The holiday season has ended, the presents have been unwrapped, the New Year is being rung in and the stress of everything that you need to do in 2015 is probably setting in. If you are like me, one of those things at the top of the your personal list is organizing pictures! This is something that in theory sounds very easy. It sounds like something that you should be able to keep up with throughout the year. Just spend one night a month, I tell myself, you will be so organized all year. But alas...it never happens that way. The year comes to a close and I have thousands of photos between my camera, cell phone, email and more that I want to consolidate. With the help of some tips from Promaster, this can (and well...it must) be done in a few easy steps. You can even break these steps up to fit your schedule, like one per week!
1. Consolidate Photos from Your Camera and Smartphone in one easy place like a family computer.
Most of us have multiple cameras, smart phones, USB drives, Facebook, pictures that have been emailed to you, etc, etc. Accumulate all of these photos on to one computer for the best organizational results.
2. Create a filing system to fit your habits
Many people (including myself) like to create folders and sub-folders to organize your files in a way that makes sense to you so they can be maintained over time. For example - I have a main file folder of 'Photos' and a sub-folder for each year and then sub-folders within that year for different events, i.e. 'Avery's Birthday.' There is no "best" way to organize your photos. It has to make sense to you and fit your lifestyle. 3. The Mass Photo Exodus
This sounds very intimidating and extremely time consuming, but will actually be very fulfilling and stress relieving when you are done! As you sort your pictures into the proper folders, make sure that you are deleting pictures that are duplicates, blurry, too similar to others, or too dark. Because I mean...do you really need 35 pictures of your kids running down the beach? You can probably capture the memory in about 3 pictures. This will free up a lot of space on your computer and other storage devices. Once you have finished the transfer and verified that your pictures were safely moved to your computer, reformat your media card using your camera's format function. Reformatting your card a few times a year will help maintain the card's efficiency and reliability for future photos.
4. Find Your Favorites:
This step is optional, BUT it is a fun one! This is a step that many photographers find very helpful in locating specific photos (especially if you are making a book or printing photos later on). Most image editing programs have a tool for marking favorite images. Many programs also have facial recognition features which can come in handy because it is a lot less time consuming than tagging each photo individually.
5. Back Up, Back Up, Back Up!
I cannot stress this step enough. As someone who has personally paid $350 to have their hard drive on their Mac rebuilt after it crashed - backing up is the most crucial of all the steps. If you like pictures, you should also like hard drives. Get a large external hard drive! You can get a ton of space for not a ton of money on Amazon. You can also copy the images to a DVD-R, but this may require spreading the pictures to multiple discs. You can also back up your photos to an on-line photo sharing site. When you are looking at these companies, consider reputation, fee, and make sure you read the policies and FAQ section of the site. Our friends at Promaster recommend Mylio.com, who offers multi-device backup with or without the cloud. And, call me old fashion, but you should also consider printing your favorite photos because printed photos don't crash. Roberts can help you with on-line storage and a huge array of printing options through our lab! We can even turn those images in your 'Favorites' folder into beautiful canvas prints or photo gifts.
I know that you probably have a million projects on your plate for 2015, but this is one that should not be overlooked. It is easy to put off, but if something happens to those photos you will be way more devastated than if you still had some old sweaters and shoes that have not been cleaned out of your closet yet! Happy New Year, and Happy Organizing!
Instagram Organization Tip: Some people think hash tags are stupid #hashtagsarestupid. And I don't completely disagree in some circumstances. BUT, they are very helpful for finding all the photos that you and everyone else took of your event. So, if you are trying to locate all the pictures that guests took at your best friend's wedding - just search the hash tag (I'm sure they had one) to find all your favorite photos from the event! And consider creating some of your own to track the photos you take and everyone else takes at your favorite events during the year.
About two weeks ago I got a phone call from a really excited Jody Grober at Roberts Camera here in Indianapolis about a new piece of gear they just got in called: The CamRanger. With a name like that I was instantly interested, but had absolutely no idea what this thing did so after getting it I had to do some research. Turns out this is a third party solution for Nikon and Canon cameras to replace Nikon and Canon’s own wireless camera solutions. Well, that was a mouthful. Ok lets try this. Basically it makes any DSLR wireless without being brand specific. Nikon, or Canon can be done from the same unit. Same third party unit. Whattttt?
(Photo Courtesy CamRanger)
Whoa. Ok so it’s a third party. Before I get into it all, I should mention that I”m not paid for this. I am not being paid by Nikon, Canon, Roberts Camera or Cam Ranger. What I say on here is my opinion, and I am prone to miss things or aggravate someone while I’m at it. If you have any questions or comments, you can always feel free to email me or leave it in the comments. Now, ONWARD!
