Don’t throw away the silica gel!

Silica gel packs

Don’t throw away the silica gel packs! They are a camera bag’s best friend.

Here’s a little ingenious tool tip that a lot of you probably know, but it’s one that everybody should know!

You know when you buy a new bag, an electronic device or clothes you usually get some of those small packs of silica gel along with it. You know the small bags that says ‘Do not eat’, well they should also say ‘Do not throw away’!

 

I always keep a couple of silica gel packs in my camera bag. Why? Well the whole point of them is that they absorb moisture, and keeping them in my bag prevents moisture from attacking my camera equipment. They cost nothing as you get them every time you buy certain things, they don’t take up space and the don’t add any weight. They’re just there and yet they do a good job at protecting your equipment. So next time you buy a new camera bag, don’t throw them away, simply leave them be!

There are actually a whole lot of other uses for the silica gel as well!

Always keep a couple of silica gel packs in your camera bag to absorb moisture and protect your gear.

Always keep a couple of silica gel packs in your camera bag to absorb moisture and protect your gear.

One trick to instantly improve you camera straps!

I’m not a big fan of the camera straps that comes with the camera. There are several reasons why, but now I think I have found a solution!

Firstly I don’t like using straps. When working on events or shoots I prefer to be able to put down my camera and move it around freely without risking the strap getting caught on something and jerking the camera out of my hand.

Secondly I don’t like to travel with a yellow Nikon strap or red Canon strap that yells “Hey, look at my expensive camera”.

And last I hate to attach the straps because there’s no easy and quick way of detaching and attaching them again. So it’s a strap or no strap scenario and then I generally prefer the no strap one.

Up until now I’ve used a Sun Sniper strap. It’s easy to attach when I need it and it’s a great strap for carrying a heavier camera like my D800. However, a while back I traveled to Oslo and went all analog. I only carried a Nikon FM2 and a 24mm f/2.8. This setup is a little light and too small for the Sun Sniper to work comfortably and I would’ve liked to just carry it in a standard camera strap, but I didn’t want to spend the ten minutes it takes to attach one.

The solution however was quite simple. I bought a selection of camera straps on eBay quite cheap (this and this). Good looking straps that don’t yell expensive camera and the quality was all right. Then I bought a selection of bag clasps like this. It was a simple case of attaching the clasps to the straps and voilà! The straps can easily be attached and detached from the camera depending on the situation.

Camera strap with clasps

A simple, cheap and easy solution: Camera strap with clasps.

 

Should you use image stabilization when shooting DSLR video?

This may seem like a somewhat stupid question, but I’ve heard people give a definitive ‘Yes’ and a definitive ‘No’ to this question, so I realized I had to figure it out myself.

Image Stabilizer
What is image stabilization?
Most of today’s DSLR and mirrorless lenses comes with image stabilizing (referred to IS from here on). The different brands labels their IS technology differently (Nikon VR, Tamron VC, Canon IS, Sigma OS, Fuji & Panasonic OIS), but it’s mostly the same. What it does is stabilize the lens elements, and it eliminates the vibrations from your hand, breathing etc. When you shoot photos hand-held this gives you a sharper image and allows you to shoot on slower shutter speeds.

Now, most agree that IS is generally a good thing. The debate is should you use the IS when shooting video with your DSLR or not. Some say it’s not a problem while others claim the IS in DSLR lenses are not designed to handle video, and therefore shouldn’t be used.
On a traditional video camera it’s simple. You should always turn the IS on when shooting hand-held. The same general rule goes for stills photography. Unless your camera is sitting on a tripod always use the IS. It’s almost always better and gives you sharper images, eliminates motion blur and let’s you shoot at slower shutter speeds.

When it comes to video a lot of people claim the same rule to be true, however others claim that the problem with DSLR lenses are that the IS is not designed for video. Typically the IS in a DSLR lens will hold the image stable for a short period of time and then reset the IS. This cause a little “jump” or “jerk” in the image often followed by a click sound as the IS resets. If you’ve shot with a long lens with IS you have probably seen this. On a traditional video camera this isn’t a problem because the IS is designed to be working constantly.

Let’s see!

I grabbed my D800 and a Sigma 70-200mm 1:2.8 OS lens. This isn’t as high-class as Canon’s L series or Nikon’s 70-200mm, so this is a good test to see how a cheaper IS handles video. Check out the video below to see how the IS performs on video!

As you see from the video the IS is making a big difference! It makes the image much more smooth, but it’s not without problems. It’s not as smooth as the IS on a video camera and it still acts a little nervous and produced some “ticks”. However, we don’t see any of the big jumps in the picture as I expected.

