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Monthly Archives: November 2017

Think Tank Photo Updates The Airport Advantage

An Expanded Version Of Their Most Popular Rolling Bag

One of my favorite Think Tank Photo bags just got better and a bit bigger and better for air travel.
 
Our friends at Think Tank Photo have just released an expanded version of one of their most popular rolling camera bags. By complying with carry-on size requirements, with the new Airport Advantage Plus roller you can keep your most valuable gear safe and near you when you fly. Plus, the roller’s ultra-lightweight design at 6.9 lbs. (3.1 kg) helps meet weight restrictions, yet features the same level of protection for which Think Tank is known. Its dedicated laptop pocket fits up to a 17” laptop in a padded sleeve, a 10” tablet, or an Eagle Creek Medium Clothing Folder for overnight trips. By using my special link, you will receive free gear and free shipping not only when you order this new roller, but any Think Tank gear. 

“Traveling photographers are finding it increasingly difficult to keep their most valuable and fragile gear—their bodies, lenses, and laptops—near them and safe from rough baggage handling,” said Doug Murdoch, Think Tank Photo’s CEO and lead designer.  “The new Airport Advantage Plus was designed with not only this in mind, but with the more restrictive size and weight requirements that go with international travel.”

 

Here’s a cool video:

Think Tank Photo’s new Airport Advantage Plus rolling camera bag is specifically designed for traveling photographers.

By complying with international carry-on requirements, photographers can keep their most valuable gear safe and near them when they fly. The roller’s ultra-lightweight design at 6.9 lbs. (3.1 kg) helps meet weight restrictions, yet features the same level of protection for which Think Tank is known.  Its dedicated laptop pocket fits up to a 17” laptop in a padded sleeve, a 10” tablet, or an Eagle Creek Medium Clothing Folder for overnight trips.  The Airport Advantage Pus holds one gripped DSLR with lens attached, one ungripped DSLR with lens attached, plus five to eight additional lenses, and a 17” laptop. Or, it can hold two gripped DSLRs with lenses detached, plus five to seven lenses. For Mirrorless users, the roller can fit two bodies with a crazy amount of lenses. It can hold up to a 200–400 f/4 detached (hood reversed) lens. 

 

KEY FEATURES

  • Multi-use interior for cameras and clothes
  • Custom designed retractable handle with inset channel on aluminum tubing for added strength and durability
  • Extra tall handle height keeps the bag away from feet when rolling
  • Tripod mount pocket on side (Additional straps included for larger tripods)
  • YKK RC Fuse zippers, ballistic nylon, and closed-cell PU foam are the highest quality materials in the industry
  • Lockable zipper sliders (lock not included)
  • Travel pouch included for organizing clothing or shoes
  • Interior zippered pockets for batteries, memory cards, filters and accessories
  • User-replaceable retractable handle, wheels, wheel housings, and front foot extends product life
  • Custom-designed, high-performance, 80mm wheels with sealed ABEC grade 5 bearings for quiet rolling
  • Seam-sealed rain cover included
  • Handles on three sides ensure rapid and easy retrieval from overhead bins, car trunks, etc.
  • Reinforced dividers support heavy gear and maintain strength over time
  • Business card holder on top for identification

 

MATERIALS

Exterior: For superior water-resistance, all exterior fabric has a durable water-repellent (DWR) coating, plus the underside of fabric has a polyurethane coating. The bag is also constructed with 420D velocity nylon, YKK® RC Fuse (abrasion-resistant) zippers, custom designed extra tall skid plates, high performance 80mm super quiet wheels with sealed bearings, rubberized laminate reinforcement, and 3-ply bonded nylon thread.

Interior: 210D silver-toned nylon, polyurethane backed high-density nylex liner and dividers, 2x polyurethane coated nylon 210T seam-sealed rain cover, closed-cell foam and reinforced PE board dividers, mesh pockets, and 3-ply bonded nylon thread.

 PRODUCT SPECIFICATIONS

Interior Dimensions: 13.4” W x 20.5” H x 4.9 – 6.4” D (34 x 52 x 12.4–16.3 cm)

Exterior Dimensions: 13.8” W x 22” H x 7.3” D (35 x 55.9 x 18.5 cm)

Laptop Compartment: 13” x 17.6” x 2.9” (33 x 44.7 x 7.4 cm)

Weight: 6.9 lbs. (3.1 kg)

 ABOUT THINK TANK PHOTO
Headquartered in Santa Rosa, California, Think Tank Photo is a group of designers and professional photographers focused on studying how photographers work and developing inventive new carrying solutions that meet their needs. They are dedicated to using only the highest quality materials and design principles and employing materials that are environmentally benign.

Marc Weisberg is an award winning photographer and Sony Artist of Imagery based in Irvine, California. Specializing in Luxury Architecture & Real Estate Photography, Food + Wine Photography, and Weddings & Family Photography, he’s easy to work with and produces clean, crisp, and technically flawless images. Marc’s photography is published internationally in over a dozen books and magazines. You can contact Marc by phone at 949.494.5084…. or email.