Why would you buy this $299 third party unit vs the Nikon and Canon units? Lets face it CamRanger realizes there is a price point thing here for functionality. Exactly like when I’ve bought the Generic Ebay SB-900 battery packs for $20 vs the $200 Nikon versions. The $20 chinese versions are junk though, and I know I get what I pay for. Both the Canon and Nikon units depending on your level of camera can be found from $500-$1,000. The Pro cameras are obviously the more expensive wireless units, but the CamRanger works with the D3, D4, 1Dx, 5D Mark II and almost every other camera in both manufacturers lineup. I say almost every other camera because my Canon 1D Mark II is not officially supported because the makers of the CamRanger wanted to stick with the latest and greatest, and that makes sense. Their website says that even though the camera isn’t on the official list, doesn’t mean it won’t work; you just won’t have some functionality that the camera itself doesn’t have like live view or video. That being said, My 1D Mark II doesn’t register at all, and I’m not surprised; nor do I care. Here’s thelist of supported cameras via their website. So, this is a third party device that’s cheaper than the name brand deal, does it work? Absofrigginlutely!
OK so lets go straight to the sports part of this review. I shot that at the beginning of theNaptown Tornado Sirens Roller Derby bout last Saturday night. I had my Canon 5D Mark II up on a I beam in turn 3 (as a reference for what you can see from the photo) with a 16mm lens. I was curious as to how the CamRanger would work with 3,000 people using cell phones floating around inside of a giant metal structure. The Box says it’s good to 50 meters, but I was using easily as far away as 70 meters while I was playing around and getting people to say how cool having a live birds eye view of the arena was from my cell phone. I shot that frame with my iPhone from just about in my shooting position towards the end of turn 1. Not much more to be said or done there since lets face it, once you get a wide remote set up like that you really only get one kind of photo unless you’re shooting with long glass; which I wasn’t. I did notice that if you have a bunch of stuff between you and the cam ranger the range is affected, but how often are you going to be shooting something not in the same room as yourself? (more on that shortly) Shot a little bit of video with the 5D2, but otherwise the camera in that corner was meant only for this shot, and for that it greatly succeeded. I experimented with different camera settings while the camera was on the post, but none of them really mattered, either the shot was flat, too dark, or just had uninteresting subject matter. Not the CamRanger’s fault, my own for not putting it in a more interesting place.
(Screenshot of my original placement test and test shot, This was great because I saw I had to rotate the camera about an inch to the left.)
The functionality of the cam ranger is pretty awesome. I was able to control the Focus, aperture, shutterspeed, file format (RAW, TIFF, jpeg ect) along with the size of the image, I could decide if I wanted to shoot in live view, or shoot video and what video settings to do so at, as well as I could watch what the camera was recording in almost real time. All on my iPhone or iPad. How was connectivity? Lets just say the biggest problem I had was the Superfan next to me taking my phone to play with it. You should also take note, that the Canon 5D had a Pocket Wizard on it firing my lights. So unlike Canon’s 6D’s built in WiFi Ability, the CamRanger can trigger a Pocket Wizard via the Wifi. Bad. Ass. It’s also worth noting that I wasn’t using just any Pocket Wizard, but one of my Nikon Pocket Wizard TT5?s on this particular Canon 5D Mark II. You would figure that as a dummy trigger it would work, and it did flawlessly. It also was able to give my Canon a sync above 1/160th, meaning the Hypersync functionality was preserved somehow. Don’t know how, but like I said; it’s worth nothing. Also, I shoot in RAW almost always. For the CamRanger if you are using it as a remote it obviously takes a few minutes for the 30mb RAW files to flow through so I would recommend shooting RAW+Small Jpeg which makes the files appear on the iPad or iPhone almost instantly while keeping the RAW files safe on the card in the camera. This is not something that I did while using the CamRanger as a remote, however I could have set the camera to do this at any time from my phone. Honestly though once I had everything set up I didn’t really need to view lots of the images as I knew what I was getting at that point. One thing that I was missing though was a battery indicator for the CamRanger. I had the thing powered up on this Canon 5D Mark II from around 3:30pm until about 10pm and the battery lasted without a problem. Would it have died 10 minutes later? I have no idea. It’s great that CamRanger designed the thing with a replaceable battery so you can carry extras, but there’s really no way to tell how much juice the thing has left in it at any given time.
My only complaint on the actual connectivity has nothing to do with the CamRanger but the iPhone itself. Unfortunately when you are connected to the CamRanger network don’t expect to get any kind of data in or out of your phone. The phone thinks it’s connected to WiFi, but really its connected to a dead end network, so picture texts, email, and web browsing is unavailable when you re connected to the CamRanger. Not the end of the world, but kind of annoying depending on what you’re doing.
