Friday, December 31, 2010

Mysteries of the world

On the last night of the year 2010 I will diverge a bit from the barrage of camera-talk in favour of something completely different.

Despite having seen people around me get together and break up countless times, I still can not understand the specifics of how two people end up "dating". I keep imagining eomtional scenes from teen movies or Japanese drama-series where one character reveals their true feelings while walking home, sharing an umbrella, even though I know it probably isn't anywhere like that in real life. At what point do people decide to get together? What is the chain of events that usually precede it? These are things I have yet to discover, since it is something that I guess must be experienced personally.

Reality check.

But I guess that in the end, it doesn't really matter. Even though it is the source of most of my daily worries, it amount to such an insignificant sum on the scale of wordly troubles. I have my family, I have my health, I have a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in and lots of toys to play with. But even knowing this, I still can't help but worry about things that in the end won't matter.

It seems like people have a certain amount of worries that they need to allocate in their lives. If it's not the large stuff, cancer, death, homelessness, it's the small stuff, like which brand-name handbag to buy or which camera has the better high-ISO performance.

For 2011, I would wish for myself to let that which does not matter, truly slide.

No fear. No distractions.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

40D

It occurred to me that I have barely spoken about one of the biggest purchases I've made, even though I used it in the Trigun photoshoot, namely the Sigma 17-50mm F2.8 EX DC OS HSM.

First impression was that it was large. I had only used the plastic 18-55 before, and the difference in size and weight was substantial. It felt like a serious piece of gear. Of course I also looked at Canon's equivalent offering, the 17-55 f/2.8, but decided to pass on it because of price and size. For the money saved I could buy other gear (which I eventually ended up doing), and I was also more attracted to the shorter and thicker size of the Sigma.

Initial tests were good, and I was very satisfied with the image quality I got from the photoshoot, but I did notice a couple of issues, mostly dealing with low-light auto-focus (the trouble of most cameras) and wide-angle focus. Using it on the 1000D I would often find I'd get better results if I first zoomed in to focus, then zoomed out to wide-angle for the shot. A workaround, but not anything that would fly in the long run. Not really sure if the problem was the lens or the body, I prepared myself mentally to send the lens back.

On my way back from work the other day I decided to stop by the camera-store, since they get in used stuff sometimes that they sell on. Asking what they had, they guy brought out a 40D, same model I had looked at earlier but missed, as someone else got it before me. After some deliberation I went back today and got it.

And I must say the Sigma feels like a completely new lens when mounted on the 40D. On the 1000D it would often hunt for focus, and was just about on par with the 18-55 for speed, but on the 40D it feels a lot faster and more accurate. (Perhaps the Sigma is made with f/2.8 cross-type sensors in mind rather than the slower f/5.6 of the 1000D.)

And beyond the improved AF of the 40D there is also the possibility of exchanging the focus screen to get more accurate manual focus, thereby eliminating the dependance on automatic focus!

Update: just tried the Sigma on a friend's 450D, focus was good. Could it be that it doesn't work well with the 1000D AF sensor?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A list

While my kit is very quickly nearing a state I can feel quite satisfied with (though I wouldn't say completion since that is hard to define with gear), there are of course some non-essential things that would be cool to hav for once-in-a-while use.

Reversal ring for Canon EOS cameras.
Or more preferrably:
Macro-adapter set.
Neutral Density filter, ~8X, such as this. (Needs to be 77mm.)
Flash gel set.

Update: since I got a 40D, I could also use a Super precision matte focus screen! But I guess that would be hard to get on a short notice.

Then there are other things that would be cool.
Paper cutter.

More later.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Trigun cosplay photoshoot

This post could easily have the subtitle "A case for speedlights", for reasons which will become apparent. But first, some pictures!



Some days ago I got a message from a friend who had just won the Finnish tryouts for the World Cosplay Summit, and was eager to get some pics of the costume. As a purveyor of fine light, I was happy to oblige! Little was I to know that it would become my most challenging shoot to date...