There’s a pretty good reason you don’t get the jumps when shooting video. When the camera is shooting stills it actually turns the IS off and on. As you press the button to focus the camera turns the IS on. After you let go of the button it turns the IS off after a while and locks it in the neutral position. You get the “jump” in the image as the IS is turned on and off. So, why don’t you get it when shooting video? Well, because the camera leaves the IS on as long as you’re recording. At least that’s the case on my camera.

Conclusion

So, does this mean you should use IS or not? Well as you can see from the video the IS can be a big advantage. It give you a smoother image, however it’s not 100% smooth, and in my case the IS is giving some unflattering “ticks”. Another problem is panning and moving. The test video was shot while trying to hold the image still. This is what still image IS is made for. Once you start moving the IS will act differently and may have a less flattering effect.

The effect of the IS, and how it performs and looks, will vary from lens to lens as well. My lens was a cheaper and older lens. A newer and/or a more high-end lens will have better IS which may act differently. Newer lenses are also made with video in mind, and their IS will be designed to handle video better.

In general I would say “Yes”. You should use IS when shooting video on your DSLR. However, in my case it will depend on the situation, the project and the equipment. My best tip is to get to know your equipment. Test this yourself and see how the IS on your lenses performs and decide if the advantages of using IS outweighs the issues it raises.

Further reading:

This article explains how IS works

 

Expanding laptop storage

A couple of weeks ago I upgraded my laptop by swapping the current hard drive, a SSHD type disk, with a new SSD. The performance was noticeable increased at once!

However, now I had another problem. My old hard drive was 750 GB and my new SSD only 240 GB. So, storage became a problem. I store most my stuff on a NAS with a Raid setup, but this is more of an archive. It’s slow to work with video files from network storage, so I need a bit of storage locally on my computer as well.

The solution was to take out the DVD-player and put my old hard drive back in as a second disk. I’ve rarely used my DVD-player at all so this is no loss to me. I bought a kit from IcyBox, IcyBox IBAC642. The kit consisted of a caddy for the HDD so that it could be installed in the optical drive bay of my laptop. The kit also had a chassis for the DVD-player so that I can use it as an external USB DVD-player. While the DVD-player chassis was metal, the caddy was plastic. All in all the build quality of the kit did not impress me, but then again it was cheap and it does exactly what I need it to do.

IcyBox  IBAC642, SSD/HDD caddy

IcyBox IBAC642, SSD/HDD caddy. Comes with caddy for your HDD/SSD, and external USB chassis for you DVD.

Installing it was really simple. It does need you to know your way around a computer, but no it does not require any special knowledge. The job took less than 10 minutes and involved less than 10 screws. The result is that I now have a high performance SSD, making my computer fast and more than enough storage space for other stuff.

How to get started with analog photography

Nikon EM, with Nikkor 50mm 1.8 Ai lens and Fuji Superia 200 film

Nikon EM, with Nikkor 50mm 1.8 Ai lens and Fuji Superia 200 film

I’ve written a little about analog photography in the past, but for those of you only used to digital photography and curious about good old analog photography I thought I’d write a little short introduction.

Though the way we capture and process images have changed when moving from analog to digital photography, the very basics of photography remains the same! We compose and expose in much the same way, using the same tools. However some things are different.

What camera should I get?

Find a camera that suits you! There are a lot of cameras to choose from and you can find good cameras cheap on the eBay and in thrift shops. Some are easier to use than others. Cameras from the 90’s are packed with electronics and can be quite advanced. They have highly advanced auto modes. Personally I think they are a little too boring and remind me too much of modern digital cameras in the way they operate. Cameras from the 70’s and 80’s I think are great! They have good metering, are cheap and easy to use, but they still have that classic feel to them. You can still be creative and use them in manual mode. Cameras that are older are often a bit harder to use. They may lack proper metering, and some are less intuitive.

 

Asahi Pentax Spotmatic

Asahi Pentax Spotmatic is a typical classic SLR camera from the 60’s.

There are also different types of cameras to look for. SLR’s are great and is a good place to start. They have good metering and good manual control. You can change the lenses which is handy. They can usually be found cheap, and you can find high quality lenses fairly cheap as well! If you own a DSLR you’ll be familiar with how it operates.

 

 

Olumpus 35 SP

Olympus 35 SP is an example of a rangefinder camera.

Rangefinder cameras are also great! They work a bit differently than SLRs. You don’t actually see through the lens like on a SLR which at first seems odd. However, they have a different, and in some ways better, way of focusing.