For the people that care about the sports aspect of this device, here’s a video showing it at work during setup:
Ok now for the Studio folks out there. Being able to control the camera is great, but that really isn’t what you want when you’re shooting in a studio sometimes. Giving the clients control of your camera in the middle of a shoot isn’t high on my to do list of ideas, so I’m guessing it probably isn’t on yours either. The CamRanger App has a mode that allows you to remove everything from the screen except for the images popping up, and a rating system so that the person/people/art directors watching the shoot can select stuff on the fly. Cool. Basically it’s like shooting tethered, except your art director can only see the images as opposed to a tech pulling them in and cataloging them. The images can be automatically downloaded to your device but that sounds like a wonderful way to fill up an iPad or iPhone now doesn’t it? Again, this is an occasion where you would want to shoot RAW + Small Jpeg so that the images appear and can download instantly while protecting the precious RAW files on the card in the camera.
If shooting in a studio for people isn’t your cup o tea, then maybe the Focus stacking and HDR Bracketing is? This is where I feel as though I was finally led a little a stray by the CamRanger (at my own fault). The cam ranger app is capable of allowing you to set up increments of focus for an automated focus stacking. (taking photos of something at different focal points to put them into another image software creating an image with multiple items in focus, or a deeper focus, that would not be possible in camera). When I first tried this on my Fiancee’s engagement ring I was sort of assuming that it would layer the images together for me. Unfortunately I gave it too much credit because lets face it, this was a 5D Mark II shooting RAW files via an iOS app on my iPad. Did I really think it was going to do the work for me? Sheesh, I must have been high on how well this thing works at that point or something. It automatically shot the images at a predefined change in focus, but no it did not stack them for me automatically which shouldn’t be surprising to anybody. When I went to do the HDR Bracketing, it bracketed the images beautifully, and I was under no impression that my iPad would layer them together for me (which it didn’t). All that work needs to be done in the computer still which by far isn’t the end of the world. You need to keep in mind what I didn’t, and that’s that this is a tool for shooting, not post processing. As a tool for shooting, this thing is very, very solid.
For a more complete idea of how the CamRanger works overall, as well as a bit of studio related stuff, check out this next video below where I set up a ridiculous shooting scenerio. I set up Shannon’s ring with the camera on a tripod in the livingroom, and then proceeded to do the photoshoot from out in my car in the driveway. If that doesn’t give you an idea what this little device is capable of, I don’t have any idea what will. The Ruby ended up a little pink since my Speedlight ended up shooting through it, but for demonstration purposes it does it’s just perfectly. Also, the original idea was to do the video in one cut, but as luck would have it I ended up getting called by my dad during recording, and you’ll see where it breaks. For the future if I record something on my phone, I need to remember to turn it into Airplanae mode to keep our photo/video conversation from being interrupted.
Is the CamRanger perfect? No. It’s damn close though. For $299 you can get a device that provides just about all the functionality of the Nikon or Canon Counterparts; direct to your phone or iPad. For a lot of people I’m sure it will be a dream come true. For sports photographers that use a lot of Remotes this could be really great because they can look at their take from the sidelines without needing to get out their laptop. Select an image, download it, and send it from your phone (after disconnecting from the CamRanger network of course). You can even check the focus of your images in the app, without needing to download them and put them into photoshop touch, or snapspeed to check them. The in studio client mode is fantastic, giving people the ability to see their photos but not touch them if you know what I mean. Really I feel like the CamRanger fits into a spot that Nikon and Canon have attempted to get into many times but failed honestly due to price point. I’d have bought a Nikon or Canon wireless transmitter years ago if the one I needed wasn’t $700 with reports all over the internet about being incredibly inconsistent…
I do however feel like I would like to see some things added/changed. As far as I can tell, you can only use one CamRanger at a time on one device at a time. Not a problem if you’re triggering your remote with a pocket wizard because the editor can still look at stuff, but if I wanted to trigger the cam ranger from a phone and have someone editing on an iPad I couldn’t do it. It would probably be too hard on the WiFi signal that way, but I’d still like to see it as an option. I’d also love to see you be able to set up your rangers all on one network and be able to manage several of them in a single running app on a phone or iPad. Not sure if it’s possible or what it would take, but for the really hardcore sports folks, or folks that do a lot of remotes like my pal Andy Hancock being able to only use one at a time is kind of a bummer. Maybe a CamRanger PRO or something in the future that allows you to name and specify parameters on your own network allowing you to put them all together as one? Then you could just select which one you want to use and view from a menu in the App; or even to fire all of them at once. Not sure, I will have to see what the CamRanger people say about something like that, I’m not a WiFi engineer so I could be breaking the laws of physics with that suggestion.
In order to use your ranger for the first time you need to pair it to your device which is pretty simple, but seems like it’s 2 steps longer than it needs to be. Once its paired it’s a function of turning it on and waiting for it to start up before you can use it. Stupid easy, and I like that. Every time you want to use a new device (iPad, or iPhone) to control your ranger you have to register your device online, so unless you have a WiFi hotspot, or 3/4G ipad, make sure you try to set it up at home first to make sure you can even use it once you get into the field. Once it’s registered on one device, it should just be registered and you should be able to pair it with whatever device you have. Not that I have a ton of iOS devices and would run into the problem of wanting to pair a device in the field regularly, but I hadn’t paired my iPhone to the CamRanger before the Roller Derby bout and it was annoying to have to connect, disconnect, and reconnect the CamRanger in order to get it to work.