I had taken the day off work to prepare for it, and we met up at about 1PM. There was plenty of preparations to be done with the costume itself, and then we had to pick up the other part of the dynamic cosplay duo, so we finally got going at about 2PM. This late in autumn there aren't many hours of sunlight, and on the list of things to try was also some available light shots.

We had gotten a tip of a good place that could suit the setting of the show itself, sandy and a bit desolate. We got the worst possible start in that a small, but important, piece of prop was left behind, and we had to turn back to get it. On top of that we spend many hours searching for this place we had been told about, with no luck. We saw some places that could have been good, but they were pretty inaccessible by car, and walking any longer distance was out of the question, with all the gear, props and costumes.

Eventually we came across a place, not a very pretty place, but a place with sand nonetheless. By this time the sun had set, and the remaining light was fading fast. It wasn't the most optimal location, but we could either do it there, or waste more valuable time in going back to town to the b-location. By this time I had discarded any thought of using available light; it was gonna be straight to speedlights.


Checking out the location, image to check light, +~3 stops in ACR.
Quickly I assembled the gear, and finally we could start shooting.

But we weren't clear just yet, with light falling as fast as the temperature, it was getting darker and colder by the minute. Before long I was having problems with the auto-focus on my camera, as without light, it can't focus. Luckily I had gotten another SB-24 flash the very day, that I had taken with me to be used as a backup in case one of them failed. So I could take the Canon-compatible Nissin I have and put on the camera hotshoe, and use its AF-assist beam.

This helped me get some critical shots, but time was running out, and the cold was taking its toll. As we were setting up the final shots to be taken, I noticed that the lens had fogged over, making further shooting impossible. As I was disassembling the gear I couldn't get the umbrella-stand screw loosened because I had lost feeling in my fingers...

But considering all the trouble we went through and the circumstances we shot in, we came away with some pretty fine images! And as for the subtitle I mentioned, this is a shoot I don't think would have been possible without small, portable flashes.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

More gear!

Time flies when you're having fun, but goes so inexplicably slowly when you are waiting for something. In my case it is the lure of a constant f/2.8 zoom!

Yes, finally a more substantial upgrade of glass is within reach, after I managed to land myself a temporary job. I might upgrade some other stuff too, but that is number one on the list.

Something I also plan to upgrade at some point is, of course, the body. The 1000D is plenty capable, but I would like at least to have the more sensitive auto-focus at f/2.8 that the newer bodies have, seeing as that is where I'm heading. By coincidence, when I was visiting the camera store, they had a used 40D there that I fondled a bit. It's a lot more camera than the 1000D, even though they share sensor; it has the better AF system, higher burst rate, more ergonomical feel and exchangable focusing screens. The last point could also realize my dreams of a digital camera with a split-prism focus screen. (You can also exchange the screen on the 1000D, but it requires more fiddling about.)

But even with all good sides of the 40D it feels like a bit of a waste since I don't think I've really reached the maximum potential of what I currently have. Not to mention that I sort of like the small form factor of the Rebel-series bodies...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Nostalgia

I started wondering how long ago it was that I had gotten my speakers, and looked at the post I made after just having got them. Almost four years ago.

With that I also started reading other, old posts I had made, seeing my past replay before me. The Keystation 49 I got as my first MIDI keyboard, my first lesson in Japanese, old TV-shows I remember or like, birthdays, dreaming about synthesizers (finally getting one just last year), complaining about essays (that I actually just got written this year), moving out, first live performance, girl trouble, my first thoughts of getting a DSLR...

Am I the same person now as I was then?

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

New glass

As a follow-up to my lamenting the lack of good glass.

