All posts in Technical

02 Jan

Bamboo Tablet Stopped Working Correctly in Photoshop

In Blog,Technical by Greg / January 2, 2012 / 0 Comments

BambooPic

Recently I went to use my Bamboo pen tablet for some photo editing. It really makes things easier when you are doing lots of erasing or clone stamping, or other similar edits. Well I was quite distraught to discover that it would only work in a very small corner of the Photoshop window, instead of allowing me to use the pen across my entire monitor which is normally how I have it set. If I minimize Photoshop, it works across the whole screen like it’s supposed to. I went into Windows Control Panel and verified the Bamboo mapping was still set to my main monitor. I then tried changing settings and changing them back in my Bamboo preferences, but to no avail. After that I tried switching the Bamboo to a different USB port on my machine and then tried installing the latest drivers from Wacom, both of which failed to resolve my issue.

I was ready to take the Bamboo outside and use it as a one-time-use frisbee, flinging it as hard as I could and shouting a variety of obscenities as I ended its miserable existence by hurling it into a tree. As a last resort, I went into my computers start menu and looked under the Bamboo folder, here I found this wonderful little utility called “Bamboo Preference File Utility”. When you open this utility it only has a few options – under My Preferences chose “Remove” and was prompted to confirm I wished to remove my preferences, which I confirmed. Oddly, it reported that no compatible Bamboo device was found on my system, however the change was immediately apparent because my pen was now working across both monitors. I then went into Photoshop and with great joy I found that I was now able to move the cursor anywhere in Photoshop again! All I had to do after that was go back into Bamboo preferences in Control Panel and re-map the pen to just my main monitor. Here’s a shot of the helpful little utility:

Bamboo File Utility

I just thought I would share this with all you Photoshop aficionados out there. For me, being in tech support as a profession it always really annoys me when I can’t solve a computer problem, especially if its something preventing me from using my computer the way I need to. Needless to say, I was quite glad to get this one resolved.

23 Oct

The 2.8’s Part 1: The Sigma 50-150mm f2.8

In Reviews,Technical by Greg / October 23, 2011 / 2 Comments

50-150

The Sigma APO EX DC HSM II 50-150mm is one of the most difficult lenses to find right now in the Sony mount. This is because Sigma discontinued it in February 2011 and announced its replacement, the new optically stabilized version. The new version not only negates one of the big selling points of the earlier model (which I will get to in a moment), it also cannot be purchased anywhere yet. So for those who wanted a nice compact lens that gives a similar (actually longer) focal range than a 70-200/2.8 on a fullframe camera good luck finding this lens, but if you can find it – buy it, and if you have it – don’t sell it.

The 50-150 occupies a focal range that currently has not become popular among other manufacturers. Tokina did produce a 50-135/2.8 but it was never offered in the Sony mount. The 50-150 is designed to give APSC format cameras the same focal range that a 70-200 lens gives on a fullframe camera. In my opinion, this is something manufacturers need to continue expanding on, offering more fullframe equivalent focal ranges for popular lenses. The crop factor can be handy at times when you need that extra bit of reach, but at other times you need that original focus range and working distances that a 70-200 was intended to give you. I know many a time while shooting with the Tamron 70-200 I’ve needed to take a few steps back but if I’d had the Sigma 50-150 it would have been perfect for what I was trying to do.

So, what was the other big selling point I mentioned before? The size of the lens, the 50-150 is incredibly compact. It is about the same size as your average 70-300 kit zoom lens, or the Minolta 70-210 beercan. Optically the lens is nearly as good as you should expect – its plenty sharp at 2.8 and most focal lengths and it gives really nice subject isolation at 2.8 with a very acceptable bouquet. For more information on the performance characteristics on this lens, I highly recommend reading the Photozone.de review (see links below). Here is a comparison showing the size of the 50-150 to the beercan (left) and the Tamron 70-200 (right):

Comparison

The new optically stabilized version of this lens is much larger, in fact it is over 2 inches longer making it almost as big as your average 70-200 f/2.8 lens. This makes the new version of the lens far less useful, and all it adds it optical stabilization – which in many cases is great to have, but for that much of an increase in size it is not worth it. Not to mention the fact that OS is useless for Sony users since the camera has built in stabilization. So that is my appeal to Sigma – please reconsider offering the non-OS version of this lens because the compact size is one thing that makes this lens really great.