Honestly. Any of the things that bugged me about the CamRanger are minor, and none of them prevent the device from doing what it is supposed to do. You plug it into your camera via USB and it works. No joke. I really was curious as to how this third party device would stack up, but honestly I’d be much more inclined to buy this than the Nikon or Canon counterparts, for quite a few reason other than the price. The ONLY thing that the CamRanger doesn’t do (to my knowledge) is allow you to access the files via a Computer. If they had an App that allowed you to connect your laptop to the cam ranger (CamRanger Pro?) I could see them totally dominating the market in terms of Wireless Camera interactions. There would be no reason for someone wanting that functionality to not buy one because lets face it, half the price of the competition for a product that works just as well if not better is tough to beat.
So to make a long story even longer; I dig it. I dig it a lot. I don’t know what the price increase might be for some of the features I suggested for a CamRanger Pro (or if a price increase is even required for my suggestions), but even if they had it at $400 for the Pro version I’d see it as a very reasonable price for what you get. I feel likeCamRanger really nailed it with this product and I really look forward to seeing what they do in the future. The CamRanger I have will be going back to Roberts Camera for people to play with in the showroom so if you’re curious go check it out in person. It’ll be there for anyone to play with, so just go in and ask Phil about it. If you’ve ever thought about adding wireless functionality to your camera this is the product without a doubt. Roberts Camera here in Indy has them in stock, so check them out online, or go visit the guys in the store. Good people there. Happy Shooting, and More soon.
It’s no secret how I’ve always felt about third party lenses. They were just never the same to me as the “real” thing, such as a name brand Canon L series lens or a Nikon Gold band Nikkor lens. Third party lenses have always been softer at wide apertures, have had trouble with corner sharpness, and even with autofocus speed. I have actually owned a few Sigma lenses over the last few years and honestly to me they were nothing but placeholder lenses to make way for when I could afford the more expensive Nikon or Canon counterparts. The Sigma lenses that I’ve owned have always been slow, cheaply built, and not the sharpest knife in the murders tool kit. It’s also probably not a big secret that I love my Fast Primes. I’d never have considered getting a Sigma as a fast prime because I just didn’t feel as though their lenses were as good as Nikon or Canon’s. A few days ago I got an email from good friend Matt Dial, about Sigma’s new 35mm F1.4DG HSM. That being said when I saw that Sigma was changing the way they did things, I wasn’t sure what to think. When Jody at Roberts called and said that he had the NEW Sigma 35mm F1.4 HSM DG lens for me to do a review and video about, and I would have it for 24 hours I was excited (easily excitable remember?); yet at the same time wasn’t expecting the world. Also, before I forget; I wasn’t paid for this review, and I am most certainly not one of the very solid Pro’s that are sponsored in the Sigma Lounge which should be evident since I admittedly don’t like Sigma lenses because they have just never worked how I want. That however I think may all be about to change…..
(Canon 5D Mark II, 100ISO, Sigma 35mm F1.4, 1/200th@F1.4. Photogenic light shot through a 36?x36? softbox set to minimum power pointed mostly towards the background to help diffuse the light enough to use such a wide aperture)
HOLY SHIT. The first thing I said when I was handed the new Sigma 35mm F1.4 HSM lens in fact. I couldn’t believe holding it in my hand that it was a Sigma lens and actually had to ask to make sure I wasn’t being punked or something. The build quality was leaps and bounds better than any sigma lens I had held to date. I had to check the print on the side to make sure it was actually a Sigma. Sure enough, the side read 35mm F1.4DG 67 SIGMA. It looks almost like a Carl Zeiss lens in appearance with the black metal finish and the ribbed Focus ring. There is a relatively large AF/MF switch on the side that has a very satisfying click to let you know that you’ve flipped it. The what is now ubiquitous transparent window showing focus distance and the silver A on the side signifying “Art”. Not sure how I feel about Sigma’s new lens classifications, “Art”, “Contemporary” and “Sports” but in terms of build quality and what they have done to make their line better they can honestly call it whatever they want. If you want the quick synopsis video review of the lens watch it below, otherwise keep reading for sample photos and a much more in depth review.
(Video shot with a Rode Videomic Pro attached to a New Sony ActionCam Wifi. Yes, I know you can see the tip of the Rode Mic on the right side, but I wasn’t exactly given a lot of time to make all this happen.)
Some of my biggest gripes with the Sigma lenses that I have owned and used are Sharpness and AF speed. About 10 years ago I used to own 24-70mm F2.8 and at F2.8 I probably could have put Vaseline on the front element of the lens to make it sharper. It just wasn’t everything or anything that I wanted. Gone are those days. This 35mm F1.4 is easily as sharp as my Nikon 24mm F1.4 lens. Without question. The Autofocus speed easily matched it as well. The HSM was silent, much faster than I expected, and accurate. I had no trouble trusting that even my 5D Mark II had acquired focus in reasonably low light.
