The Westcott Flex Panel
Whether you’re a photographer or a videographer, trying to find the most versatile light for your craft can often be a real challenge. On certain shoots, large lights may offer more power but come with the downside of being very difficult to adapt to confined quarters. Then their smaller brethren offer the opposite, giving more portability and ease of use while often lacking in the power department. That is what made the Westcott Flex Panel such an interesting prospect—power similar to larger lights with the versatility of smaller LED panels.
Westcott has made their line-up of Flex Panel products quite diverse in a short period of time, offering several different size and colour-temperature variations. For my test I used the 10 x 10” Flex Daylight kit, which is one of the company’s mid-range lights. It offers an output of 2100 lux at 1 metre and reproduces a daylight colour temperature of 5600K rated 95 (out of a possible 100) on the colour rendering index. The flex is also dimmable down to 5% of its full power. All of this is packed into a body that is under 7-mm thick, weighs less than 200 g and is water-resistant. Needless to say, this is one powerful light.
When it comes to video, DSLRs and compact-system cameras have recently come into their own, offering decent video right out of the box. The issue comes from the fact that most cameras are limited by their built-in hardware and software, which limit recording speeds, and rely on codecs such as AVCHD to provide video in a nicely compressed form. With 4K video quickly aiming to become the standard video size, this problem has only increased. Atomos has solved this problem with their line of external recorders, the latest being the 4K Shogun recorder.
What the Shogun essentially does is attach to the camera through an HDMI or SDI port and access image data directly from the camera’s sensor. The Shogun then records this data in a high-quality 10-bit Pro-Res file to a external SATA hard drive, allowing you to take better advantage of colour depth and dynamic range. Some cameras such as the Sony A7S will only record 4K if an external system is attached. It should be noted that files sizes of uncompressed video are not for the faint of heart, with a 1TB hard drive only recording about 2.5 hours of video. Though, with the cost of a 2-TB hard drive sitting around $120, it will not be too much of a strain o…
The DJI Ronin 3-axis handheld stabilization system is truly one of the most remarkable and ambitious systems that I have seen in a long time. DJI is offering what could be the most complete gimbal system on the market at a price point several thousand dollars cheaper than their nearest competitor.
The first thing you will notice when looking at the Ronin kit is just how complete the package is. It includes everything from a custom foam-lined hard-shell carrying case to a remote control for 2-person operation and stand for when the Ronin is not in use. There are even clamps included for attaching microphones and an external monitor.
Operation of the Ronin is relatively simple, and it lives up to DJI’s boast of a 5-minute set-up time. The Ronin offers 3 different modes of operation—Upright, Underslung and Briefcase—to give you different eye-level and control options for your camera. The Ronin automatically self-adjusts between these different modes. Unlike quite a few stabilizers on the market, the Ronin uses a friction lock adjustment system that allows for quick and easy alterations to the placement of the camera. No Allen keys or dimes required. Once roughly balanced…
Lumahawk Shadowless LED Light
If there’s one aspect about photography that’s really exciting me right now, it’s the huge advancements we’re seeing in lighting technology. Cameras get better and lenses get sharper, but new lights allow me to create completely different types of images. That’s why I was so eager to test the new Lumahawk Shadowless LED fixtures.
Traditional LED panels are very useful, but they have a few limitations. While the light is certainly softer than a speedlight or bare bulb, it is still quite directional. This can give you hard shadows on your subject, which may or may not be desirable. The other major complaint I have with LED panels is that you need to keep your subject a fair distance from the light, as you can see the “needlepoint” effect. This is caused by the small LED bulbs casting their individual shadows on a close subject. It looks terrible.
The solution for both of these problems is to diffuse your lights. I’ve used diffusion paper and soft boxes, and I have just wrapped lights in wax paper. This gets the job done, but it’s time-consuming and it takes up a lot more space to have a light with diffusion and a reasonable distance in front of it.
The new Shadowles…
Lumu Light Meter
Over the last decade, as digital cameras have improved their LCD displays consistently with each generation, I’ve seen one tool slowly start to disappear from photographers’ camera bags: the light meter. “Why would I need a meter? I can just check the back screen and see if I need to adjust my settings.” This is a constant refrain when I bring up the topic of light meters. There are huge advantages to reading incident light as opposed to reflected light, like set-up time and consistency, but I can’t deny that it’s a pain hauling around a device the size of a lens or even some mirrorless cameras. That’s why I found the Lumu light meter very interesting.
The Lumu is an insanely small light meter that clips into the headphone jack on iOS devices. This struck me as an inspired design for a few reasons. First, there’s no reason for you to carry a bulky light meter when the screen on your smartphone is vastly superior (especially in bright light) and you always have your phone with anyways. Second, I can’t count the number of times I’ve pulled a light meter out after not using it for a couple months, and the battery is dead. The Lumu draws its power from your smartphone, so you never have t…
MagMod Basic Kit
If you’ve been paying attention to photography blogs for the past five years, you’ve probably noticed the exploding popularity of speedlights. Versatile and relatively inexpensive, these flashes offer TTL support that simplifies exposing an image. Even though I find speedlights extremely convenient, I often find myself using traditional strobes for creative lighting. While I know that I can often obtain big-strobe results from smaller speedlights, I’ve found that mounting modifiers onto the small speedlights is almost always incredibly cumbersome. I’ve battled with rubber straps, double-sided velcro and adhesive glue, but I’ve always found the mounting process clunky. That’s why I was so interested in the MagMod system.
