As we enter the new year, my thoughts turn to some of the things that have made my photographic life easier, more enjoyable, and more successful.
Here are a few that come to mind.
Geared tripod heads
Once you’ve become accustomed to a geared head like the Arca Swiss C1 or D4, everything else will feel sloppy and imprecise. You’ll hate the fiddly framing that comes with a ball head, and you’ll have to leave more room around your subject so you can crop in post if you’re in a hurry. Yes, they’re bigger. Sure, they cost more. But these things last a long time and won’t become obsolete until the computer driven motorized heads arrive. By that time I expect to be in my dotage.
Integral pull-out lens hoods
They don’t work quite as effectively as petal hoods. They don’t work at all on wide angle lenses. But they’re always there, and they don’t take any time at all to set up. In fact, if you’re not going to use the hood, you can pretty much ignore it, which isn’t the case with reversible hoods. Leica, thanks for keeping this old tradition alive.
They offer more flexibility than the ones that are built into cameras. They’re not flexible enough or easy enough to program, and the haptics can be dodgy. But they don’t reset when the power fails, and, with the right adapters, you can use them on many cameras.
It seems to get a few bugs (and fix most of the old ones) with every release. It can bog down with big catalogs. It could be better at using lots of cores. But, boy, is it a huge improvement over anything that went before, especially when you’re doing multi-thousand image shoots. And there are little bonuses cropping up all the time: dehaze in an adjustment brush – wowee!
Wescott LED panels
These little beauties let you change the color temperature from practically candlelight to 6000K. They are flexible, and you can wrap them around your subject if you’re shooting small stuff. The adjustments of color temp and intensity are reasonably well calibrated. They’re fairly bright. The switching frequency is high enough not to give you trouble with inhomogeneous exposures. Not cheap to buy. They don’t act cheap, either.
Nikon D810, Sony a7RII
These cameras show that patience, listening to your customers, and continued development can really pay off.
Old glass on mirrorless
Leica M and R lenses. Zeiss manual focus SLR lenses. Brought back from the grave, and the eBay prices show that it’s no secret.
IR modded mirrorless cameras
No more black filters. WYSIWYG. No fogging unless you do it in post. Whee!
Paul Buff Einsteins
Short flash duration. Precise dimming without change of color temperature. Small and light. No power supply needed. Prices that are a fraction of what the 80s European studio flashes cost in 80s dollars.
Lynn Allan says
* Geared tripod head: my understanding is that having the post elevated reduces tripod rigidity and stability. I suppose that isn’t an issue with plenty of light. Also, your tripods are probably more heavy-duty than mine.
* I really like the very flexible intervalometer and enhanced BULB provided by MagicLantern for Canon DSLR’s. It has spoiled me for the lame PlayMemories app, and external intervalometers.
* LightRoom: On my Window desktop, I’ve been very impressed with how well Adobe products utilize all available of my 4 cores + hyper-threading. I regularly get near 100% utilization with ACR and DngConverter.
I don’t really use PS enough to notice whether the Windows TaskManager CPU meter pegs out. I mostly use Lightroom for printing of multiple images, and the CPU meter is regularly pegged while preparing multiple images for printing.
I do most edits in ACR, then sync to Lightroom. That seems to often peg the CPU meter with lots of changes to multiple files.
Overall, I consider Adobe to pretty much be among the most advanced in efficient threading. Maybe better than Microsoft’s Visual Studio, which should be very good at multi-threading.
I’m talking about geared heads, like the ones I referenced, not geared columns. I hate geared columns, and haven’t used a tripod with them since the late 50s.
AutoPano gets my vote. It routinely maxes out all 24 virtual cores on my workstation, which has two hexcore processors.
Pretty much any photo processing app should be multithreaded. It takes almost no effort at all. Adobe doesn’t deserve any particular credit for this.
Visual Studio…well, that’s not photo editing, so it’s a lot harder to parallelize. I don’t blame it.
Source: I write my own photo editor.
It’s a great list and I’d like to expand a bit on two of the items.
It’s better to have an in-camera interval timer than to not have one but they are fiddly and require far too many menu actions. Externals are more convenient but still rather generic in their design intent. When I shot a solar eclipse sequence with the desire to align the timing extremely precisely on the center of the event, I turned to four of my favorite things: an Arduino processor to run the show, a GPS module to set the timing, Eagle CAD to design the custom circuit board, and OSHPark PCB fabricators to help realize the project in a field-rugged form. All of the above are easy to learn and the final result is both inexpensive and exactly suited to the task. 3D printers can play a role too. We are currently in a golden age of “If you can’t buy it, then build it”.
Lightroom: It not only does almost everything I need very rapidly, it is also highly extensible with third party plug-ins when you’ve hit its limits. Just a few minutes ago I delegated some precise perspective corrections to DxO Viewpoint and some tonal adjustments to NIK Color Efex Pro.
Lynn Allan says
My error. I didn’t know such heads existed. From a video, it appears they could really spoil you.
PTGui usually does well keeping all 4+4 cores working hard. However, if it is a really large pano dimensionally, it can really bog down the entire system … like it is thrashing the temp drive[s].
Agree on “golden era” … especially prototyping with 3D printers, and inexpensive controllers like the Arduino.
Our local library has several 3D printers that the public can use, after training.
Arca-Swiss dovetails… especially when setting up to shoot in dim light. Priceless! Or should I say, worth exactly the price of a camera body and a lens.