(Canon 5D Mark II, 200ISO, Sigma 35mm F1.4. 1/80th@F1.4)
Only having the lens for 24 hours kind of last minute really put a damper on giving it any real run for its money. Any assignments I had at the paper that would have been good for it are next week, so when I wasn’t on assignment I proceeded to run around the Indystar building taking photos of people that I know. Honestly it was a heck of a test as the previous Sigma’s I have owned would have failed at this. This one seemed unchallenged, and I really felt as though while I enjoy having good photos of some of the good people I know; it wasn’t what this lens deserved. When I got everything into the computer I wasn’t disappointed. Not once. Every time I saw a shot I wanted, I turned, autofocused and pressed the shutter thinking; this is the one that will show me what I know my old Sigma’s used to be like. Nope. Razor Sharp. Don’t believe me? How about a full res file to see for yourself? Shrub outside the Chase bank building here in Indy shot at F1.4. Before anyone asks, YES; they are all that sharp.
(click to get the actual 100%)
This lens was nothing like I expected. One of the really cool features of this lens though is one I was unable to try. Not due to lack of time, but due to lack of necessary accessories. Sigma is releasing a docking mount with this lens that will allow the user to connect the lens via USB to update the firmware as well as to actually adjust the autofocus parameters yourself to best suit your needs. The Autofocus parameters inside this device and software also include adjusting the SPEED along with the accuracy. So if you are shooting with a Canon Rebel XTi or a Nikon D3100 you aren’t going to get the maximum speed possible, you can slow it down a little bit to focus more on accuracy. (See what I did there? Focus? What?) Most cameras now a days allow the photographer to micro adjust the camera to adapt to the lenses slightly different sets of characteristics. Sigma has taken this one step further and introduced the USB Accessory to go straight to the element that’s doing the actual lifting if you will of the Autofocus operation. The camera meters and tells the lens to move, but HSM is built into the lens. Being able to tweak the AF directly is like opening the hood and working on the engine of your car, as opposed to just turning your radio up from the front seat to hide whatever engine noise you hear. Brilliant. (At least in theory as like I said; I haven’t tried it).
(Canon 5D Mark II, 200ISO, Sigma 35F1.4. 1/30th@F1.4.)
Close focus distance was very acceptable too, especially with the light falloff. One of the things I love about the F1.4 glass is the ability to use what seems like a low ISO just about anywhere. The shot above was under some dingy florescent lights in the Indystar building with the Canon tech reps before Sports Illustrated Photographer and Explorer of Light Damien Strohmeyer gave a presentation on shooting sports to the Star’s Staff Photographers and the NPPA. Great speech btw, don’t have many photos of it though thanks to being distracted by the epic photography he had to show us. Really nice guy. Anyway, I digress. With my D4 and my Nikon 24mm F1.4 lens I feel unstoppable and I feel like I can shoot anything handheld in almost any light if the need arose. I would have never expected a third party lens to give me the same feeling; but this one did.
(Canon 5D Mark II, 3200ISO, Sigma 35mm F1.4. 1/40th@F1.4).
Anybody who has read the blog knows Shannon. She passed a big test last night and after the Damien Strohmeyer presentation I went and found her where she was out celebrating. When we were getting ready to go home I stopped her to take this picture. In the past I wouldn’t have expected the Sigma lens to be able to grab focus in this kind of low light. Honestly I wouldn’t have expected my 5D Mark II to have done it either, but regardless the only images I had that were out of focus were of Shannon moving. After a few beers she was moving around like a model striking poses, looking around at things and I finally had to tell her to stop for a second. This was the last picture I made with the Sigma 35mm F1.4 and I miss it already.
Years ago if you would have told me you were going to hand me a SIGMA lens that I would love I’d have told you to take your medication. Truth is though the sky is falling. SIGMA is no longer competing with Tamron or Tokina. They are competing with Nikon and Canon themselves with this lens. This lens truly does draw a line in the sand for Canon and Nikon as now SIGMA has positioned itself to provide very high quality lenses to the masses in as such that they are much more affordable to everyone. I don’t own a lens that is not Canon or Nikon at the time of this writing, but I have a feeling that after this experience that is going to change very soon. I can’t wait to see what their 120-300F2.8 lens is like next year, or what the next in their series of Art lenses is.
Really I guess my best feelings were put in the beginning of the second paragraph with the words HOLY SHIT. I can’t believe how much I love this lens. They are hard to find, but if you’re looking for one check where I get all my gear; and with who found me this copy to play with; Roberts Camera. At the time of this writing I know they have at least 1 Canon mount, with two Nikon mounts on the way next week; but with the price and quality I wouldn’t expect them to last long if they aren’t gone already…. More Soon.
