Shooting Fast Action with a D800E

Shooting Fast Action with a D800E

When you think of fast-action photography, the D800E isn’t exactly the first camera that comes to mind – and with good reason. At a top speed of 4 frames per second and a buffer that will fill up pretty quickly with those massive 36MP files, it’s not a camera that lends itself to that kind of photography easily. If you’re in a pinch, however, and need to be able to use the D800E (or the D800) for a bit of fast-action work, there are a few things you can do to get a bit more performance out of this camera. The first thing you can do is switch your D800/E to DX-mode. This accomplishes a few things. It ups your framerate to 5fps. It makes your file sizes smaller, which gives your camera’s buffer the ability to handle more shots before it chokes your shooting speed. It gives you more “reach” than the FX-mode, so you have the field of view of a 900mm lens when using a 600mm lens. To do this, simply go to the “Image Area” option in the Shooting menu, as shown below. Select the “Choose Image Area” option, then scroll to “DX” and hit the “OK” button on your D800. Now your image size has been dropped down to about 16MP, and if you look through the viewfinder, you’ll see a rectangle outlining the field of view for the cropped image size. Use that to frame your shot. At this point, you’ve already bumped your shooting speed by about 25%, but there’s another way to bump it even more. Rent the MB-D12 battery grip...
Kill the Background: How to Turn a Background Black with Speedlights

Kill the Background: How to Turn a Background Black with Speedlights

I was recently inspired by a recent series of portraits by our very own Alex Huff. Titled “Chiaroscuro Portraiture,” it features these gorgeous close-up portraits of the men and women in her life, each one of which is a study in how to render the interplay between light and shadow. Alex takes these images in front of a grey background, and through a combination of getting in close to her subjects and using one light, sends what little you might see of that grey to almost pitch black. I began to think of what I could do if I didn’t have a backdrop to shoot against, if I needed to make a portrait in a relatively brightly-lit area. In theory, it could be done; a basic understanding of the Inverse-Square Law reveals that much. But what if all you had was a basic modifier and a couple of speedlights, not a big studio strobe? Could you still do it? I had to give it a try. I picked the area above to try this out in. That’s the lobby of the BorrowLenses.com West Coast headquarters in San Carlos, CA. As you can tell, it’s a pretty bright area, with large glass windows letting in a lot of ambient light, grey walls with photos mounted, a television and a glass case in the corner. Not exactly an “uncluttered” background, but it made for a great area for a test case. I roped in a couple of guys from our front-desk team, who’ve been long-suffering models for my various experiments, to be my portrait subjects. I started with taking a test exposure....
Shooting On the Go With the Olympus OM-D

Shooting On the Go With the Olympus OM-D

Not too long ago, I switched to the Nikon D800E with a series of prime lenses for all of my primary photography. I love the Nikon, and it’s proved to be a fantastic system, capably handling just about everything I’ve thrown at it. The downside is that it is, truly, a system. A big, heavy system. I quickly found myself looking for a smaller, carry-around camera for some of my more photojournalistic endeavors, and immediately turned to the family of mirrorless cameras out there for an answer. Of these, there is no shortage. You have the awesome Sony NEX-6, which I’ve raved about in the past. There’s also the Sony RX-1, the Panasonic GF3C, the Fuji X-Pro1, and the subject of this article, the Olympus OM-D E-M5. I’ve had the Olympus OM-D E-M5 for the past few weeks now, and have been using it as my primary “take everywhere” camera. It’s small size, lens selection, and great image quality combine to provide a system that’s flat-out my favorite in this category. In this article, I’ll present my experience shooting with this little thing, rather than a full-on technical review. The Build This thing is solid and extremely well-built. I’ve got chubby little sausages for fingers, but I can still get a pretty decent grip on it, thanks to the tab on the back and the indent in the front that give your thumb and middle fingers a secure place to grasp onto. The buttons, though tiny, are pretty responsive, so it’s not hard to use many of them just by feel The back of the OM-D, shown above, is...
Easy Holiday Photo Booth

Easy Holiday Photo Booth

Holiday events have a way of filling a room. Being tasked with running a party photo booth for friends and family can be daunting, especially if your budget isn’t big and your space isn’t, either. We put together a simple, fun photo booth using portable items that you can rent from BorrowLenses.com.