Having noted the shortcomings of the Tamron 17-50 VC, the pixel-peeper in me would not let me overlook them.
Sample of ghosting on the Tamron 17-50 VC

So, having made a conscious decision to let it go, the options remaining are the Canon 17-55 and the new Sigma 17-50, which both look very good indeed. The Canon has, of course, the advantage of being Canon, full compatibility with past and future EF-S cameras, while Sigma might need a firmware upgrade to work with new bodies some years from now. But to be honest, that doesn't bother me so much. The Sigma is also a bit shorter, a bit lighter, and comes with a lens-hood.

While the Canon has higher scores (and equally higher price), I am somehow drawn more to the Sigma. While I know it would most likely be a bit better, there is something about getting too many components from the same manufacturer that I don't like. There is something I find appealing in having parts from many different sources combined; I also felt this in something so simple as getting the new Nikon-branded lenscap for the 50mm... It's probably also the reason why I don't feel any need or desire to get the Apple-branded keyboard and mouse, instead going with Logitech, and using an LG LCD.

But both the Sigma and Canon are way out of my price-range at the moment. So, wanting something at least a bit better than the old 18-55 kit, I got an 18-55 IS. This might not sound like such a big change, but the new optical recipe Canon had for it is a real winner according to almost all reviews.

Here are some images I took recently, trying out the improved close focusing.
Also in gear-related news, I got an SB-24 for cheap! It feels like my kit is slowly getting pretty decent.

Update: after doing some pretty extensive testing, I have noticed that my old 18-55 is actually sharper than the new IS I bought. This runs opposite of pretty much everything I've read about it, so I'm suspecting I got a bad sample. Overall it's still a nicer lens, with IS, better close focus and nicer feel, but it seems I can't accept the step-down in image quality, no matter how slight it is. This means I don't have any reason not to start saving for the Sigma right away...

Friday, July 09, 2010

B-day list

Per usual procedure, I list some things that I would not at all mind receiving for my birthday! Huzzah for materialism.

Falcon Eyes PC-to-hotshoe adapter. (Don't need this anymore!)
Male-Male PC sync cord.
Tommy Hilfiger spray deodorant.
Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Upgrade (note: the cheaper upgrade version, not the full >100€).
Pendulum - Immersion.

More later!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Need new glass!

I took the time to bring my camera in to the store the other day to try out the Tamron 17-50 VC that I talked about earlier. Long story short, it just clicked. (Pun intended.)

First impressions was that it was a lot heftier than the kit; being a constant-aperture lens this was expected, but it was interesting exactly how much larger it appeared on the small 1000D body. The zoom-ring had a bit of friction to it, but nothing I can't see myself getting used to...

I did, however, notice something in my test-shots, which I can't see myself getting used to. While I was pretty satisfied with the image quality, there was a patch in the middle focal length around 30mm that was just atrocious at f/2.8. This went a bit opposite of the reviews I've read which usually put 50mm as the real problem area, which could point to sample variation. (I noticed a bit of the same problem at f/4, but otherwise it behaved as I had hoped.) I will certainly test it more thoroughly when the time comes to actually decide to purchase or not, but there is a strong want-factor about this lens.

There are a couple of options to the Tamron: there's the equivalent Sigma 17-50 which just came out, which is about 1.5x the price of the Tamron, then there's Canon's own ultimate EF-S lens, the 17-55, which in turn is about 1.5x the price of the Sigma. They all cover roughly the same focal length (ie. same zoom level) and they're all constant f/2.8. What separates them is differences in build quality, autofocus and image quality, following roughly the price increments: Sigma has a bit better image quality and autofocus motor than the Tamron, Canon has the edge on both of them.

One thing I would want though is working autofocus in low light. I learned that from the 50mm, there's no point in having a fast lens if it won't focus correctly in low light. But seeing as pretty no third-party lens can have the same level of autofocus compatibility as Canon (as they reverse-engineer the connections), that would mean the Canon 17-55, which I really don't have the budget for.

But who knows, I might win the lottery!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Back & front OneLight style

I had a thought some time ago about the possibility of doing a backlit portrait, where the background goes all white. Having only one light makes it a bit tricky, of course, but I figured that if I could plop a reflector right in front of the face, it might reflect enough light to give a proper exposure.

