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Kula Deeper

More innovations in photography! I can’t really afford any of these cool new toys, but I still find them interesting. I always keep my eyes peeled for new gadgets that make photography more interesting. Most of the time they’re just unnecessary add-ons, but that doesn’t mean I can’t check it out right?

The Kula Deeper turns your DSLR into a 3D camera. It basically allows you to take 3D pictures and video. I think 3D is still a relatively new field. I don’t know too many average consumers who have gear capable of viewing 3D. Some people might be into it, but the average person doesn’t have a pair of 3D glasses and has no need toKúla Deeper

It’s pretty interesting how they’re building on the 3D nature of things. The Kula Deeper is a device that attaches to a camera lens and, through a series of mirrors, captures side-by-side images. It basically does the work for you. Then experience 3D right on the camera using a stereo viewer. After capture, they have special software, kúlacode, which will turn it into a 3D format. Pretty cool stuff right? By default it’ll fit on 77mm lenses, but you can get filters and
make it work on other sizes. I like the fact that you don’t really have to think about it. All you have to do is capture your image with the device attached and run it through the software.

Go ahead and check out their website. Then go and help them out on their funding page! I can’t wait to see one out in the wild and see what kind of photos people are taking with it.

Smartwatch Wars

Let the battle commence! Smartwatch wars! I mean the battle of the smartwatches, not to be confused with the dumbwatches that have served us so well so far. I wrote about the Pebble smartwatch before. I actually own one and I love it. There have also been rumors floating around that Apple is about to get in on this too and it would be interesting to see what they come up with.

My question: what’s up with the smartwatch revolution? I guess it’s not too much of a leap. We already have some high tech Google glasses out in the wild, so why not tech-loaded watches? We’ve pretty much reached the limits of improvements and additions for phones, so we have to move on and conquer other devices. How about adding some more interactivity in cameras? Oh yea, they’re already on that with the Samsung Galaxy Camera and the recently announced phone/camera combos, the Sony Xperia Z1 and Xperia Z Ultra, which run on Android. I’m actually interested in the Xperia line because of the add-on lenses.Sony Xperia Z1

So, smartwatches are the way to go. In essence, it extends the capabilities of your cell phone via bluetooth, allowing basic app connectivity and general control of your phone’s features like email and text messaging. Good luck to all these companies who are jumping in. Within a few years, prices will drop, and new, more refined smartwatches will be affordable and ready to buy. Let’s run through a couple real fast. Again, don’t forget Pebble!

  • Qualcomm Toq: Mirasol color screen and 3-5 day battery life. $300. It’s compatible with Android phones and yes, it looks quite appealing. It’ll do all the smartwatchy-type things.Qualcomm Toq
  • Samsung Galaxy Gear: 1.63-inch screen, 1.9 MP camera, ~27 hr battery life, a speaker, and two mics. $300. Guess what? It has a color screen – something that the Pebble doesn’t have. You can actually take calls on the watch, which is pretty cool. Sadly, it only works with a few select few Samsung smartphones and tablets.Samsung Galaxy Gear
  • Sony Smartwatch 2: 1.6-inch screen, NFC and bluetooth, 3-4 day battery life. $263. Again, same kind of functionality compatible with most Android phones. It also has a color screen and allows you to answer calls and make calls. It looks beautiful.Sony Smartwatch 2

So, let it being. The great smartwatch wars will wage on from now until the next big thing. We’ll all have one at one point or another, but analog will always have a place. Always.

*9/9/13 It turns out that Nissan is jumping into the Smartwatch game too.

  • Nissan Nismo Watch: This one is a niche watch geared toward drivers of the Nissan Nismo. It’s not really about connecting to your smartphone, but more about connecting to your car. Alerts from your Nismo. Sweet.Nissan Nismo Watch
Video

DigiPod

Now this isn’t something you see everyday. I have an analog Minolta XG-9 SLR that I take for a spin every now and again, but the cost of film keeps me on my toes. Yes, I believe in starting out with film because it’s relatively unforgiving. You either have it down or you need to work on it. Not only is there a cost associated with buying film, but also developing it and getting prints.

My Minolta XG-9

My Minolta XG-9

I don’t have a problem with swapping film out; I could do it all day long. SLRs have a calming effect on me. DSLRs on the other hand, have all these options, numbers, and buttons that I hardly ever use. DSLRs are hectic and SLRs are relatively calm. My biggest blockade is the cost. It’s all about the cost of film and the hassle of doing any sort of post production on them, coupled with the hardships of sharing them digitally.

