Neuffy's Blog

A blog of posts about Camera Equipment, Printing Gear, Lighting Setups and the use of all the above.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Entering the world of Large Format (Film) Photography

In order to generate large prints, one seeks greater quality and control. To this end, I've purchased a 4x5 Large Format Film setup.

Horseman Monorail View Camera with secondary bag bellows allowing complete movements of both the front and rear standards
Maxwell Precision Optical Bright Ground Glass
Calumet Caltar-S II 150mm (Rebranded Schneider Symmar-S f/5.6) - equivalent to 45mm in 35mm equivalent when cropped to 3:2. 43mm uncropped.
Schneider Super Angulon 72mm XL f/5.6 - equivalent to 22mm in 35mm equivalent when cropped to 3:2. 20mm uncropped.
Markins Q3 Ballhead - Smooth, very lightweight, very strong. This ballhead has been purely a joy to work with using both 35mm and 4x5 cameras.

Sync @ 1/500

Film: Kodak EPP/160VC are the two standards, but I've switched over almost exclusively to Kodak's Ektar 100.

Note: Equivalent focal lengths are calculated based upon a crop factor of 3.3. This is derived from the measurements of 35mm @ 36mm x 24mm and 4x5 @ 4.68 inches x 3.12 inches (cropped).

While preliminary results are that the quality far surpasses my 35mm Digital setup given sufficient light and setup time, it has not gotten the use it deserves. Part of this is that I still haven't reconciled myself to film having started with digital - I much prefer to be able to confirm the shot immediately rather than waiting until the film comes back from the processor. The other side is that every shot works out to $5 (film and processing, no scanning costs included). While this isn't truly prohibitive, it does inhibit me personally more than it should.

Perhaps this will change this year?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Gear list, and why I have it

An In-Progress List

Many people will list their gear either in their signatures on forums or in a list.

This post has two purposes for me: One is simply to have the list all together, and the other is to enumerate the reasons why I own these items. In other words, what I use them for. If I have anything on this list that I cannot come up with reasons for, I really shouldn't keep it, should I?

Camera Gear:
Canon 5D II w/ grip and EG-S focusing screen
Canon Rebel XSi w/ grip
Canon 24-70 F2.8L
Canon 70-200 F2.8L IS II
Canon 60 F2.8 Macro - for sale.
Canon 100 F2.8L IS Macro
Canon 50 F1.8 - There is no reason for me to have this lens, but it would sell used for so little that I haven't gotten around to selling it.

Horseman L-frame 4x5
Schneider 72mm F5.6 XL
Schneider 150mm F5.6
Sekonic L-758 Light Meter

Manfrotto 055ProXB Tripod - Horizontal center column is useful for studio work, decent enough tripod overall.
Markins Q3 Ballhead
Manfrotto 804RC2 3-Way Head

Lighting Gear:
2 Canon 580EXII Speedlites
Honl 1/8" Grid
Cameron Macro Ringflash - unused: for sale.

3 Paul C. Buff Einstein 640ws Monolights
2 Opus 150ws Monolights - unused for months: for sale.
Paul C. Buff ABR800 320ws Ringflash - utterly unused: for sale.
30" and 56" Moon Unit for PCB Ringflash: for sale along with the ABR800
2 8.5" Reflectors w/ grids

84" Octobox
48" Octobox - Unused now for some time: sell
2 PCB 47" Octoboxes w/ grids
2 PCB 10x36" Stripboxes w/ grids
PCB Beauty Dish w/ grids
PCB Retro Laser Reflector
2 PCB 86" PLM Parabolic Umbrellas
PCB 64" Parabolic Umbrella

3 Manfrotto 307 13' Stacker Light Stands
Manfrotto 5001B Nano Stand
2 Umbrella Swivels with Stroboframe coldshoe clamps
2 40" Extension Grip Arms
4 Manfrotto 035 Super Clamps
Cameron Boom Stand
Manfrotto 087NWB & Red Wing Boom setup

3 PCB CST Triggers
3 PCB CSRB+ Receivers
PCB VagabondII
2 PCB Vagabond Mini Lithiums

Opus Background Stand kit
107" Background Seamless Paper in White, Black, Dark Gray - Ceiling mounted on Manfrotto's Expan system which has made my life much easier.
Muslin in Medium Blue/Gray

ThinkTank Logistics Manager (fits the 4x5, all the bodies and lenses as well as a couple 580EXIIs).
KATA PALMS-3 Lighting Bag
KATA 3N1-30 Sling/Backpack Bag

Printing Gear:
Canon iPF8100 44" 12-Pigment Large Format Printer
Canon Pro9000 13" 8-Dye Printer - Infrequently used, but nice for making small prints
X-rite i1Xtreme calibration and profiling kit
NEC 2690Wuxi2 Wide-Gamut Hardware-Calibratable monitor
Rotatrim M24 Rotary Trimmer
Fuji Q4 Gold Turbine and Spray gun system - excellent for applying varnish to canvas

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A quick analysis of shadow noise in DSLRs.

I've noticed that at ISO 100 the Nikon D3X does much, much better in the deep shadow areas than the Canon 5D Mark II. However, it doesn't do much better in the midtones or highlights.

If we look at DXOMark's tests, we can see that with the Signal-to-Noise @ 18% grey chart, the cameras have almost identical levels of noise. This should indicate that the noise levels are the same, but it does not. We have to look at the full SNR graphs in order to get a fuller picture.