(Canon 5D Mark II, 50ISO, Sigma 35mm F1.4. 1/250th@F1.4)
As time passes, society goes through different fads; or popular items, ideas, or activities. Some of these things It was once suggested this internet thing was a Fad, but considering you’re reading this I think we’ve past the possibility of it dieing out. Zombies are an IN thing right now, as are vampires thanks to things like True Blood and The Walking Dead on AMC. Ninja’s were a big thing for a while, and in some cases still are. For a while my website here’s top referral from google was the phrase, “Ninja attack on all sides”. I’d like to think that google had decided that my work was an awesome assault on the readers or viewers senses. But alas to this day I have no idea why that phrase was referring me for that period of time. I digress though, as I personally think Nina’s are cool. They are fast, they are useful, they are shrouded in secrecy and are like the swiss army knife of the olden military world. The new Ninja-2 from Atomos absolutely lives up to the reputation the name of Ninja brings it; and then some.
(Click to Biggify for a closer look)
That’s it there. I had no idea what it was when Roberts in Indy called and wanted to know if I wanted to play with it. It looks like a portable monitor for shooting video on a HDSLR, and while it can do that; like a real ninja it’s so much more. The largest problem with shooting video on an HDSLR is conversion time. Anybody will tell you that. Let me throw some numbers out there as a quick “get everyone up to speed” for the importance of this little black device. My D4, (or any canon equivalent like the 1Dx) records video using the H.264 compression scheme. Absolutely beautiful compression when it comes to final delivery, but compression means that you take A LOT of data, and compress it into a bite sized package. While that’s great for email or internet; it’s difficult for a computer to handle. For the lesser than tech saavy imagine this. Every day, you get up and unpack a suitcase that is packed with 500 outfits in order to get dressed, and then repack this 500 outfit suitcase in order to leave your own home. That’s like using a H.264 compression. Even Adobe Premier CS5.5 has to unpack the files in order to edit them despite the fact that it edits them “natively”. Even the best editors still convert the file to a more uncompressed (or intermediate) file format in order to edit it because it saves a lot of time and is a lot easier for any computer to do it. Oh yes; back to my analogy! Imagine now that you get up, and you have a 500 square foot walk in closet. All the of the clothes are easy to go through, and you don’t have to do anything but close the door when you’re done. That’s like using a more uncompressed (or intermediate) file size, like Apple ProRes or AVID’s DNxHD Codec. Using an absolutely uncompressed codec (just having clothes all over the house as opposed to using a suitcase or a closet at all) is sometimes preferred for speed but at the same time you’re looking at an incredibly massive amount of data to store.
(what could be a common sight when trying to work with BIG H.264 files)
OK so that’s the techie backup. Why is this all important? The Atomos Ninja 2 converts RAW HDMI Signal from a Nikon D4, D800, Panasonic, Arri, or Red camera and records it DIRECTLY to a hard drive of your choice in ProRes HQ, which for the record is 220 mbits/s. (Just shy of 30 megabytes per second for your video or roughly 12x larger than directly to flash card in the camera). It also does this for as long of a hard drive as you have in the Atomos as opposed to the cameras internal limit of 12-30 minutes depending on the model. Our 120gb Pyro SSDs were capable of a little over an hour of recording at Prores HQ. Best part? Plug it into the computer with Fire-wire and edit the files on the fly. No Conversion time. Roberts and Patriot memory were kind enough to loan me a couple of Patriot Memory’s PYRO SSD’s to go with the loaner Atomos, and the whole system was pretty impressive. Better yet, watch the video to get a better idea of all the pieces and more importantly what the Atomos kit comes with, which seems like just about absolutely everything except for a HDMI to MiniHDMI cable.
Check out the video of what comes in the box, a little bit about the ninja 2 and take a look at how fast our very rough cut of a video was accomplished as I throw something together in real time!
Seriously. The Atomos kit comes with everything.
Hard drive caddies (any 2.5? hard drive will work, but I would recommend SSD’s if your camera is moving at all because the last thing you want is to scratch a hard drive you are recording your video to).
Two batteries and a dual battery charger.
Power Adapters. This is a big one if you travel. The Atomos 2 comes with an adapter seemingly for every outlet on earth. This way you don’t need to have or buy a world travel adapter. (NICE!)
USB3/FW800 SATA drive reader.
and a few other cables/extras.
The case should be listed in this stuff though, it’s an ABS Plastic Hard case that you could easily ship through the mail or potentially use to stop a bullet if you were in the habit hanging out with those of less than desirable character. It comes with everything except for an HDMI cable and hard drives to get you going. If you shoot a lot of video, this is something that you NEED. Speaking of need, lets talk mounting. When you’re going to put this onto your tripod, or onto an arm or railing someplace you’ll need to stick it there somehow. May I recommend a Manfrotto Dado unit. They have 3 and 6 arm units, but the aluminum sphere lets you putt he arms anywhere you like, and they are strong enough to hold 3 Elinchrom Style heads to a railing with a Superclamp. Holding an Atomos, Shotgun Mic, Marantz, and or any number of other things to a tripod at one time should be no problem for it. I only had to hold the Ninja 2 so I used a Manfrotto 386B Nano Clamp with a Manfrotto Mini Hydrostatic arm.