Introducing the DigiPod on Indiegogo. Their tagline: “A digital 35mm film cartridge, that once adjusted, will fit most SLR cameras”. Working off what I’ve read: It’s a digital film pod that replaces the film in a film camera, allowing everything to be saved to a micro SD. It also has a port for connecting to the computer and a built-in battery. Supposedly it can be adjusted from 24 to 3200 ASA, to be set before it is put into the camera and a battery save mode. Neat.

Yea, I’m intrigued and very interested in seeing how it turns out. I imagine it to be a simple plug and go type device that’s easy to use and hassle-free. If successful, the DigiPod would allow anyone to dust off their old 35mm cameras and go for an all day outing.

I read an update just now about an option for RAW file capture, which is plain awesome. That would help out, especially when it comes time for me to import it all into Lightroom.

Go ahead and check this project out at Indigogo and back it if you’re interested. Make sure you check on the updates section every once in a while.

Camera Tossing

It has been described as reckless, insane, and stupid, but in reality it can get you great results, provided you do it safely. So what is camera tossing? It’s exactly what it sounds like. You set your camera on a long shutter speed with or without a delay, press the shutter, and then wait for exactly the right time to throw your camera. At that point, you can either catch your camera or have it land on a soft surface. More often than not, your results are not too astonishing, but if you get it just right or have just the right thing to point your camera at, you can achieve spectacular results. I’ve seen quite a few pictures taken this way I presume in the dead of night or with the camera pointed at a light source of some kind. It is an art and you should experiment, but be careful. I for one have tossed my point and shoot around and bit and have found that it does in fact yield some images I wouldn’t get otherwise. However, I’m a bit hesitant to throw my DSLR. It’s a bit heavy and there’s a greater risk involved. The orange photo is the original and I went into Photoshop to change the color and got the blue one.

For more information on camera tossing, visit the Camera Tossing blog and for a gallery of pictures that have resulted from camera tossing, check out the Flickr Camera Tossing group.

This post first appeared on my old WordPress blog 30MAY2008.

Meike MK-550DL Battery Grip

Third-party manufacturers take a lot of unwarranted flack, highly attributed to their stigma. Yes, brand reputation and questions about quality contributes greatly to their stigma, but some great products are potentially overlooked due to this mistaken perspective. This falls a little bit into the debate of popular review oriented sites like yelp or Amazon, which are structured around a star rating system. On one hand it is great for judging popular opinion and establishing a majority view, but it has its drawbacks. A boatload of people have selective focus and only look at the star guide, opting exclusively for the 4 to 5 star range without ever consulting reviews or the reliability of those reviewers. What about individual tastes and preferences as they compare with reviewer tastes and preferences? With that preface, I want to introduce you all to a key piece of camera equipment I carry all the time that allows me to get a good third of the pictures I take: the Meike MK-550DL battery grip. Here’s a quick rundown:

All the attachments

All the attachments

  1. The battery grip is plastic, but doesn’t lack in the quality department. It comes with two “battery magazines”, to use the manual’s terminology. It offers a LCD screen with a backlight and a vertical grip shutter button and dial. Also included is a wireless IR remote and two magazines for either Canon batteries or six AA batteries. Let’s take it one side at a time.
    • Front: There’s an IR receiver in front for wireless capture.
    • Sides: On one side is the slot for whichever battery magazine you choose to use, with a slot inside for a CR1620 battery that powers the LCD screen. The other side has the vertical shutter release and dial.
    • Back side: There’s a lock that firmly screws into the camera’s tripod mount, an on/off switch for the grip, 7 function buttons, an aperture/exposure compensation button, an AF point selection/magnify button, and an AE lock/reduce button (just like on the camera itself).
  2. Let’s go through a few of the built-in functions:
    • It helps in vertical photography.
    • Extends the battery life by carrying two batteries.
    • The remote allows for wireless shooting.
    • Programmable intervalometer function, useful for time lapses.
    • Using that same function, allows for timed bulb settings.
  3. The battery grip is chalk full of functions, but I only really use a handful of them on a regular basis. The build quality is excellent and adds a nice weight to my T2i. Additionally, the grip texture on the grip match that of the Canon. It’ll run you about $42 bucks, which is a bargain. I also went and purchased two backup batteries for my camera to use with the battery grip. I’ve never had a problem with the batteries and they come in very handy. Those will cost you only about $8 for two, perfect for the battery grip. You can find them here. I sometimes use the remote when I set the camera up on a tripod for selfies or product photos. I take advantage of the vertical grip on a daily basis. However, my most used functions are the intervalometer for time lapses and the extended bulb function for long exposures over 30 seconds.