With that in mind, I started setting up what I had. My cardboard softbox in the back, and at the front, a piece of white paper disposable tablecloth I had found for cheap.
As you can see, relatively close quarters.
Cutting a hole in the paper got me a place to set my camera and get the shot.
So we have light coming from the softbox (quite bright), bouncing off the white paper and coming back. One light, not so shabby results.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cosplay shoot

Shortly, a few words.

My friend Mirja did a cosplay of Yuko from xxxHolic, and asked me to take some pictures, a request of which I was happy to oblige! It was a really smooth shoot; having a model used to posing it felt really easy to direct. That coupled with the nice light I got from the softbox made this probably my best shoot so far.

I think what also helped was that I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted. I had looked at some pictures and took a liking to the red, flowing curtains.So I tried to emulate that look a bit. Don't know how well I succeeded in copying it, but it felt good going into the shoot with a plan, as opposed to just "yeah we'll take some pics and see what we get", as I've previously done.

If I had only had another light to put as hairlight...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Softbox

Today I had my first cosplay-shoot. But that is another story! This is the story of my homemade softbox which I decided to start making the night before the shoot-day, since I'm unable to properly schedule anything.

It all started with a big cardboard box I had from when I had ordered some music stuff (mic-stand etc.); I took that and cut it up into triangle-shaped pieces. Then I covered one side of the pieces with white A4 paper, in the same way I did the dish, except for putting them on a flat plane.

Then I used the cable ties I had left over from the camera bag mod to connect the large cardboard pieces to each other. As front diffuser I used some white see-through sheet thing I had gotten at a fleamarket for 1€.

As for the end result: huge. Behold, The Monster!

For those keeping score, it's about 80x80cm at the front.


Sunday, May 09, 2010

Kipinä Spring Exhibition

Today was culmination of the dance school Kipinä's spring term, with a big exhibition with performances from the various dance groups. This turned out to be quite a long day as I had asked if I could go there and snap some pictures of the dress rehearsal since I desparately wanted some experience in photographing low-light stage areas.

I tried with the kit lens first since that would give me the most variation in focals length, but even at the widest aperture (3.5) it wasn't enough. Good thing I had brought with me my 50mm 1.8 prime. I would have wanted to shoot at about 2.8 for best depth of field, but even that didn't really give satisfying results, so I had to it set at 2.5 for the most part. (That high-ISO on the 550D would really have come in handy.)

First of all, some pictures.



The last one is my personal favourite.

So what have I learned other than that I have a thing for flinging hair? First of all, I need to stop using the focus-lock so much; I had to delete far too many out-of-focus pictures where I hadn't bother to refocus. Second, a stage, especially one where the lighting isn't even and people are constantly moving in and out of the spotlight, is a bitch to shoot; imagine the last shot with a bit more light on the girl in center.

Besides that, some practical issues: get a spare 4GB card and check that your battery is charged. I had to start deleting a couple of sets of old images as I was shooting when I noticed I was running low on space, and I was actually stopped just 60 images from a full card by the battery running out.

And finally some trivia: I had been at a housewarming party the night before and had barely slept off the effects of the drink as I got up at 9 in the morning. Went to the place where I shot about 3 hours straight, then home to get a bit to eat and back to the scene again for my group's dress rehearsal. So I had been up for almost 10 hours already after a night of little sleep as I performed our routine. I don't know if that worked against me or for me, but it went quite ok.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Apple messed up

This is old news for most people, but Apple really messed up with iMovie version 7 (aka. iLife '08). I was trying to put together a simple video with a long stretched sped up and then a 'Ken Burns' image at the end, and no matter where I looked in iMovie I couldn't find the option to speed up the video. Turns out it wasn't even included in that version. Going back to the previous version, iMovie 6 HD, I did find a "speed up" effect, but it was so limited as to be useless to me.