Is the Canon 6D Under-Exposing? UPDATE: No, It’s Not.

Is the Canon 6D Under-Exposing? UPDATE: No, It’s Not.

Final Update and Winners of the BorrowLenses.com Gift Certificate, Friday, December 7, 2012 11:35 AM Okay, we found the cause of the D600 bodies’ overexposure. Turns out, it WAS damage, not a defect. In the damaged bodies, the little prong that actually pushes the aperture closed was bent, as you can see in the image below. The top one is of one of the damaged D600’s, while the bottom is of an undamaged D7000. No idea what caused this, but there you have it. Winners of the $50 BorrowLenses.com Gift Certificate: K.G. Wuensch, who left the suggestion that led to our discovery of the cause of the overexposure on the D600 bodies is, unfortunately, not based in the U.S., and so is unable to use the certificate I promised him. He has, instead, requested that his prize be entered into the pool for the general drawing. So we now have two gift certificates to give out. I entered all the commenters’ names into a list randomizer at random.org and the two names at the top are our two winners. Congratulations to David Johnson and Michael Clark! Please email your contact info to sohail.mamdani at borrowlenses dot com, so I can send them to you. Once again, thanks to everyone for your fantastic support and feedback.  Update Thursday, December 6, 2012 2:11 PM Thanks to a suggestion from one of the folks who left a comment below, K.G.Wuensch, we found the issue that led to the big discrepancy in the images you saw from my test, and the issue turned out to be with the D600, not the 6D. Take a look at these images. Both...
Building on the Sony NEX System

Building on the Sony NEX System

Sony’s NEX cameras have been taking the mirror less camera market by storm of late, coming out with models that repeatedly and substantially improve on their predecessors. And, as these models have evolved, the number – and quality – of add-ons for them have increased as well. In this article, we’ll take a look at a few ways of building on the NEX series of cameras – which now include some fantastic video-specific offerings from Sony as well. First, let’s clear one thing up. Sony’s NEX series of cameras, which include the NEX–5, NEX–6, and NEX–7, as well as the VG-series of video cameras, use a lens mount called the “E-Mount”. Sony also has a line of popular DSLRs, which use the older “A-Mount” system they inherited when they bought Minolta. Sony has made a number of fantastic lenses for the E-Mount, including the 16–50mm f/3.5–5.6 OSS and the 10–18 f/4 OSS lens, both of which offer built-in Optical SteadyShot, Sony’s name for their image stabilization technology. The stable of E-Mount lenses isn’t filled out just yet. There are a few missing holes, mainly in the area of constant-aperture zooms and longer lenses. However, this isn’t as noticeable an issue as you might think, as Sony – and a few third-party vendors – have come up with a first-rate way to compensate for the lack of a full selection of lenses. They have done so with a number of adapters that allow you to use Canon, Nikon, and Sony A-Mount adapters with the NEX system, and in this article, we’ll take a look at some of them. From Sony...
Tilt/Shift: Working With Perspective-Control Lenses, Part 2

