equipment review

video clip: behind the scenes – Profoto B2 review photo shoot

For the review: Profoto B2 Off-Camera Flash, I had Erik Colonese shoot a behind-the-scenes video clip while I photographed Anelisa. It’s a fairly long clip because we decided to keep in a lot of my dialogue with Anelisa as I direct her. The video clip also expands on the review with some info on the Profoto B2 Flash (vendor), and I also touch on camera settings and using the flash.

As is usual, I want the material on Tangents to be of wider interest, even when it is a review of a specific product. There’s something in the video for everyone, regardless of your specific interest in Profoto.

As regular followers of the Tangents blog know already, Anelisa is my favorite model – she has a sparkling personality and we have a great rhythm, but more than that, she knows how to switch it on instantly for the camera. You pretty much can’t take a bad photograph of her. Now, as consummately professional as she is, she can’t see what I am getting in the viewfinder, so it is still up to me to direct her. That’s something to keep in mind if you work with models – talk to them, and guide them. It really becomes a collaborative effort then. This BTS video clip shows some of that.

For the entire photo shoot with Anelisa in various spots in Manhattan, I wanted to shoot at f/1.4 to give a very specific look. It helps isolate your subject from the background. The wide aperture meant a high shutter speed … which meant that I used the Profoto B2 in high-speed flash sync (HSS), to get this look. For more technical info, check the review: Profoto B2 Off-Camera Flash.

Thank you to Erik for shooting and editing the clip; Anna Russell for patiently assisting; and Anelisa for fueling the creative spark, and for braving the cold.

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review: Profoto B2 Off-Camera Flash – photo shoot

Over the years I have used a variety of off-camera lights on location shoots and at weddings, and have worked my way up from Dynalite and Quantum flashes (and speedlights), to the Profoto B1. The Profoto B1 (vendor) has made such a difference for me in the ease of use, the speed of setting up, and the sheer power of 500 W/s of light. I love my B1 flash. For example, here is how I used the Profoto B1 portable flash at a wedding.

Profoto has now released the Profoto B2 250 W/s Air TTL Flash, and it comes as two options:
Profoto B2 Location Kit with two flash heads (vendor)
Profoto B2 To-Go Kit  with a single head (vendor)

The Profoto B2 immediately intrigued me for a few reasons. As a quick summary, the B2 offers:
250 W/s power. (Half that of the B1)
- High-speed flash sync and
- TTL flash exposure metering, as well as a
- Freeze Mode where the flash duration is cut down to 1/15,000 sec. at lower power settings.
– It is much lighter and compact than the B1 – but this comes with a few penalties.

Before we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the Profoto B2 vs the B1, I have to mention that every review I’ve read so far, mentioned the B2 as a lower-cost alternative to the Profoto B1. However, I don’t see the Profoto B2 positioned like that – the single-flash unit is about the same price as the B1. So there’s no financial advantage there. Now, by the time you get to the 2-flash head Location kit, then the B2 kit is less expensive than two Profoto B1 heads … but still with certain disadvantages to it.

So really, I don’t think the Profoto B2 was meant to be a lower-cost option to the B1, but was meant to just be a different option to the B1. Just different. You have options. You get to choose what suits your needs best.

To test the Profoto B2, I met up with Anelisa and an assistant in Manhattan, to do a Fashion-styled shoot out on the streets. Exactly the kind of thing where the Profoto B2 is meant to excel – being a portable high-powered flash that offers high-speed flash sync, as well as TTL flash exposure metering.

The behind-the-scenes video clip adds more info about the Profoto B2. It’s a fairly long clip because we decided to keep in a lot of my dialogue with Anelisa as I direct her. That’s something to keep in mind if you work with models – talk to them, and guide them. It really becomes a collaborative effort then.

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fun with the Kodak PIXPRO SP360 action camera

The kind people at Kodak sent me a Kodak SP360 action camera to try and see what I could create with it. Essentially this is a compact 1080p HD video camera which you can attach to things to take wide-angle action video clips. Perfect if you want to take breath-taking videos while scuba diving or free-falling from planes or being involved in all kinds of daring action. It would also be perfect as a dash-cam if you want to capture the next time a meteor comes soaring through Earth’s atmosphere.

I don’t scuba dive. (I live in New Jersey anyway.) I am really not up to sky-diving. And I can’t drive around New York and New Jersey for the rest of my life, on the off-chance I’ll be there when a meteor spectacularly comes down.