For more infomation on this lens:
Review of the original version on Photozone.de
Lens specs and user reviews on Dyxum
Sigma 50-150 group on Flickr

22 Oct

The 2.8’s Overview: Constant 2.8 Zoom Lenses

In Reviews,Technical by Greg / October 22, 2011 / 0 Comments

The 2.8's by Greg Kemp
The 2.8’s, a photo by Greg Kemp on Flickr.

Constant aperture fast zoom lenses are incredibly important for the way I shoot. Often I find myself needing to shoot in low light scenarios where even at f/2.8 I am shooting at ISO 3200 in order to get an acceptable shutter speed. Without 2.8 zoom lenses this would often be impossible. Sure I can get even better low light performance with prime lenses, but those are too limiting as I usually don’t have time to move around to get wider or narrower shots, so zoom lenses are a necessity for me more often than not.

Another thing that makes 2.8 lenses great is it seems to be the magic number for aperture to get ideal subject isolation with most types of shots. Once you go to F/4 the out of focus areas tend to be much less pronounced, and less depth of field available with faster prime lenses is usually only good for certain types of shots.

As many Nikon and Canon users are quick to point out, Sony makes great camera bodies but the lens options are too limited. This is indeed something Sony really needs to step up their game on to fill in those lens gaps faster, as well as updating old models which are still essentially relabeled Minolta designs. When you add in the third party options you can certainly get what you need for Sony mount, but it would definitely be nice to have the much wider selection available to Nikon and Canon users (which include even more third party options).

That being said I have spent a great deal of time researching different f/2.8 constant aperture zoom lenses for Sony to decide which ones would work best. I’ve read reviews from both average users to the major review sites to find out about each lens before buying. I now have a pretty nice set and though I may sell one or two of them, I am pretty sure I am going to stick with what I have for the long run. There are a couple of additional lenses I would like to try in the future such as the Sony 16-35/2.8 (if I ever go full frame), one of the two Minolta 80-200/2.8’s and the Sigma 120-300/2.8 if the Sony version is ever released.

I plan to do a separate write up on why I like each of the below lenses, but for now, just look at how neat they all look together:

The 2.8's by Greg Kemp

From left to right –
Tokina AT-X 116 Pro DX 11-16mm
Sony DT SSM 16-50mm
Tamron SP AF XR Di II LD 17-50mm
Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* ZA SSM 24-70mm
Tamron SP AF LD Aspherical IF 28-105mm
Tamron SP Aspherical 35-105mm
Sigma APO EX DC HSM II 50-150mm
Tamron SP AF Di LD IF Macro 70-200mm

11 Oct

3D Flash Photography with High Speed Sync

In Technical by Greg / October 11, 2011 / 0 Comments

3d test

I was doing testing earlier this year to prove whether or not it is possible to sync two cameras using nothing but cheap wireless triggers (from YongNuo) with flash using Sony / Minolta high speed wireless sync. So far it looks promising, as you can see there is a slight exposure variation between the left and right cameras, but this might be possible to work out. Both cameras must “think” they are controlling the flash, but you have to cover up the on-board flash of one camera so prevent the flash from getting confused. I will do more experimenting with this if/when I get my second a700 body repaired (it hit the ground with a heavy lens, tearing it apart).

Eventually, I will post more on my interest in 3D photography, and why you haven’t seen much of it from me, except a couple tests so far.