Rangefinders are usually smaller and more compact than SLRs, and more quiet due to no flip-up mirror. Some rangefinder cameras have exchangeable lenses, others do not. Rangefinders are typically a bit more expensive than SLR, unless you find a bargain!

Pentax PC-550

Pentac PC-550 is a simple automatic viewfinder camera.

Rangefinders are easily confused with viewfinder cameras because they may look similar. Like on rangefinder cameras, on viewfinder cameras you don’t look through the lens itself. However, unlike rangefinder cameras, viewfinder cameras have no way of accurately confirming focus. Viewfinder cameras are often consumer models and have limited metering and manual controls.

 

Adox Golf 45 S

Adox Golf is a camera that uses 120 film. It’s an older camera from the 50’s and lack metering and focus system.

Older box cameras and twin-reflex lens cameras can be fun and interesting, but often a bit harder to use. Especially older box cameras. They often have limited or no metering or way of telling focus accurately. You basically point and shoot and hope for the best. You should have some skill to handle these cameras well.

 

 

 

What types of film can I use?

There are a lot of different films available still today! First we can look at the different film formats. Most of the films you’ll encounter will be either 135/35mm or 120-format film. These formats are still commonly used by analog photographers today and films in these formats are still produced.

135 or 35mm film you probably know already. It’s what you’ll most likely encounter. Used by most SLRs, rangefinders and compact-cameras this is beyond any doubt the most common film format in use.

120-film is larger than 135. It’s also know as medium format. This format is typically used in older cameras. It’s commonly used in older box cameras. Some films may also be labeled 220, but this only means that the film is a bit longer and can still be used.

There are other types of film formats as well, such as APS, 126,  110, 127, and so on, but most of these are no longer in production and can be hard to get and of poorer quality.

Film rolls

Different kinds of film. A roll of 35mm black and white and a roll of Kodak Portra color negative C-41 120-film

In addition to the film format there are also different film types and different development process. First is regular color film like Kodak Gold or Fuji Superia. Regular color film uses a process called C-41. Other names in use for this process is CN-16, CNK-4 and AP-70. This is the cheapest and easiest film process and most local photo shops with a lab can develop this kind of film.

Next is color reversal films. Also called slides, positives, dias and reversal. Unlike your regular color films which produces a negative image on the film, these kind of films actually produce a positive image. This meant that the negatives could be displayed on a large surface using a slides projector. These films are developed using a process called E-6. Once more common, fewer labs develop these films today and it may cost more to get these films developed. Small local labs will probably not be able to develop these films, so be prepared to ship your films off and get them back in a week or two.

The third alternative is black and white. These films use a very simple develop process. So simple in fact that a lot of people actually develop black and white films themselves! However, like the E-6 process it’s rare for smaller local shops to develop this kind of film, so you may have to ship your films off.

So where to begin?

If you think shooting on film sounds cool and would like to check it out, here’s my advice to you: First find an old camera. Either you go searching in the attic/basement of you parents, grandparents or uncle etc. or you go to your nearest thrift shop/flea marked/garage sale. In worst case you go online. If you end up on eBay you may need to know what you’re looking for. Try searching for a Canon AE-1, Minolta X-570, Pentax K-1000 or Nikon FM-2 and try to find one with a fast prime lens, 28mm, 35mm or 50mm f/2.8 or faster.

One you have your camera in hand, go to your local store and pick up a roll of cheap standard color film, like Fuji Superia or whatever is cheapest. If you’re lucky and have a proper photo shop nearby this is where you’ll go. There you should be able to get help loading the film, and get a quick lesson on how to use your camera if you need it. Once loaded take the camera with you and shoot a test roll. Make sure it’s not just waste, but also make sure it’s not too important in case there should be anything wrong with the camera.

Once you have your roll developed and see that all is well with the camera, you’ll pick up some more film. Now remember that when you buy film, you need to look at the ISO value to find out how fast the film is. Once you’ve selected a value it can not be changed like on digital cameras. Also remember that films are calibrated for different lighting such as daylight or tungsten. So in essence when you buy your film you choose the ISO and white balance and you can’t change it later! When it comes to buying film for the first time I’ll suggest getting a couple rolls of different film to see how they differ in look. Try a couple of different until you find one that have the look you’re after. I’d suggest starting with a couple of Kodak Portra films, a roll of Kodak Ektar and maybe some Fuji films. Also get a roll of Ilford Delta and Kodak T-Max or Tri-X black and white films just for fun. Then go out and start shooting analog!