Photographing the Salinas Rodeo With The Sony a9 at 20 Frames Per Second!

Sony a9 Review – A Real World Scenario

What’s in My Rodeo Gear Bag

Sony a9 Review:  Earlier this summer I purchased the Sony a9 as soon as it was released.  My prime reason for purchasing it was to use it for my luxury real estate photography business.  And it dosesn’t hurt that it’s a best at photographing fast-paced action.  At the top of my summer bucket-list was photographing a rodeo.  My affinity for Americana and the tough life of cowboys, bull riding, and the PBR spurred me to reach out to a friend who photographs Salinas Rodeo. He graciously agreed to get me a spot.  So off I went to Salinas with the following gear:  Sony a9, Sony a7sii, the new 12-24mm f/4.0, 24-70 f/2.8 GM and the 70-200 f/2.8 GM.  All of it was packed into my Think Tank Airport International and stowed in my trunk for the ride up north. This is not a technical review.  If you are looking for that there are plenty out there.  Instead this is a visual review.  Seeing what the a9 is capable of visually in a real world scenario.

In the lighting fast sport of rodeo, I like to have two cameras running.  One on each shoulder. A telephoto for distance and a 24-70 for things that are closer.  To do this is use the PeakDesign Slide camera strap {see my review here,} which can be easily taken on and off when I want to shoot with a single body. The rodeo is big and there’s a lot of ground to cover and a bit of gear to shoulder carry too.  To stow my gear within reach,  extra lenses, batteries, and a bottle of water, I used my favorite shoulder bag: the Think Tank Speed Racer V.2.0  {see my review here, and why I love this bag so much}.

Sony a9 Review

Above: a9, 70-200 f/2.8 GM, ISO 4000, 1/1250 to freeze action, f/4.5. Cropped as a 16×9 Cine style for drama.

Photographing the Rodeo with the a9

I arrived at the rodeo a day early because I wanted to watch the PBR bull riders compete.  I was mesmerized, binge-watching the Netflix documentary series “Fearless,” a few months earlier which followed the Professional Bull Riding Association’s top riders for a full season highlighting the sport.  Because wouldn’t  have my rodeo credentials until the day after the PBR competition I wasn’t officially sanctioned to photograph the images. I simply took these for me as a test of what the a9 is capable of. What I quickly learned is, that I needed a 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM lens for the reach, instead of the 70-200 f/2.8 GM I had on hand. My compromise was to crop into the images to fill the frame with the riders on their bulls. Because the a9 has 24.2 mp it was an easy crop without much loss. But this isn’t the way I like to shoot. Cropping after the fact is something I try not to do. Instead, I strive to compose for the final image.  The next day, credentials in hand, I was able to get steps away from the “dirt” or sometimes right on the dirt to photograph. First time out with the a9 and first time out photographing bull riding I was glad the the a9 could capture 20 frames per second silently too. I learned a lot.  I  know that I’ll need a 400mm next time and also know that next year, my images will be even better.

Things I Learned To Improve Bull Riding and the Rodeo Photography

1)   Use as high as a shutter speed as possible to freeze action.  You’ll need to push your ISO pretty high even in a well-lit stadium. I found myself working at 4k to 5k ISO.

2)  I’m thinking about using a Monopod next time like this one: the Sirui P-326S a well built and lightweight carbon fiber monopod with feet. I’m happy with many frames but would like my images to be sharper.  And I’m thinking using my Siuri monopod will do the trick.

3) Shoot In Smaller Bursts:  I was often shooting at 20 frames per second so I wouldn’t miss any of the action.  But that quickly filled up the buffer after a while but even more, there was just too much to cull through after the shoot.  Next year, I’ll be able to anticipate some of the action.

Sony a9 Review

Above:  Screenshot from Adobe LR CC.  A 20 frame burst with the Sony a9. It was easy to see all the action with the zero blackout EVF. The buffer handled all the RAW file bursts with ease. Having the ability to photograph 20 frames per/sec. and, up to 241 RAW full-frame photos in a row, with no blackout means never missing any action. The PBR portion was photographed from the stands after dusk using stadium lighting.

About Salinas

The Salinas Rodeo is the largest rodeo in California.  At the rodeo, I encountered wonderful community spirit.  The city is located at the mouth of the Salinas Valley roughly eight miles from the Pacific Ocean and has a climate more influenced by the ocean than the hot-summer interior.  Salinas is about a 30 to 45-minute drive from Monterey depending on traffic. And about 20-minutes from the small town of Moss Landing,  a quaint, historic fishing village located in the middle of California’s Monterey Bay coastline.  Salinas is known for its vibrant and large agriculture industry and as the hometown of writer and Nobel Prize in Literature laureate John Steinbeck, who based several of his novels there.  Unlike major events where I live in Southern California, the Salinas Rodeo {pronounceded Row-day-Oh in  Salinas,} has a very small town Americana feel.  The crowds were very family-centric and friendly and there weren’t layers of security to go through to get to grandstand seating, beer and roasted peanuts in hand. The major industry in the Salinas is agriculture and its laborers are of Mexican born.  As a result, there is a great Mexican pride and heritage intertwined in Salinas rodeo tradition.