Tilt/Shift: Working With Perspective-Control Lenses, Part 2

This is Part 2 of a series on using Tilt-Shift or Perspective-Control lenses. In this part, we look at the “Tilt” functionality of these unique lenses. Part 1, which covered “shift” functionality, can be found here. At some point in time, we’ve all seen photos where the subjects – usually views from high-up of cars, buildings, people, etc. – appear to be miniaturized versions of reality. This is perhaps the most the most often-seen result from using tilt-capable lenses like the Nikon 85mm PC-E. In this part of our series, we’ll explain how this effect is achieved with tilt-shift lenses. The image below was shot by Jim Goldstein, our Marketing VP. Taken in Geneva with a tilt-shift lens, the camera was pointing downwards at the railroad tracks, with the tilt element swung upwards. The reason these tracks look like miniatures is because the plane of focus is so narrow, that both the foreground AND the background are out of focus.  That’s not something the human eye is used to seeing, and we interpret images like this differently. Wikipedia adds to that  explanation as follows: Diorama effect or “diorama illusion” is a process in which a photograph of a life-size location or object is made to look like a photograph of a miniature scale model. Blurring parts of the photo simulates the shallow depth of field normally encountered in close-up photography, making the scene seem much smaller than it actually is… Now, in order to achieve that effect, you have to swing the front part of your tilt-shift lens in so that it is either as perpendicular as possible to...
The Switch – Moving from Canon to Nikon, Part V

The Switch – Moving from Canon to Nikon, Part V

This is the conclusion of a 5-part series on an experimental switch from Canon to Nikon. Previously, in the Switch series: Part 1: I talk our marketing VP into letting me go Nikon for a while. Part 1.5: which was mislabeled Part 0.5, in which I gawk at a violin. Part II: The Nikon gets abusive. Part III: CLS starts to look pretty good. Part IV: In which I return to Canon for a spell I guess the big question on everyone’s mind is, “Did you switch or not?” Well, read on, gentle reader. I’ve been a Canon user for the majority of my life. Starting at age 8 with a tiny Canon film point-and-shoot, then to an AE-1 Program, then an A2 film body, followed by a G3 P&S, a Rebel XTi, a 7D and then a 5D Mark II, I’ve owned Canon gear all my life. The Glass I love Canon gear. The glass is varied and plentiful, from a crazy 1:5 Macro  (the MP-E 65mm) to a swift, fast, yet affordable 400mm f/5.6 lens for wildlife, to a fantastic 135mm f/2 portrait lens, Canon has glass for practically every occasion. Nikon, on the other hand, kind of falls behind in terms of having glass that I really do need/use from time to time. The lack of a solid 400mm-range lightweight telephoto is a real bummer, as is the lack of an ultra-wide-angle (17mm) tilt-shift lens. Speaking of the tilt-shift lenses, Nikon really does need to update their PC-E lenses to match Canon’s 17mm and 24mm lenses. The current 24mm PC-E lens from Nikon doesn’t do independent rotation...
The Switch – Moving from Canon to Nikon, Part III

The Switch – Moving from Canon to Nikon, Part III

This is Part III of a series on moving from an all-Canon setup to an all-Nikon setup for four weeks. Will I go back to Canon at the end of four weeks? I have no idea… Previously, in the Switch series: Part 1: I talk our marketing VP into letting me go Nikon for a while. Part 1.5: which was mislabeled Part 0.5, in which I gawk at a violin. Part II: The Nikon gets abusive. In this part, I’m going to focus on just one thing: Nikon’s external flash system. CLS, you’re pretty cool Nikon’s CLS, or Creative Lighting System, is pretty well-known for its simplicity and reliability. On the Canon side, I’m used to working in ratios to set exposure between groups. This is a tad… unwieldy, to say the least. For example, if I want three groups for my external speedlites, I have to jump through some… convolutions. First, I have to have my friend Syl Arena’s book, The Speedliter’s Handbook handy, because Canon’s manual doesn’t really do even a halfway decent job of explaining this.  I have to set the ratio for my first two groups (A and B), then go into the master speedlite’s menu to set FEC (Flash Exposure Compensation) for my third light. Uh… wha? For a better explanation, go to page 144 of Syl’s Speedliter’s Handbook. With Nikon, on the other hand, you get this: This is if you’re using the on-board camera to control your remote speedlights (which are in two other groups, A and B). But you can, of course, control external speedlights with a master on-camera. Here’s what that...