(Wait there’s a Version 1?)
Some of the more Astute readers may have noticed that I’m reviewing the Ninja 2, but where is the Ninja 1? Good news as it is that my very good friend Brad loved the Ninja so much he immediately started out on the hunt for his own to go with his D800 (which we used for most of the video anyway). Brad however is a very smart shopper, and noticed that there was a Ninja 1 before there was a Ninja 2 and that he could get a used Ninja 1 for about 2/3 the price of a Ninja 2. That being said there are some very good reasons to get a Ninja 2 over a Ninja 1. Will the Ninja 1 record uncompressed video like the Ninja 2? Absolutely. The biggest drawback is that it requires the files to be cut into 4gb chunks. Imagine doing a long cut (since the external recorder has no time constraints like the camera body itself). About half way through your video is broken into a second chunk right in the middle of someone doing the perfect take. How annoying is that? Of course you can put the cuts back together in Final Cut, Avid, or Premier but wouldn’t you rather have just one file to cut up? I sure would…That’s the make or break for me actually. I did use the Ninja 1 while working on this project, and it did perform admirably. Frankly though if you’re going to buy, Get the Ninja 2. The extras that it comes with, and the single file capability is absolutely worth the little bit extra money. It just so happens that also at his price Brad got a 120gb SSD, and a 750gb Mechanical Hard drive to sweeten the deal. The original owner of his Ninja 1 though made it clear however that he was selling his Ninja 1 in order to get a Ninja 2 of course, and was so up front with that information Brad didn’t even have to ask… Moral of the story? Even if you have a Ninja 1. Get a Ninja 2.
(Click to Biggify)
What can’t this thing do? Well not a whole lot. I am not sure I’d recommend it for remote cameras, or a camera that is attached to the side of an airplane. For things like that you want as minimal of a footprint as possible, and unless you can wire this thing to go inside the plane, car, train, or whatever……. You’re probably stuck using the native compression of your camera. Really though if you’re doing a big video project with an HDSLR, and you’ve got a newer Canon or Nikon I can’t imagine doing it without the Atomos. That to be said I use a Canon 5D Mark II regularly for video at the Indianapolis Star and it doesn’t have the RAW HDMI out. I wish it did, because I’d have made the push to buy one of these things ASAP in order to utilize it for my video work daily. Of course, you’d never know that I did video work daily by the video I put together with the product description, but that’s another story. Still trying to find my presence in that aspect….. Point is that the Atomos is a MUST HAVE told if you’re doing HDMI Video. Call Roberts or go in and check em out. This is one piece of tech that’s NOT to be missed.
Here is the rough cut with speaking audio overlay for Ultrasun. It still needs the title/intro up front and the safety info but that’ll all be assembled out of pieces when a few more videos have been made. We have made roughly 12 of these so far and the Atomos has saved a significant amount of time being able to edit in Prores Natively, Even when using Final Cut X. It was uploaded in FULL HD (2gb file), but at the time of this writing wasn’t displaying at greater than 480P. If the HD upload doesn’t take than I will replace it in the next 24 hours).
Something else to be aware of is that when you’re recording to a Ninja any setting changes you make to the cameras exposure are changed in the Ninja 2, but any changes you make to the picture settings ARE NOT. So if you set the camera to VIVID color, it’s still going to output the HDMI at neutral, as opposed to when you record it to a memory card, which will put these changes into effect. Not sure if that’s because the camera makes software changes to the files after shooting, or if the HDMI is really just a Sensor dump out the port to achieve the files approximately 12x larger than you would get than if you recorded them to a CF card.
One last word of caution before I go. MAKE SURE THAT YOU LEAVE NOTHING UP TO THE CAMERA OR ATOMOS. Manual settings are best here. I say this because I shot about 2 hours worth of video at 1080P that ended up having ALL OF MY SHOOTING DATA overlayed on top of the video as if I were copying things between two VCR’s. This video here is instructions as to how to Shut that off in your D800?s Menu. Don’t be a fool. RTFM. More Soon.
During the '70s, a producer/director friend of mine used to roam the LA punk scene with an amazing little 35mm camera, the Minox 35 GL. It was the smallest 35mm camera ever produced. Its sharp Minotar lens shot beautiful pictures and thanks to the high ISO films that were being perfected in those days, one could shoot in very low light. There has never been any digital equivalent in size and low light capabilities until now, with Canon's introduction of the S90. With the G11 and S90 cameras, Canon has finally reversed the maddening pixel race. Pixel density on the G11 has been reduced from its predecessor's 34MP/cm² down to 23MP/cm² and low light performance has greatly improved. The S90 uses the same sensor and its f-2 maximum aperture helps to make this the best p&s for available light shooting.