Sadly, it’s not a perfect product. It’s very useful and a great bang for the buck, but there are some intricacies to it.

  • The dial malfunctions/gets stuck at times and a reboot is required. It rarely happens though.
  • Sometimes the entire battery grip malfunctions and the grip needs to be disconnected and reconnected. It’s very, very rare though.
24JAN14 update: Just kidding. I guess it has something to do with age, but everything on the grip seems to be malfunctioning more regularly now. Here’s my recommendation for you – once it’s on there, try not to take it off. That way the contacts will stay in line and the buttons will continue to work.

 

  • The IR remote is erratic, especially on any kind of mode besides fully automatic.
  • Programming in the time for any of the functions can be confusing the first few times.
  • The battery that powers the LCD screen gets dislodged every one in a while, freezing the LCD functions until the battery is removed and reinstalled.
  • The manual is hard to understand, but you don’t really need it. Just mess with it.

I’ve added a new post detailing how to use the battery grip, so please check it out here if you’re interested.

Experiments with Flash

In this fast-paced digital age, I’m sad to admit that I’ve neglected my film camera. I can’t stand the fact that I have to go out and get my film developed and spend money on it. On top of that, in order to share the photos online, I have to go through and digitize them or spend even more money and have them put on a CD or emailed to me. Anyway, I was playing around with an SLR my father passed down to me, a Minolta XG-7 with most of the accessories. I never knew the old man was so into photography. The Minolta came bundled with a telephoto converter and a shutter release cable as well as an external flash unit. With the type of film I use, I take full advantage of the flash. However, when it comes to my Canon t2i, I’m not comfortable using flash because I don’t have any practice with it. I can shift the sensitivity up and down to my liking and playing around with flash just becomes an unnecessary hassle.

I got really bored one day and decided to marry my Minolta Auto 200x flash unit to my t2i. Turns out they play pretty well with each other. So for the past few days, I’ve been experimenting with the flash unit and taking pictures in my room. That’s a pretty bold statement because my room is pretty dark and I often have to pump the ISO well above my comfort zone.

A little bit about what I’m working with here:

  • It’s battery operated with auto and manual settings with hi and lo modes.
  • It has a red test button (it’ll come into play later on and I love this feature).
  • There’s a simple detachable flash diffuser/softener.
  • It has a rotating dial so you can get all your manual settings just right.

Somewhere along the way, I figured out that the Minolta will work at speeds up to 1/320 in manual mode. I kept snapping away with the external flash mounted right on the hot-shoe built  into the t2i. Then I realized I have a flash bracket mount with two extra hot-shoes in both a vertical and horizontal orientation. Me being me, I went ahead and experimented with these three variations to see how the lighting changed. Now, flash photography is something I have to experiment more with and use on at least a weekly basis. Here are my results from the flash bracket test:

  1. Mounting the Minolta Auto 200x on the built-in Canon hot-shoe gave me pretty harsh lighting. While this can be useful in some situations, I don’t envision myself using this option after seeing my other alternatives.
  2. Putting the flash on the bracket to the left side and vertical really brightens everything up and achieves the effect of bouncing the flash. It isn’t as harsh because the light is off to one side, but stil manages to brighten everything up. This has got to be the most pleasing lighting and the most effective. I would use this orientation in day to day picture-taking if I wanted to use flash.
  3. My favorite effect is achieved with the flash on the bracket in a horizontal position. This puts the flash quite a ways from the subject and away from the lens, providing what seems to be almost ambient light. It also creates dramatic shadows and adds a great tone to the photos. I prefer this one for artistic shots.

As a note, when I had the flash on the bracket, I had to manually fire the flash using the red test button. I had a very hard time getting the timing right until I dropped down to about 0″3. That gave me enough time to hear the shutter going and fire the flash, with some time for error. This worked out because even though I was a bit shaky, the bright flash froze motion.

I also decided to play with motion and got a cool effect that I wasn’t anticipating. I went ahead and pressed the shutter release and panned the camera. Just as I was over my intended subject, I fired the flash manually. The result looks almost like a double exposure because of the movement and the color, while the flash froze and somewhat stabilized exactly where I was pointed. Overall, a successful flash experiment.

The effect of camera movement with flash

The effect of camera movement with flash

Here are a few photographs I took in my room using the flash unit. They definitely wouldn’t have come out this way without the flash. If you want to pick up the bracket I have, you can find it here on Amazon for $9.

I’ll leave you with a few photos I took in my room using flash.

After this post, I took a few more pictures. This time I didn’t mount the flash to anything and held it by hand, positioning it willynilly. As long as I held the camera relatively still and kept the shutter at 0″3, I got great shots. Holding the flash is going to give me a lot of versatility going forward.