Let us say that we require for "acceptability" a Signal-to-Noise ratio of 18 dB. Looking at the full SNR graphs on DXOMark, the Nikon D3X achieves this signal strength at about 0.25% on a logarithmic scale. The Canon 5D Mark II achieves this signal strength at about 0.66% on a logarithmic scale. This implies that we can push the shadows from the D3X over a stop before they have the same noise level as the 5D Mark II. Essentially, for the deep shadows we can shoot a stop underexposed and push in post to achieve similar quality.

This would be why the D3X is rated as having 13.65 stops of dynamic range at ISO 100 while the 5D Mark II is rated as having only 11.86 stops of dynamic range.

One last thing is that this does not take into account that the 5D Mark II has significantly more pattern noise in the shadows. This makes it much more noticeable.

In essence, I really hope that we see more cameras producing deep shadow noise similar to the D3X in the future.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Brief Summary: Frequency 2010

For Frequency 2010, a major electronica event in Edmonton (Alberta, Canada), we created a photobooth in conjunction with Limages Night.

The setup is an 8x8' mural, made up of three overlapping 3x8' panels. This is supported on its frame by the boom setup previously mentioned, with the boom extending over the 8x8' panel and holding a small strobe. Other lighting is provided by two softboxes on either side, all triggered with Paul C. Buff CyberSyncs.

Shots are taken tethered to a computer, and then forwarded to a second computer for printing. Prints are made and sold on-site.

Here's what the setup looks like:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Lightweight Mobile Lighting Setup

I have now arranged my mobile location shooting lighting setup.

The first is far more mobile than the second:
1-2 Canon 580EX II speedlites
1 6' Manfrotto 5001B Black Nano Stand
1 13' Manfrotto 307 Stacker Stand
Umbrella swivels (importantly, upgraded with Stroboframe cold shoes which hold the flash much more securely)
Westcott 43" double-fold collapsible umbrellas
Triggered with a Paul C. Buff CyberSync CST and CSRB+ transmitter/receiver set with all settings manual.

If I'm going for a very lightweight setup, I'll only take the one light, with the Nano stand. The weight added by a second light is significant if I am going to be walking any real distance, and my inclination is to leave it behind when I'm not going out specifically to take photos. However, if there is much wind, the larger stand is much more stable.

This is all in keeping with the principle that a mobile lighting setup is useless if it is not carried on one's person. As soon as a setup gets too big to comfortably carry for an extended period of time, it stops being used.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Adjusting the Canon iPF8100 for length

Most printers have a tendency to print slightly shorter than they should on certain media. Canvas in particular is troublesome, particularly as canvas prints frequently have specific length requirements due to the need to stretch them on stretcher bars.

Earlier I printed a 16x20 canvas, on a 20x24 piece (losing two inches on each side for stretching). This prints sideways on a 24-inch roll. Unfortunately, the canvas, while 24 inches wide, was only 19.75 inches tall. While this might be acceptable at this size, it will scale up and make a 40x60 print utterly worthless, as it will be unstretchable. Being 1.25% too short is something that must be fixed.

While one could fix this manually in Photoshop before printing, it would be excessively tedious. My Canon iPF8100 has a per-media-type length adjustment. The quick calculation is that to compensate for a 1.25% shortness, one must make the print 1.27% longer. In the length adjustment field for the media, percentages are in 0.02% intervals, so I adjusted it to +1.28%. After adjustment, the new 20x24 canvas now measures closer to perfect than I can measure.

Note: For any iPF users, the media length adjustment is only applied if "Feed Priority" is set to "Print Length". Otherwise, it has no effect. Additionally, length adjustments are iterative. That is, one can set the length to anywhere between plus 0.70% to minus 0.70%. Then, once one goes back in to the setting, it is still at 0%. If you were to set the length adjustment to +0.15% twice, the true adjustment would be +0.30%. In order to set it back to zero, you would then need to enter -0.30%. As far as I know, the only place to check your actual setting is in the Status Monitor application, under Information->Status Display.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Boom Stand Setup

I have finally received the stand for my Boom Setup. It had been ordered in August, but was backordered from Italy.

Red Wing Standard Boom.
Manfrotto 087NWB 3-section crank stand with Wheel Set 104G (100mm, with brakes). Maximum height is 370 cm.

Weights: 3kg for wheels, 17lb for boom, 25lb for counterweight, 21.4kg for stand.
Total setup weight: 44kg/96lbs.

This allows me to place a payload of up to 15lbs 6 feet horizontally displaced from the stand's center column. With the 48-inch extension arm (as opposed to the default 18-inch extension arm) it extends the reach to approximately eight and a half feet from the stand.

One of the primary reasons that I have gone with this boom is that it is a parallelogram design. A parallelogram causes the center column to remain horizontal (or, at least, perpendicular to the stand) regardless of the height or angle of the boom itself. Once set, an attachment such as a monolight will remain at a constant angle even as one moves the boom up and down.

Something mildly amusing is that I took two days to realize that the Red Wing Boom's bottom portion (with 5/8" female) actually is a 1 1/8" male as well, which means that it does not require any adaptors to fit into the Type 14 socket on the Manfrotto 087 stand.

Thanks to Romy Young for the photo in use.