Instead, I thought it might be a fun thing to attach this video camera to a trombone slider while someone is playing … and get some funky footage as the video-cam slides closer and further away. You may remember Jonathan Arons from the NYC headshots photo session and the photos of him performing in a night-club. Well, that’s him in the video.

Jonathan very kindly indulged me in this and we shot several sequences of him playing his trombone out on the streets of New York, with the Kodak SP360 clamped to the trombone slider.

There was no other rationale behind this video clip than having some goofy, surreal fun.

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review: Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4  vs  Canon and Nikon

Even when taking photography only slightly seriously, you’ll have come up against the legendary name, Zeiss. Renowned for innovations in optical designs that helped shape the history of photography, the Zeiss brand name is also synonymous with precision engineered lenses and impeccable attention to build quality. With all that behind them, Zeiss has released a new range called Otus. The first lens is a Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 (vendor) which Zeiss describes with phrases such as “the absolute measure of perfection” and “unrivaled performance”. Knowing Zeiss, this won’t be hyperbole, but a straight-forward assessment.

With their 55m lens described as the best standard lens available, I was really curious about the new 85mm Otus lens released. Really, the description on Zeiss’ website of the Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 (vendor), will send a tingle down the spine of any gear-head / aficionado. For example: “The optical correction of the Otus 1.4/85 completely eliminates almost all possible forms of aberration.”

Now, those of you who regularly follow the Tangents blog, will know that I have a fondness for the 85mm optics – the best lens to change your portrait photography. So when I had the opportunity to try out a loaner copy of “the best short tele lens in the world”, I was very curious to see how this lens would perform.

 

– Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 (for Canon)  (vendor)
– Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 (for Nikon)  (vendor)

Taking this lens out of the box is an event in itself. It’s built like a tank. A luxury tank. It is heavy and feels and looks like a top-quality lens. There’s no doubting when you hold this in your hand.

To make it more interesting, I decided to compare it with two of its closest competitors, the Canon 85mm f/1.2L II (vendor), and the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G (vendor). I used the Zeiss Otus on a Canon 6D (vendor), along with the Canon 85mm lens. The Nikon lens was on the Nikon D750 (vendor). With the cameras having similar resolution, it would be a fairly equal comparison.

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review: high-ISO performance – Nikon 750 vs Nikon D4S / D4 / D810 / D610

With the initial quick test of the Nikon D750 high-ISO noise performance, I was quite impressed. But it really is only in comparison to other cameras that we can see how good it is. With that, I took 5 of the current full-frame Nikon DSLRs to compare them against each other to see their high-ISO noise.

The Nikon D4s (vendor) is currently the high-ISO king, so it was specifically interesting to see how the 24 megapixel Nikon D750 (vendor) would compare. If you’re in a hurry and don’t want to wait until the end of this review, then here’s the good news: to my eye, the D750 is comparable to the D4S in terms of high-ISO noise. Maybe even a squeak better! But you don’t have to take my word for it, there are RAW files you can dowload and check for yourself.

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review: Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART lens

The moment you hold the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART lens (vendor) in your hand, you know it is a serious lens. It is hefty. It feels like quality. It just feels like they took craftsman-like care in designing and manufacturing this lens!

Sigma has somehow turned their image around from being just a third-party lens-manufacturer, to a company that needs to be taken seriously for quality optics. It started with the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART lens, which proved to be a spectacular lens! (Here is my review: Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HMS art lens.)

There’s been an incredible buzz around this lens – the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART lens. The initial reviews are unanimously impressed with this lens’ optical performance. Right up there with the very best. When the 50mm lens was first announced the rumored price was around $1,500 but with its official release, it came in at a relatively moderate $949.00 … but for that price, we’d expect a truly quality optic.

The good news – it really is all that! I would heartily recommend this lens.

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using the Profoto B1 portable flash at a wedding

With wedding photography, there are nearly inevitably time-constraints. It is therefore imperative that you, as the wedding photographer, are able to keep everything running as smoothly as possible on your side. Which implies that it is important that you (and your equipment) are adaptable. And it is also hugely important that your gear is easy to set up, and very reliable.

