Gear News

OK, OK, I bought a Fuji X100 point-and-shoot.

If you have not heard about this camera, you should: it looks like an old Leica, and in many ways works like one, including fabulous build quality, excellent image quality and quiet operation. But in one way it is even better: it has a viewfinder that is both “purely optical with information overlays” and “fully electronic” – and you can switch between the two options using a switch. Genius. And a great-looking camera:

Fuji X100 (Photo: Michael Willems)

Talking about looks, here’s Rob Buchelt, the manager of the Oakville Henry’s store, shot just now with the X100:

Rob Buchelt (Fuji X100 Photo: Michael Willems)

Yup, the new toy is great for street and impromptu photography and it is small and inconspicuous.

It has drawbacks, of course. More about those soon – but in my case, they are vastly outweighed by the positives.

As a result, I am selling this – much as I love it, because money does not grow on trees (I keep hoping, but no luck so far). This is my Panasonic GF1 with 20mm f/1.7 “pancake” interchangeable lens, and a spare battery as well as a 4GB memory card. I am about to put it up on Kijiji.

GF1 for sale (Photo: Michael Willems)

I’d like to chat more but now off to run errands and then two shoots to finish!

 

 

 

Chipping away…

Let us continue to chip away at learning flash.

Today, more background information. A quick note now on how Canon and Nikon, the two brand leaders, handle exposure differently. (Others follow either Canon or Nikon).

What shutter speeds are allowed by the camera when you are using a flash ?

Shutter speeds can be restricted by the camera for two reasons:

  • To protect the user from shaky pics, a slow speed is sometimes denied.
  • To prevent bad flash photos, a fast shutter speed is also sometimes denied.

But Canon and Nikon do this differently – and it helps to know how your camera works. So here goes.

SLOW SHUTTER SPEED RESTRICTIONS:

Shutter speed mode:

  • Canon: None. You set what you like.
  • Nikon: None. You set what you like.

Manual Mode:

  • Canon: None. You set what you like.
  • Nikon: None. You set what you like.

Program Mode:

  • Canon: no speeds slower than 1/60th second will be used
  • Nikon: no speeds slower than 1/60th second (adjustable on some cameras) will be used. Except if “Slow Flash” is selected: then, any speed including very slow ones can be chosen by the camera.

Aperture Mode:

  • Any speed including very slow ones can be chosen by the camera.
  • Nikon: no speeds slower than 1/60th second (adjustable on some cameras) will be used. Except if “Slow Flash” is selected: then, any speed including very slow ones can be chosen by the camera.

So there you have it – markedly different behaviour by both cameras.

Clearly, from the above you can see that:

On Canon:

  • Program mode is not ideal when using indoors flash (you might want slower shutter speeds to allow lighter backgrounds)!
  • Aperture mode is not ideal when using indoors flash (you might get a 1-second shutter if the background is dark, which you do not want!)

On Nikon:

  • Program mode or Aperture mode without “slow flash” enabled are not ideal when using indoors flash (you might want slower shutter speeds to allow lighter backgrounds)!
  • Program mode or Aperture mode with “slow flash” enabled are not ideal when using indoors flash (you might get a 1-second shutter if the background is dark, which you do not want!)

Which is why I use manual when using flash indoors, when ambient light is low.

 

FAST SHUTTER SPEED RESTRICTIONS:

  • Canon: when the flash is detected, no speed faster than the flash sync speed (typically 1/200th second) is allowed, except if “High-Speed Flash” is enabled on the flash. This, however, drastically reduces the maximum available flash range.
  • Nikon: when the flash is detected, no speed faster than the flash sync speed (typically 1/250th second) is allowed, except if “Auto FP Flash” is enabled in the camera’s flash menu. This, however, drastically reduces the maximum available flash range.

 

All these Flash articles are excerpts from my signature four hour “Advanced Flash” course, in which you learn all these concepts in a hands-on, interactive session.

 

Polarize it.. don’t criticize it.

Look at this shot of this morning:

And now look at this:

Look at the sky, and the cloud. More saturation on the blue. More separation between cloud and sky. More definition in the tree.

Because for the second shot I used a polarizer.

  1. Put it on the lens.
  2. Turn baby turn – until you see the desired effect.
  3. This effect is strongest 90 degrees perpendicular to the sun, i.e. when you are shooting 90 degrees to the right or left when the sun is behind you or in front. It is weakest parallel to the sun, i.e. when the sun is exactly behind you or in front of you.
  4. Do not leave the polarizer on – it eats a few stops of light. Only use it when you need it, and remove afterward.
  5. Do not combine with other filters, or vignetting may result.

Do you have a polarizer in your bag? If you live in a place where the sun can shine, you probably ought to.

 

Cave Cardem

OK, that is rather a lame wordplay on the Latin “Cave Canem”, which means “beware of the dog”. So I mean “beware of the (wrong) memory cards”.

How so?

