Sunday, January 8, 2012


Some people don't realize there are torque specs for just about every bolt/nut in a car... even the little ones! (Of course, finding those specs isn't always easy)
This is what happens when an overzealous repairer over tightens one of the nuts. A broken battery terminal clamp.

Next to it, a big fat, serious mutha of a replacement cable just waiting to take over!
Cracked clamp
The before shot, taken in a dark garage lit by car trunk light and an LED work light provides a great opportunity to test the lowlight capabilities of the Canon 1DMkIV and how steady my hand is... (1/10th, ISO 12800 !!!)

Not super-sharp, but an amazing example of being able to get a shot, no matter what the conditions, without having to resort to flashes.
New definition of BFF
... and after lots of cursing and violence due to the big fat replacement cable being too big and rigid to fit... finally there was an after picture.

This mod is purported to increase engine HP (like every other gimmick!) because the lower resistance allows the battery to charge better and reduce the load on the alternator. Hah! At least I know I can rely on my camera's lowlight claims...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Dunny Plumbing - Float Valve

Sometimes, a camera just captures a process.
Remove the top
1. Turn the flush buttons piece
2. Remove the buttons
3. Take off the top of the cistern

Now inside the cistern, the float valve is accessible, it just needs to be unbolted. Turn off the water first, then flush to empty the cistern (and put down some old towels because water will spill).

Spotlight with an LED torch. First take the nut off, then the plastic nut.

Float valve
Out with the old, in with the new...

Tighten the nuts, and all done!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Canon vs Tamron the 70-200 f/2.8 challenge!

My mate Ed is selling his 70-200 f/2.8L, and graciously *cough* cheap sales pitch to try and sell it to me *cough* lent it to me to try out over the weekend. So here's a quick comparison between the Tamron and Canon.

The Tamron will set you back about AU$1000-1100 new, best price, where the Canon will cost more like $1500 for a grey import, and increasingly upwards for Australian stock. So there is definitely a premium to be paid for the Canon, but is it worth it?

Tamron SP AF70-200mm f/2.8 Di LD(IF) Macro
I like the look of the Tamron more, the all black on the black camera, just looks right, it looks mean, and it gets comments. The strange white striped L lens, it looks the part to people who KNOW that "L lenses are white", so it's a show-off tool amongst other 'togs.

The lens cap is tough to get off on the Canon when the lens hood is on. The Tamron is fairly easy to get off when the hood is on.

Tamron has a pull/push AF/MF focus ring, which is a bit clunky, where the Canon has full time manual focusing and USM which is just easier, quieter, and faster.

The Tamron being a macro lens has a MFD of 0.93M (about 3 feet), where the Canon is 1.5M. That means the difference between a shot of a bug on a leaf, versus a shot of a leaf.

There is also a difference at the 200mm end, with the Tamron "zooming in" a little more, which is nice, giving you a bit more zoom, and the MFD makes it a bit more versatile.

If I had to choose from scratch, given that I already have a macro lens, I'd probably choose the Canon. Now that I have the Tamron, I think I'll wait and eventually go for the Canon IS model.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Flash vs Ambient

Yesterday I was lucky enough to help out Brent Pearson with his Off Camera Flash on Location workshop.

Where Brent leant towards a lightmeter, I ran the students through working out an exposure without one.

Here's a quick re-cap:

Use your Camera as a Lightmeter
Sunny 16
I set the camera to AV (Aperture Priority) mode, and picked an appropriate working aperture. We were in full sunlight, so I knew I'd have to start small, F/8, ISO100.

Camera said 1/200th. It's a subtle point, but, the camera has just metered the light. We're about a stop off a Sunny 16 exposure.

An alternative is to set the camera to TV mode, and start with, say, 1/100th, the camera would then meter, and give an aperture - in this case, it would have been F/11.

Underexpose to Taste
Generally, I like contrasty photos, so I like to underexpose backgrounds by two stops where I can. Sometimes I'll go to 1 stop or less for a more 'natural', and less 'lit' kind of picture.

It's down to taste.

From F/8, ISO100, 1/200th, two stops gets us to F/16, ISO100, 1/200th. There are a lot of great resources around explaining this for anyone who is puzzling over it.

The brightness of the picture has dropped off a lot, but I can see what I'll get for any part of the picture not touched by flash. Importantly (for me) the saturation in some of the colours comes up.

Add Flash
Add Flash
I had the luxury of a flash that could belt out enough power here. That's one of the top reasons anyone would invest in a bigger flash unit like the AB1600.

Essentially now, the majority of the light is coming from the flash, and the sun is largely 'filling' the shadows.

But, because of the very directional light from the sun, there's some strange shadows where the key (flash) light is in a different direction to the sun.



Don't rest on your laurels, now the light is sorted, get a good shot!
(FWIW, this was the third shot I took after the light was set)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Upgrading - 7D vs 5DMkII vs 1DMkIV?

... or how I learned to stop worrying, and love da bomb!

The Problem

I have a Canon 40D that I've been very happy with, but some of it's limitations were starting to bug me enough to upgrade:
- Poor low light/high ISO performance (3200 is noisy)
- Not full frame (always feels like I'm wasting my L lenses)
- No video (no big deal, but it's nice to have)
- Less than ideal battery life (for a full day of shooting)
- LCD could be better (usually only a problem in sunlight)

The Solutions
Christmas lights?
With the modern camera line-up, there are stacks of different ways to jump. I looked at getting faster lenses (I love my Nikon 55mm f/1.2 MF) for better low-light performance - I examined my most used focal lengths, and worked out a cost of getting 1.4 or 1.8 lenses in those. That was about the price of a 7D, and that only solved one problem.

Simarly, a quick trip to DxOMark quickly told me that the 7D wasn't worth the upgrade cost over the 40D - the only problem it solved was the lack of video.

The kings of low-light performance in the Canon range are the 1D Mk IV, 5D Mk II and the 1Ds Mk III, but the 1Ds Mk III is the king of wallet damage as well, which ruled that out as a viable option, which left the 1D and the 5D.


The 5DMkII is the choice of wedding photographers for it's combination of a reasonable price, with full frame capabilities and great low light performance.

But, the 5D, like so many Canon cameras (!!?) suffers from pixel stuffing - how high can we bump this megapixel count? Nikon got sick of that game a while ago. Not many people need that kind of ridiculous pixel count, and it just means you have a lower frame rate (3-4 pics/second - yeah, the 40D doubles this), and the pictures take more time to unload, process, etc.

It also suffers from an older AF system (compared to the 7D & 1D), a slow flash sync speed (a worry for a strobist), and the battery life is less than on the 40D!

All annoying downsides of a substantial 'upgrade'.


It's low light performance is bordering on insane. While the 5D may have a slight edge on quality (if you believe DxOMark. Or if you look at the right sample images, the 1D has about a 1 1/3 stop advantage over the 5d), the 1D goes a further (usable) stop of ISO, just incase you HAVE to get a picture.

As far as battery life goes, one charge gets you about 50% more than the 40D, and it gets a tick for it's great LCD (no, really, it's stunning).

Video is included, so the biggest downside...?

It's big; it's heavy? So am I. It's not full frame? But it's closer than the 40D is.

Ok, it's bloody expensive. But if there's one thing I've learnt from the Strobist... rather than upgrading every couple of years, getting the best could mean no upgrading for a lot longer. The cost is spread out over a longer period.

At least that's what I told myself...

Almost Midnight

(Incidently, the Nikon D7000D700 solved almost all these problems, except video, for a better price than the Canon options!)