Karissa and Rory’s wedding was the first where I pulled out the Profoto B1 battery powered flash (vendor). I’m even more impressed with it now, than I was when I first tested it for my review: Profoto B1 500 AirTTL battery powered flash.  (And if you’d like to buy my previous AcuteB 600R kit, let me know.)

When using additional lighting, you ideally need a few things from your lights:
power! 
– and yet, a delicateness to the light when necessary.
speed of use is essential.

At 500Ws, the Profoto B1 dumps sunlight-levels of light, but you can pull it down 8 stops, to where the light can be used in subtle ways.

With off-camera flash, I’m mostly working with a specific distance, and then manual flash makes sense. The  Profoto B1 (vendor) offers TTL as well, and this might seem superfluous to some. But it really makes it easier and faster to get to correct exposure. You can do an initial exposure via the TTL mode, and then switch to Manual if your exposure is correct. This gives you the speed of TTL flash, and the consistency of Manual flash.

Here are more images from this wedding, with examples shot with the Profoto B1, as well as other images using various types of light ….

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Nikon D750 – high-ISO noise performance

The two things everyone is most curious about with the new Nikon D750 (vendor), is the auto-focus performance and the high-ISO noise performance. Here’s a quick preview of what the D750 does at higher ISO settings. Specifically, 3200 ISO and 6400 ISO.  (A more complete comparison has since been posted here: review: high-ISO performance – Nikon 750 vs Nikon D4S / D4 / D810 / D610)

To put the Nikon D750 (vendor) through its paces for the (upcoming) review of this camera, I met up with NYC model, Glass Olive for a photo session. In a restaurant we visited, I used the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG (for Nikon) (vendor) at f/1.4 and then tried sequences of images at 3200 ISO and 6400 ISO. Here are two more images, and a 100% crop of each so you can see what the noise pattern looks like.

A few things to keep in mind when looking at the two images:

  • the RAW converters haven’t been updated yet for this brand-new camera, so we are looking at the embedded JPG (at full resolution) that I extracted from the RAW file. So this is the straight-out-of-camera JPG with a slight detour. These could very well be improved upon when adjusting the RAW file.
  • I kept the JPG settings to the defaults, but these were shot in Vivid picture mode. So it looks quite punchy directly out of camera.
    In Vivid picture mode, the Sharpening is set to the middle value: 4.00
    The Clarity was set to +1.00
    (The WB was set to Auto 1)
  • looking at 100% crops give you an idea of the high-ISO noise, which helps with comparison. But, it is not how the image will print. We are looking at a 24 megapixel image. It’s huge. By the time you print it to smaller sizes, the noise is much less pronounced.

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portrait & headshot photography: studio lighting tools – Westcott Eyelighter

With portrait lighting for head shots, there are so many configurations – all the way from dramatic lighting, to very even light – but always keeping in mind that the lighting needs to look flattering. It is all in how we balance the various lights, and how we add fill-light.

Westcott has released a curved reflector, the Eye-lighter (vendor), and it is quite versatile:

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review: Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS — Canon redeems itself

The title there is quite an exclamation – Canon redeems itself. And you may well wonder what Canon had to redeem itself for. Well, my experience with Canon over the years has been a clouded one. A number of years back I moved back to Nikon again when I couldn’t handle the Canon 24-70mm f2.8L going out of calibration every so often. Then, there was the untrustworthy AF performance of the Canon 1D mark III. In fact, I’m still waiting for Canon to send me an apology note for that camera. In fact, for all three bodies that I owned.

But I digress … we’re talking about Canon wide-angle zooms. The final straw for me with regards to Canon, was when I had worked through five copies of the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 II and all five copies had issues and were soft to the edges. It’s all detailed in this post: Canon and Nikon. Then, I finally got to use the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G (vendor), and my struggles with soft Canon wide-angle zooms were over. I finally had a wide-angle lens that was razor sharp to the edges. And a zoom, to boot!

So with that, I was done. I had given up on Canon ever producing a wide-angle zoom that could perform. Sharp to the edges. No optical smearing. Just do what it is supposed to do – be a wide-angle zoom lens. Something the Nikon 14-24 f/2.8G excelled at. And that is something the Canon 17-40mm f/4L and the Canon 16-35mm f/2.L II didn’t quite do as well.

Then the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS (vendor) arrived, and I was curious. Could this finally be? And yes, Canon has redeemed itself. Finally, here is a Canon wide-angle zoom that is an excellent performer. You know, worthy of that red stripe.

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