What makes the MagMod system so unique is the way various flash modifiers are attached. The MagGrip is a rubber sleeve that wraps (admittedly with some difficulty) over the flash head. On the front are two extremely strong magnets that are used to attach additional accessories. At first I was worried about the magnetic system, as it seemed like any quick motion or small bump would send the modifier flying off my flash, but the New Ear…
While acting as an apt standard prime lens, the Velvet 56 also gives its user some very powerful macro capabilities.
Over the past decade Lensbaby has become known for some pretty unique lenses. Offering photographers unique and interesting ways to expand their creative vision without straining their wallets. The Lensbaby Velvet 56 looks to continue this tradition by offering a truly unique 56-mm soft focus portrait lens with a couple tricks up its sleeve.
What you’re going to immediately notice about the Velvet 56 compared to most of Lensbaby’s predecessors is the build quality of this lens. They have forgone the usual plastic feel of their lenses and are instead building the lens out of metal, including its screw-on lens hood. This gives the Velvet 56 a very welcome strong, classic feel, truly showing that it draws its inspiration from the classic portrait lenses of the mid-20th century. The focus and aperture rings also benefitted from this greatly, featuring a nice smooth movement with a natural resistance that never felt like it was fighting against you. The aperture ring had a soft click to it, which was not bad but felt less solid than the movement of the focus ring.
The Olympus EE-1 Dot Sight
The build quality of the EE-1 offers a sleek design that does not look out of place on any camera while the matte black finish will not draw attention to you.
Every once in awhile a gadget comes out that seems to fly under the radar despite the fact that it has the opportunity to be a game changer in the market. The Olympus EE-1 Dot Sight is exactly that. One of the main complaints about mirrorless cameras is that due to their lack of an optical viewfinder, tracking fast-moving subjects in nature and sports can be near impossible. The EE-1 looks to change this by offering any photographer with a mirrorless camera that has a hotshoe a simple-to-use option to help replace the optical viewfinder when tracking subjects.
The Olympus EE-1 Dot Sight works essentially the same as a laser-gun sight by providing an optical viewfinder with a laser reticle that allows you to frame and track a subject in the distance without having to remove your eye from the target. As anyone who has tried to photograph a bird in flight can tell you, nine times out of ten when trying this with an electronic viewfinder, all you see is sky and you miss the subject all together. Powered by a small coin-t…
I’m a huge fan of mirrorless cameras, and one of the main reasons they won me over is the ability to adapt nearly any lens to your camera body. I have a variety of older lenses from Pentax and Nikon that are great fun to shoot on a modern mirrorless camera, and inexpensive mechanical adapters work great. However, I also want to be able to use my modern, electronically controlled Canon mount lenses on a Sony E-Mount camera, so the new Sigma MC-11 EF to E-Mount adapter grabbed my attention.
The MC-11 adapter is a simple tube with no optical elements with electric contacts on both sides so your Sony camera can communicate with EF lenses. While Sigma only claims compatibility with their own outstanding lenses, I was also able to use Canon and Tamron lenses without issue. The MC-11 allows control over your lens’ aperture, and image stabilization will be carried over as well, if available. I tested the adapter with a Sony A6300 and A7R II, and the interface worked exactly as if a native E-mount lens was mounted. The MC-11 even allows rudimentary autofocus, with all of Sony’s functionality available.
The AF performance was the first thing I wanted to test, as it seems to vary q…
Courtesy of Nikon Canada
At the recent Photokina show in Germany, Nikon surprised everyone by launching neither a new DSLR nor a DL-series enthusiast compact camera. Instead, Nikon announced a series of small-sensor cameras in the new KeyMission line. These included the KeyMission 360 (optimized for VR), the KeyMission 170 (GoPro-style action camera), and the odd little KeyMission 80. The KeyMission 80 looks nothing like a conventional action camera; it looks more like a box of matches with a lens stuck to the front. Nikon describes it as a “lifestyle camera” (as opposed to an action camera), and I was curious if this little camera was actually something I would bring around with me day to day.
Much like a smartphone, the KeyMission 80 features two lenses and sensors. The larger lens on the front is a 24-mm equivalent with a fast f/2 aperture. This is where the KeyMission 80 gets its name, as this delivers an 80-degree field of view. Behind the lens is a compact-camera-sized 1/2.3” 12-megapixel sensor. The rear camera has a slightly wider 22-mm equivalent f/2.2 lens (for selfies, of course!) and a much smaller 1/5” sensor. The only controls on the camera itself are a shutter button…