Bit of background. I always use only Sandisk or Lexar cards – they do work more reliably. And my images are important since I get paid for them, so why try to save? Better is, well, better. That does not mean I buy fast or large cards – but I buy brand names only.

So. My second shooter used an 8GB eye-fi card in her D90 camera the other day to shoot a wedding. This is a card that can connect to WiFi, but it also writes to local storage.

Allegedly.

The moment I inserted this card into my card reader, my iMac crashed. Hard. Grey screen of death. That happened twice. And now the card is unreadable on any machine.

Or not?

Part of a wedding is something you must never lose. And yet this happened. Perhaps Eye Fi (www.eye.fi) can help restore the images? Perhaps, but so far, over 24 hours later, they have not responded to my email support request.

And this, my friends, is why I use only Sandisk and Lexar cards. And cameras that write to two cards at once (my 1Ds Mk3 and 1D Mk4). Live and learn, never again will I allow anyone who shoots with me to use anything except a freshly formatted Lexar and Sandisk. If your images are of equal importance to you, you will do the same.

And the wedding? Well – that is why we have two shooters and four cameras (with another in the car as a backup). The wedding couple will be happy. But I am not.

 

Exposure metering basics

In the continuing series on flash and its complexities that I started yesterday, time for the next basic subject. And that is “metering” and “exposure compensation” while not using a flash. (Yes, to understand flash you need to first understand non-flash exposure basics. So bear with me in this series.)

What does your light meter do?

When you press down the button half way while pointing at your subject, you activate the light meter – and the camera now does one of two things:

  1. If in manual exposure mode (M), it merely shows you a light meter in the viewfinder. You can now adjust aperture, ISO and/or shutter speed, and when you achieve “meter in the middle” this means “well exposed (if the subject is mid-grey)”.
  2. Or when you are in an automatic mode (P, A/Av or S/Tv), the camera itself sets aperture and/or shutter to make the meter go to the middle. The picture will therefore be well exposed (if the subject is mid-grey).

Let’s look at that qualification: “well exposed (if the subject is mid-grey)”.

  1. Your light meter -  a reflective light meter – is calibrated to give you the “zero” reading when your subject is exposed to look mid-grey, i.e. neither very dark nor very bright. That’s just how it was decided it should work. Because most of the world is like that.
  2. So as long as what you are shooting is neither dark nor bright, all is well. Aim at zero and shoot, and all well.

So what if you are shooting dark or light subjects?

Let’s start with what happens if you are aimed at a dark subject:

  1. Setting the meter to zero gives you a light grey subject – not a black subject!
  2. So you need to somehow make the meter point at minus – say, minus two for a black subject.
  3. That way the subject will not look grey, but darker.
  4. Which is good – because since it is darker, it needs to look darker!

And what if you are aimed at a bright subject?

  1. Setting the meter to zero gives you a light grey subject – not a white subject!
  2. So you need to somehow make the meter point at plus – say, plus two for a totally white subject.
  3. That way the subject will not look grey, but lighter.
  4. Which is good – because since it is lighter, it needs to look lighter!

Your light meter does not know whether you are shooting a coalmine in the dark (total black)  or a snow-hill on a bright day (total white). It cannot know. So you will always need to compensate for this.

How do you adjust?

If you are using manual, you adjust aperture or shutter or ISO until the mater moves to the desired setting. If in an automatic mode like P, Tv/S, or Av/A, you use exposure compensation (“the plus-minus button”) and set that to minus or plus – the camera now adjusts aperture, shutter or ISO.  So the adjustment

Real-life example 1:

Here, a viewfinder-filling black bag with the camera on “P” (or on “M” where we make the meter go to “zero”):

And here, the same viewfinder-filling black bag with the camera on “P” with exposure compensation (the +/- button) set to minus two (or on “M” where we make the meter point at -2):

“But making the exposure go to minus two will make the subject all black, Michael”.

Yeah. And that is what we want, since it is black!

Real-life example 2:

Here, a viewfinder-filling white sheet of paper with the camera on “P” (or on “M” where we make the meter go to “zero”):

And here, the same viewfinder-filling white sheet of paper with the camera on “P” with exposure compensation (the +/- button) set to plus one (or on “M” where we make the meter point at +1):

“But making the exposure go to plus one will make the subject all bright, Michael”.

Yeah. And that is what we want, since it is bright!

Conclusions:

So, no magic. Just logic. Simple:

  1. If a subject is lighter than average I need to make sure it shows as lighter than average, and if a subject is darker than average I need to make sure it shows as darker than average.
  2. I can make these adjustments in manual mode by changing aperture/shutter so that the meter does not point at zero.
  3. Or I can make these adjustments in automatic modes by using exposure compensation (and now the camera does exactly the same: it adjusts aperture and/or shutter).

In the next while, more – but first, start by understanding this. A good way is to use manual mode for the entire day tomorrow, and only available light.

Have fun!