Good thing I know of the old "add and scale" trick in Quicktime. I still needed to edit the video to have the image at the end and some transitions, so I thought I'd do the transitions in iMovie then export to a new file, then fix the speed in Quicktime, then import that back again into iMovie to add the image and music. If this sounds overly complicated, it's because it really was. It wasn't even a workable solution as when I sped up the movie I just had exported from iMovie it ended up dropping so many frames it was unbearable.

So as I was exporting the clip again for the second time in hopes of getting it fixed, I thought I'd try the known route: doing it all in Quicktime. I wouldn't have any fancy effects, but with the estimated time for the export of the new file being about one hour I had time to kill. Quickly opened the files, Motion-JPEG being easy on the processor, trimmed out what I didn't need, pasted together and fixed the speed; then did the Ken Burns image quickly in iMovie, limited to 10 seconds, but ok. Export that while the first was still going, quickly pasted it all together onto the audio track I had prepared.

End result: iMovie taking the better part of two evenings and nothing to show for it but big temporary files; Quicktime Pro got it done in about half an hour. I know it's a matter of what tools you know best, but Apple seriously messed up with iMovie, at least for what I want.

Oh, and the video.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dish

Continuing with the theme of DIY light modifiers, this time I wanted to try to make a beauty dish.

This was quite a cumbersome project because I had a pretty specific shape in mind. I wanted a quite wide and shallow dish, wider than I could get with any of the plastic containers I found, so this ruled out the tupperware approach. I also went past the lampshade section at several stores and scoured fleamarkets for shapes I wanted, but almost all had downsides: if it was the right shape it was usually a heavy material like glass or metal, if the material was light (like the fabric lampshades) the shape wasn't quite right.

So then I thought, why not try to make it out of paper. Not the most conventional material, but it was something I wanted to try. I had a metal lampshade from an old broken ceiling lamp that was the shape I wanted, so I figured I would use that as base and put layers of paper on top, using wallpaper paste to keep it all together.

Step 1: the initial paper layers, cut up into shapes that would cover the metal so I wouldn't accidentally glue it stuck.Next, we have more paper layers applied with paste. (Though it doesn't look much different...)It's solid, and it's holding. Balanced on top of the lampshade used to form it.
I had big problems coming up with a flash-mount for this project. I tried making one out of cardboard (though quite thin), but when adding the elastic band to keep it onto the flash it completely lost its structure, warping way too easily. With that experience I really wanted plastic, so I started looking around...

At this juncture I would like to bring up a quote from one of my favourite movies, Zero Effect:
When you go looking for something specific, your chances of finding it are very bad. Because of all the things in the world, you're only looking for one of them.
But when you go looking for anything at all, your chances of finding it are very good. Because of all the things in the world, you're sure to find some of them.
It might seem strange in the context, but to me it is the very essence of DIY; to have a goal in mind, but no planned way of getting there. You make up the plan based on what you find to use. When you go out looking for materials for a reflector, for example, you're not thinking "I need a round, white plastic dish with a X cm diameter and Y depth." You go out looking for reflective materials, and if you find something neat, you use it.

So that is when I looked around my apartment, I tried to not look for anything specific, but something that might fit after modification. With that in mind, I found an empty canister of instant coffee...Which I took the knife to.Just the right size for the flash head!

I don't have any pictures for the assembling, but what I did then was to cut up from the center hole of the paper dish so the plastic flash-mount would go through. Add some adhesive tape liberally to connect the whole construction.

That was one part, but I still needed a primary reflector, and I didn't have any convex mirrors handy... What I did have, though, was some of the aluminium foil from the lightpot project. So I cut out a couple of circles and put those onto same sized paper circles with the same clear book plastic as previously. Then I did a simple radius cut, and dragged it onto itself to form a cone.I made two since I didn't know which angle would be best. Left is with just 1/8 covered, so it's a bit flatter, reflecting less towards the sides. The other is with 1/4, being pointier. (Still haven't decided which one to go with.)