Dolica Tripod

Photography seriously peaks my interest. I find it interesting, not only because I can try new approaches, techniques, DIYs, and equipment, but because I love to look at the works in progress and finished works of other photographers.

I got into long exposures not too long ago, but with an old, wobbly tripod. After taking a couple of night trips and honing in on my favorite settings, styles, and preferences, I got fed up with the lack of a sturdy platform to take photographs from. Stability is a pretty big thing in long exposure photographs, especially in a windy city like San Francisco. After a little bit of research, taking into consideration my budget, I settled for the Dolica AX620B100 Proline tripod. After spending some time and bonding with it, I have to say: It is a great buy. Everything locks tightly and there’s no sign of wobble. It’s a great build!

If I had to describe it in a little blurb: It’s a 62″ aluminum tripod with a quick release plate and ball head, weighing in at 2.9 lbs with a max load of about 13 lbs. My favorite part of it is the ability to get really low-angle shots using just a few key features. Let’s do an in-depth run-through of its parts from the top down.

  1. I love the quick release plate. My previous tripod didn’t have one of these suckers and the hassle of having to screw in my camera every time put me off from taking long exposures. This plate is sturdy, with a cork-like texture where it meets the camera. I haven’t experienced any slippage at all and tightening the screw on the bottom results in a tight fit. I keep the plate on my camera grip at all times because I never know when I’ll plop it on the tripod.
  2. The ball head is an action-packed system. I’ve found that all of the locking knobs work like magic. They don’t give at all, which is exactly what I was looking for. The ball head comes with a bubble level and the neatest feature is the ability to take photos with your camera in the vertical position, thanks to a slit on the ball head that will give you that perfect 90 degrees. Another interesting feature: the quick plate locking knob actually has a safety on it to prevent an accidental release. I take pictures feeling a lot safer that way.
  3. Three position leg angle adjustment locks are epic! The main tripod also has a compass for the adventurous and a bubble level. So in total, that makes two bubble levels. Adjusting the leg angle locks allows shuffling through three angle types: the standard angle, 45 degree angle, or 90 degree angle, opening up a whole slew of possibilities. A great design feature and very, very useful.
  4. This is pretty much a good all-around, all-weather, and all-terrain tripod. The three foam grips, one on each leg, serve their purpose. They’re easy to grab, soft, and pretty bouncy. The downside? There’s a bit of a nasty smell. As long as you don’t put your face next to it for extended periods of time, you’ll be alright.
  5. There are 3 sections to each leg, adjustable with simple flip-style locks. They’re easy to use and sturdy – exactly what you want from locks. Flip locks are probably the way to go because you can easily snap them open and adjust the leg lengths according to your bubble level when you’re on uneven surfaces.
  6. Another reason this sturdy tripod is great for long exposures is the inclusion of an accessory hook at the bottom of the center column. In a daytime situation, you can hang your camera bag there for safekeeping. It is best taken advantage of at night and in windy situations, when that extra weight comes in handy, keeping the tripod on the ground. Remember, it’s only about 3 lbs and high winds might shake it a bit depending on how heavy your camera is.
  7. The rubber feet on this thing are brilliant, transformer-esque, nonslip, and pretty much magical. You can turn the rubber portion to expose spikes, useful for rough, gravelly, or loose terrains, or use the rubber as is. Trust me, both options are good options, although I use the rubber as a default, since it works in most situations.

A few additional side notes:

  • The tripod comes with a carry bag, an allen wrench for tightening up the legs, and a manual. I recommend going through and fiddling with the tripod and getting a hang for it on your own, because in all honestly, the system is so easy to use that you won’t need a manual.
  • The ball head is super smooth, which means it would be great for video too!
  • Changing the legs to 90 degrees gets you pretty low to the ground for some interesting shots. Taking the center column and turning it upside-down, then mounting your camera to it can get it a few millimeters off the ground.
  • Each leg’s angle can be adjusted individually so you can have one side high and the other two pretty low and you get an angled platform.

This whole time I’ve just been talking about all the good things. Let me start a list of some cons, however slight they might be.

    •  The black metal finish is pretty delicate. Mine has started to come off in some spots. It is barely noticeable, although I’m sure more wear and tear will cause it to go silver. It’s not too big of a problem. I think it actually adds character.

Where else are you going to find such a well-built and feature-rich tripod for the price? I highly recommend this tripod for any photographer – novice, amateur, or otherwise. The Dolica tripod will cost about $50 on Amazon.

Check out some pictures:

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