02 Sep

Pete Ganzel Rokkor 58mm Conversion

In DIY,Mods,Technical by Greg / September 2, 2011 / 0 Comments

In March this year I purchased Pete Ganzel’s Rokkor 58mm A-mount conversion kit. Pete was extremely helpful in providing information on how to swap out the ring and properly adjust the lens so that it will focus perfectly and all the distance scale lines up correctly. The lens was amazing on the NEX with an adapter, and it is even more amazing on my a55 and a700. I highly recommend this conversion if you have a Rokkor 58mm f/1.2. Also, Pete makes this conversion for other mounts as well, including m42 which he recommends. It is also possible to get a chip to install in the lens mount so that it will be recognized by the camera for focus confirmation.

For more information on Pete’s conversion see here: Pete Ganzel’s Rokkor 58mm Page

And here is what it looks like on my a55:

a55 and Rokkor 58

02 Sep

Infrared Controlled Lighting

In Infrared,Technical by Greg / September 2, 2011 / 0 Comments

One thing I have been researching and practicing is strobe lighting (and continuous lighting as well) for use with infrared studio photography. I have not done a tone of actual shooting, but the first thing I have noticed so far is that light fall of is much sharper when using ordinary flashes for IR studio shots. The flashes themselves output a surprising amount of IR light, but their coverage is a lot more narrow. I dont really know what causes this yet, but will continue to experiment and learn what I can.

I think Minolta Rokkor lenses look really cool in IR because they have a silvery look, the two photos below were both taken with an infrared converted NEX-5 using a Rokkor 35mm lens. Both shots required quite a bit of post processing to get them to look reasonably nice, this was mostly due to the heavy light fall off toward the edges of where the flash was pointed.

Rokkor 8mm in IR

Rokkor MCs

27 Aug

Focus adjusting adapters for infrared

In Infrared,Mods,Technical by Greg / August 27, 2011 / 0 Comments

The issue with some lenses and infrared is that they will not properly focus at some or all focal lengths in infrared, because the focuser just doesnt go far enough. This is because infrared light always focuses slightly behind visible light (ie if you focus for visible light, the IR light will be focused behind the camera sensor). Most lenses still have enough room in their focus range to allow proper focusing in IR, but others do not. I noticed this was an issue first with my Rokinon 8mm fisheye so I started looking for ways to address it.

I borrowed the idea from Pete Ganzel who makes a conversion kit to convert Rokkor mount 58/1.2 lenses to A-mount. In the conversion kit from Pete are a small assortment of spacers which you will need to test to find the proper spacing of the replacement a-mount ring so you can properly focus. Well I applied the same principle to an aftermarket a-mount to e-mount adapter (this probably would not be a good idea to try with the LA-EA1 because of the electrical contacts, and not wanting to destroy a much more expensive adapter, of course).

So here is what I did:

First I removed the A-mount ring from this adapter, and then added some spacers where the screws mount to the ring. These are just test spacers which will get replaced with complete rings once I have time to make them, it was just easier to cut small strips for testing. There is no set rule to how much space youll need to add, try adding one spacers, put the assembly back together and test the lens you are having trouble with. If you really want to get it perfect you can keep trying until the distance markings on the focus ring line up perfectly when focused in IR.

adding spacers

The other thing to keep in mind is that the manual aperture lever in the adapter (if it has one) still works, since adding spacers may prevent it from reaching the lenses aperture lever. Also, you will want to check that the lens locking pin will still lock, I added a small screw to act as a spacer behind the spring which provides pressure to the lock pin to hold it in place when the lens is mounted. You will have to do trial an error to get these things right, and not all third party adapters will lens themselves well to this adjustment process.

Here is what mine ended up looking like with the test spacers in place:
spacers added

And here is what the adapter looks look on my IR converted NEX-5, with Minolta 28-135 mounted:
lens mounted

Lastly, the result? I can now properly focus the Minolta 28-135 and Rokinon 8mm in infrared, this shot below is with the Minolta at 28mm:
ir test shot