The moment of truth...It's alive! The attachment for the primary reflector was quite a hack-job, though. Not having a real plan, I just used some thin cardboard from a pizza packaging. This proved incredibly unstable, so I really want to come up with some other construction for that.

Another part of it I didn't really like was the uneven character of the paper. Lowering the flash output quickly shows the bumps on the surface...
This is most likely due to using paper strips that were too wide, so placed on the curving surface of the lampshade it couldn't fit naturally. I also used the inner surface of the lampshade to shape it, so the inner surface of the dish is the layer placed last; if I had done the opposite and used the outer surface of the lampshade then the cumulative weight of the paper and glue might have been able to eliminate some of the bumps.

But it works. I did take some test-shots but since I'm not too satisfied with the final construction yet I want to wait until I have it really ready... I've also started thinking about making another dish based on the adjustments I had in mind, so I might do that, which would give me another chance at documenting that part in greater detail.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Second shoot

This week I had my second shoot, if I'm allowed to call it that, and after some rest following two days on non-stop editing perhaps I can gather some thoughts on it.

The first part was outside, which I thought would fail horribly having shot with flash for so long, but I got some really nice shots from it. I also noticed I had almost forgotten how to use the semi-auto modes, aperture and shutter priority, on the camera! I thought I would play it safe by putting it on aperture priority and then just ended up struggling with it to get consistent exposure. Second observation, your hands get quite cold even though it's not many degrees below 0°C.

I've also come to think I need to set proper time-limits for myself in the future. As the subject was quite eager about the photos and I didn't really mind getting more experience with the flash it stretched out quite long, and after cutting out the miserable ones it turned out I had 600 images in total. 600, from which I had decided to take 10. No matter how you look at it that's quite overkill. I think I also need to learn to direct my subjects a bit better; I was quite lucky in my first shoot having such an expressive model, but I don't think I'll always have that luxury.

In retrospect I sort of wish I had tried out the flash outdoors, but I didn't really want to place it in the snow and I didn't have the tripod along with me...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Post-shoot post

Recently I did my first real test of the off-camera flash. I had gotten Aino to agree to helping me out, so she stood model for me as I snapped away, playing around with light settings and homemade modifiers.

It was really exciting to see the results from it, and choosing ten for postprocessing proved to be very hard since I had many favourites...

Looking through them my eyes really stopped on the ones with the apple. The little piece of red in the image really gives a counter-balance to the gray clothing and blond hair.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Camera bag

Having gotten the flash cord and light modifier made, there was one more DIY I wanted to do: a camera bag.

The bag I had been using so far felt a bit too big to just carry around the camera in, and the extra space inside made it bump around a bit too much (which caused the lenscap for the 50mm to come off on many occasions, even though that was a really bad lenscap).

So scouting the fleamarkets once again (actually I got it at the same time as the flowerpot), I found a good candidate for 50 cents.

First, a plan! The original plan included making foam tubes for the lenses to slide into, but that proved to be too bothersome.
Then to connect the pieces, using cable ties.
Main structure completed.

Then after adding a couple of separating walls, we are magically transported to a finished state! (Took no more pictures from building process...) The bag, in all its glory. Perhaps not so pretty, but it works.
Opening it up, we see the flash on the left side. On the right under the camera is a space where the 50mm fits nicely.
All this in one little bag.
Now I just want a little pouch for the flash cables and hot-shoe adapter.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lightpot

After the last project I was quite worked up and wanted to try making some sort of light-modifier. Scouting the fleamarkets, I found an old plastic flower-pot for 1€. Coupled with some aluminium foil and adhesive, see-through book plastic (found around my parents house), what would become of it..?

Just before I got to a stage where I couldn't easily take pictures anymore.
I had decided that the easiest way to do it was to use several smaller pieces of foil, that I then put on top of the adhesive side of the plastic, with enough adhesive around it to fit nicely into the pot.