The Canon S90 is slightly larger than Canon's Elph (3.5 x 2.2 x 0.8" for the Canon SD940IS vs. 3.9 x 2.3 x 1.2" for the Canon S90), but it still easily slips into the average pocket. A bit too slippery sometimes and it almost fell out of my hands before I made it a rule to use the wrist strap. Much has been made of the programmable function control ring around the lens and it is indeed wonderful...
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Hit the jump to read the rest of Carel's review and to view his large gallery of sample shots]
The Coolpix S1000pj is a very interesting point and shoot camera. Most of the attention during its launch goes to the unique built-in mini projector, but it is also a very well rounded camera with a great zoom range, a very intuitive interface, smooth automation and it produces excellent stills and video.
Most people who get a hold of this camera will probably first try the projector. I happened to be in a room with lots of daylight bouncing off white walls, but could still get a decent projection of about 13" diagonal on a shadowy section the wall. In a room with dimmed light one can easily increase the projection size to a 30" diagonal. The projected image is not as crisp as the same image viewed on an LCD screen or as print, but this will not be much of a detriment for the average action snapshot or video.
The 5x zoom lens (28-140mm equivalent) also does macro to an amazing 3cm (1.2") and with the advertized 5 "advanced Nikon image stabilization features" one uses the full range without giving it much thought. As with many P&Ss, the zoom control tends to overshoot from wide angle to full tele and it takes practice and finesse to make it end up somewhere in the middle range.
The "intelligent automated shooting modes" select the best combination of apperture, ISO and shutter speed on the fly and it seemed to make the right decision in all environments where I tried it out.
The camera also has a "Smart portrait system with skin softening" which I neglected to test. The camera detects faces very rapidly and the skin softening should be a welcome piece of automation to all of us who have done portrait retouching. There is also a "smile timer", "blink proof function" and the camera fixes red-eye in-camera. Pretty much every kind of retouching is now done in the camera. Who knows, maybe we will have "auto slimming" in a few years, where everybody is electronically slimmed down to an ideal Body Mass Index.
But, most importantly, this little camera gave very good results and also produced surprisingly low noise at higher ISO settings. This has always been a challenge for P&Ss with their tiny sensors and densely packed pixels, but during the last year the pixel race has finally slowed down and the attention to more important characteristics such as noise and dynamic range is beginning to produce results.
The Olympus E-P1 represents a significant step in the evolution of the digital camera. Before it showed its beautifully crafted body, there were roughly two classes of digital cameras: The point and shoots, some of them so tiny we carry them along wherever we go, and the much bulkier and heavier digital reflex cameras with interchangeable lenses and bigger sensors.
The image quality of point and shoots has become very good over the last few years, but in low light situations their little sensors still struggle with too much noise.
I practically always carry a Canon Elph along, but packing my Canon 5D DSLR requires a mission statement, especially when it involves a back country hike. When most brands figured out how to provide a “live view” on the camera's LCD screen last year, the bulky penta prism and noisily clapping mirror box felt even more like a puzzling anachronism. Why not get rid of all that bulk and do the framing and focusing on the LCD screen? Olympus, with its decades old tradition of delivering exceptional quality in the smallest possible camera body now presents the first camera that follows through on this idea. Although the camera is not easily “pocketable”, it is small and light enough to toss in a daypack and with the wide-angle “pancake” lens, will even fit in the front pocket of a pair of roomy trousers.
The micro four/thirds sensor format, which is currently supported by Panasonic, Olympus and Leica, is smaller than the more popular APS sensor format, but in its most recent incarnation, noise level is not noticeably worse than on the current batch of APS sensors. Olympus, Leica/Panasonic and Sigma also have a very complete list of excellent lenses and most of these are significantly smaller and lighter than their equivalent for the larger sensor reflex cameras.
Handling the camera.
Even with my very large hands, the body felt easy to handle. I usually kept my left hand on the lens, tweaking the zoom or manual focus and providing some stability for the right hand, while it was dealing with the abundance of settings to choose from. The grouping of the functions is not as intuitive as for instance on the Canon G10 and I had to keep leafing through the manual to figure things out. Practically every function can be set using three different interfaces and the second (vertical) knob also helps to eventually work out a personalized routine to master the myriad of settings. Manual focus worked well on the LCD, provided there was no light shining on the screen. Shooting outdoors with only the LCD screen as “viewfinder” was a challenge. Maybe a wide rimmed straw hat would help to keep the screen sufficiently shaded, but a built-in optical viewfinder would really help. There is a separate viewfinder that fits on the hot shoe, but this takes away from the streamlined compactness of the camera body is not of much help when using the zoom lens.
The E-P1 and its soon to appear Panasonic cousins are defining a new and exciting niche and I am looking forward to carrying one of these in my daypack.
Included are some sample shots, straight out of the camera. My bison shots came out a bit blurrier than I had expected. They were shot in a hurry through a car window, so either I or the bison must have moved a bit too much. This was my first experience with a HD video capable still camera and I would like to delve some more into this subject in the near future.