10mm and very good at 24mm wide open. I do not have the TAP-IN console at this time, so I did a little AF fine tune on my D7200, and use +2, which seems to work pretty well across the zoom range, but probably not ideal at 24mm. The TAP-In would allow you to set different fine tune setting at different focal lengths, something that Nikon has yet to offer.

Note: “The optional TAP-in Console™ provides a USB connection to your personal computer, enabling you to easily update your lens’s firmware as well as customize features including fine tune adjustments to the AF.”

10-24 @ 15mm f5.6, 1/200 sec, ISO 200

10-24 @ 10mm f5.6, 1/200 sec, ISO 200

The AF motor is very fast and very quiet, basically silent, no complaints at all. Also the AF motor is equipped with a Full-time Manual Focus override mechanism that enables the user to freely select the focus point. One could ask does having VC on an UWA lenses makes sense?  If you’re trying to grab a quick shot in low light, I think it definitely helps. I was able to get an acceptable hand held shots at 24mm @ ¼ sec even though it was underexposed by one stop.

10-24 VC at 24mm F8 ¼ sec, ISO 100

The above low light photo was edited for exposure only in LR, no sharpening. I was in manual mode to force the shutter speed lower, and wasn’t paying attention to the exposure. One additional comment related to VC, is that above 1/100 sec it is simply is not needed, and by 1/125 sec, VC actually degrades the image slightly if left on. So if you’re shooting at faster shutter speeds, I would recommend leaving the VC off, until you need it at 1/30 sec or slower, where it does a good job.

In conclusion the lens seems like a very good value at $500 (USD). I plan on keeping my copy and using it on my D7200 along with my Sigma 17-70 Contemporary lens. The two make a great , very sharp and inexpensive travel kit that you can take anywhere, with minimal weight. I may eventually get the optional USB TAP-IN to try, but I am happy with the results I have seen so far.

Presets and Links:

While you can create your own presets in Lightroom, sometimes it’s nice to use plug-ins.

Sports / Action

Sports and Action Photography Tips

 

 

 

 

 

What’s different about sports shots, well they happen fast and most of the time there isn’t a do over. So careful planning, anticipation and the right gear help a lot. What can you do with the equipment that you have, well here are a few tips and settings that may guide you in the right direction:

Let’s start with what we can control – camera settings, position relative to the action, lenses. When possible, its a good idea to have two bodies, each with different lenses attached. Mono pods are pretty useful if you shooting with larger telephotos. Fast apertures lenses let you shoot in dimmer ambient light conditions, they also allows you to control depth of field and isolate the subject a little better.

The shot above was at f4, and I was fairly close to the runner, so the background is still busy, and the subject isn’t as isolated as I would of liked, but that can be corrected a bit in post processing. In this edited version, I have used Photoshop to blur the background some more. The degree of blur can easily be adjusted.

 

Some bodies are more oriented to large burst rates like a D500, and some are not. If yours isn’t one them, then you have to be more selective on how long you hold that shutter down. Possibly shoot more jpegs if the lighting allows, and you don’t need max dynamic range that shooting RAW provides.

Below are some sports specific settings that I took from one of my older bodies:

AF Sport Settings:

  • A1 AF-C Release + Focus
  • A3 Dynamic Area – 9 or 21 points
  • A4 Focus tracking short -1 or 2
  • A8 Number of focus points – Normally set to max
  • Active D-Lighting – Off (when lighting allows)
  • NEF (RAW) bit depth 12-bit compressed

Other Tips:

  • Back button focus can come in handy if you find yourself switching back and forth between AFC and AFC on Nikon bodies.
  • Use AF fine tune for telephoto lenses, to make sure your images are as sharp.
  • Don’t be afraid to use higher ISO’s to help maintain reasonable shutter speeds, typically that is at least 1/500 of second, but may need to be higher if the subject is very fast and you want to stop the action.
  • Panning can help portray a sense of speed and naturally blur the background.

 

Camera Stuff

Do All Roads Lead To FX

Do you ever look at used camera equipment ads, many now start by saying “selling all my DX gear, moving to FX”. Almost like people are running for their lives to escape a fate worse than death – Having to shoot with DX lenses. The funny thing is most people don’t know why they are going to FX, but it cost more, so it “has” to be better.

 

Before you sell all your equipment, take the time to know the Pros and Cons of going to a FX body. I have a brief list below that hits some key benefits of each format. It really comes down to the type of photography that you do, and of course the size of your wallet. Digital technology is still emerging, it is not a one size fits all sensor solution yet.

DX Advantages:

  •  Smaller cameras and lenses to haul around, size does matter.
  • DX  lenses are generally less expensive. 
  • Single zoom lenses can cover a greater focal length range. A big plus when two lenses, a fast 70-200mm and a 17-55mm f2.8 zoom will cover 90% of most shoots.
  • You get a free teleconverter, also called a crop factor, which means a 200mm lens gives you the equivalent of a 300mm on a APC DX body, great for sports on big fields.
  • You can enlarge a 12 MP DX file just as much as a 12 MP FX file.
  • For a given lens and camera to subject distance you get more DOF.

FX Advantages:

  • No more doing crop factor conversions in your head, you get the field of view you expect from a given focal length.
  • Wide angle, is really wide angle, and you don’t have to have a super wide angle 12mm lens, because  18mm works just fine.
  • You have less depth of filed for a given focal length and subject distance, so the bokeh looks a little better, and you don’t have to shoot at f1.4 to have your subject stand out, you get less DOF.
  • More detail in portraits and close ups with the same lens.
  • Better high ISO performance due to pixel size, so you have less noise in low light conditions and can leave the flash at home.