Unfortunately I hadn't really taken into account the curving nature of the pot, so I ended up with a real headache of uneven surfaces and bare patches where the dark plastic reared it's ugly green head.

After a couple hours of caffeine-fueled cutting, pasting and many botched pieces of foil, I finally had some sort of result...

At least it shines up to the point-and-shoot flash.
Then eagerly on to the test shots even though it was way past midnight.




It's far more isolated than the umbrella, which is what I was going for, so at least it sort of hit the goal.

Friday, March 19, 2010

PC sync 3.5mm mod

Having gotten my flash and PC sync cord, I decided to modify it to use 3.5mm audio cords, of which I already had a couple of meters extension.

First of all cutting open the PC sync, finding two separate cords.

Then peeling those and fitting into the 3.5mm stereo females. Didn't know the "official" way to connect, but I knew that as long as connect the same cables to the same connectors I'd be good to go.

No pics from the soldering process since it's hard to hold a camera in your mouth.

Then the cover screwed on. The little pieces of white seen are pieces of adhesive tape I put to cover the sleeve connector (tip, ring, sleeve); I had accidentally left too much cable uncovered and was afraid it could short out if it touched the sleeve.

Finished!

Now to test it out...

It works! Holding the cable.

Long reach!

Mirror shot!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Waiting for the light

Wherein the lead character once again narrowly escapes a great set-back to his plans and ends up spending more than expected.

So as a follow-up to my previous indecision on which way to follow, I ordered a flash. Of course this was not without complications.

From the start my mind was set on an off-camera flash setup, so I was primarily looking at those I could use as either as a dumb optical slave or with an E-TTL cord of the longer variant. Knowing that the Canon Speedlites usually don't function as slaves other than in Canon's own wireless system I started looking quite quickly at third-party flash units, and my eyes stopped on the Metz 48 AF-1.

Looking at it longingly, I browsed to the website of the online store I was going to order it from. Then, a couple of weeks before I figured I would have enough funds to buy it the price was raised by about 40€. Bummer.

But I went ahead with it anyway, seeing as this was the flash my mind was set on. To accompany it I also ordered a 48" silver reflective umbrella. After a few days of waiting I then got an e-mail from the store saying that the estimated time for the umbrella to become in stock had been changed from 1-2 weeks to 3-6 weeks... This was not satisfying, as I had the money and wanted the stuff as soon as possible to start playing around with it, so I looked around at the other umbrellas they had.

Now, I'm usually the kind of person to let my mind rest once I have something, but with lighting I want to know as much as possible so I kept reading up on flash units, and while wondering what to do with the umbrella, I found out that the Metz flash unit did not work as a dumb slave. While it said it would function as slave on the Metz product page, they intended for it to be used as a slave in a wireless setup, one with either the Metz 58 or the Speedlite 580EX II as master to trigger it. This was upsetting for my plans, but somewhat of a stroke of luck seeing as I had not paid the order yet and could easily cancel it.

So I quickly regrouped. I needed a flash with dumb-slave capability, as the E-TTL cord was not something I could get immediately after the flash and I wanted to get going off-camera. Looking around at flashes in the same price-range as the Metz 48 I came across the Nissin Di866. A very capable unit, it would seem, with a feature-set out-classing the Metz 48 and the Canon Speedlite 430EX II, placing it somewhere between the 430 and the 580. Somewhat inflated guide numbers, which can be expected from most flashes to some degree, but still cheaper than the Speedlite 430 while still having the dumb-slave option, and as a bonus having a PC sync port...

I was familiar with the PC sync port from having read many of the articles on the Strobist, so I knew what it was and what I could do with it. It would take more work than a E-TTL cord, but it would be much cheaper and easier to replace and/or extend if I needed to.

So with that decided I made an order for the Di866. But I still had the umbrella conundrum, so I looked at what they had in stock ready for shipping, and came across the 60" version of the silver reflective umbrella. Measuring up 60" on my measuring tape I came to the conclusion that it was really fucking huge, then I ordered it anyway.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010