Sony a9 Review

Above: Sony a9, ISO 4000, 1/2500th/sec, f/4.5, 184mm on the 70-200 f/2.8 GM. The PBR portion was photographed from the stands after dusk.

Sony a9 Review

Above: Sony a9, ISO 4000, 1/2500th/sec, f/4.5, @ 184mm on the 70-200 f/2.8 GM.

Putting the 12-24mm f/4.0 G – To Work

In addition to testing out the a9 , I was able to push the new 12-24mm f/4.0 G to its limits.  The glass is very sharp and quick to focus.  If the camera sensor is not parallel to the image being photographed it will create quite a bit of distortion.  However, if you photograph square on, or cant to the left or right {like the second image below,} distortion is minimal.  However, if you tip the camera up vertically or down on the same axis, distortion will be quickly induced.  That being said, I’ve tested the 12-24mm G on architectural interiors and the distortion is very minimal so much so, that it is fully correctable with the LR- Lens Profiles.

Sony a9 Review

Above:  Trying out the 12-24mm f/4.0 G for the first time in real a real-world shoot, running on an a7sii.  ISO 4000, 1/800th, f/11 @ 12 mm.

Above:  12-24mm f/4.0 G running on the a7sii.  IS0 4000, 1/2000th, f/4.0, @17mm. You can see how bittingly crisp the rendering is on the 12-24mm f/4.0 G.

The a9 handling ISO 6400 like a champ. ISO 6400, 1/500th, f/3.5, @39mm on the 24-70 f/2.8 GM.

A dusk portrait with the 70-200 f/2.8 GM on the a9. ISO 2000, 1/4000th, f/2.8

Daytime portrait. I was photographing action with the 24-70mm f/2.8 GM using a high ISO to freeze action. Swung around to see this young Mutton Buster behind me waiting in line to win his next belt buckle.  He told me he’d won 5 already. Sony a7sii, ISO 5000, 1/5000th, f/2.8. This is what I most enjoy about the a7sii, even at 5000 ISO image files are clean and noise free.

 

Marc Weisberg is an award winning photographer and Sony Artist of Imagery based in Irvine, California. Specializing in Luxury Architecture & Real Estate Photography, Food + Wine Photography, and Weddings & Family Photography, he’s easy to work with and produces clean, crisp, and technically flawless images. Marc’s photography is published internationally in over a dozen books and magazines. You can contact Marc by phone at 949.494.5084…. or email.

Why I Switched from Profoto to Godox

Godox’s Broad Range of Lighting Tools Covers Everything from Li Powered Speedlights to 600 w/s Portable Strobes

Godox Review:  It was time to upgrade my entire lighting system. My Profoto Compact heads {in perfect working condition} we coming up on their 10th anniversary.  In my Profoto arsenal, I had two 300 w/s heads, one 600 w/s head, and an AcuteB600R.  Advances in flash technology in the past years have brought HSS, TTL, {wireless} radio triggers into the mainstream {no more need for Pocket Wizards} and portability in the form of Lithium-Ion battery packs.  Only two years ago Godox was still taking baby steps in the strobe arena.  Today, they have, IMHO, the most affordable and comprehensive cordless, radio triggered, strobe and lighting ecosystem on the market.

Godox works seamlessly on Canon, Fuji, Nikon and Sony. It’s the transmitters that do the heavy lifting and are coded for each camera line.  All strobes are cross-compatible with each camera system. The transmitters are designated {stamped} with a  C for Canon, N for Nikon, S= for Sony and F for Fuji. Some flashes in their line are full manual while others are both Manual, HSS and TTL. The Godox flash system works on a 2.4 GHz wireless X system to achieve wireless control in 1/3 stop increments. Wireless trigger on-board control is fairly straightforward compared to other brands I’ve used.  For instance, I tested out the robust Elinchrom ELB 400 Action To Go kit with their TTL – HSS trigger and simply couldn’t figure it out.  Even after a call to the Elinchrom support department, which was very knowledgeable and helpful, it was still a hassle and counter-intuitive to use the remote.  Not so with the Godox radio triggers and flash system.  It’s essentially plug and play. They just work seamlessly.

Godox’s Newest Addition,   Introducing   The XPRO Flash Commander

Godox newest radio trigger will be shipping soon.  “Xpro series is more user-friendly with more simple operation, users can directly assess group selection(s) to adjust the output.

SIGNIFICANT NEW FEATURES INCLUDE …

  • Large Dot Matrix LCD Screen Displaying 5 Groups
  • Individual Group Buttons
  • Displays One Group Larger with More Details
  • TCM Function – TTL Change to Manual
  • Modelling Light Control – by Group (Currently On /Off Only)
  • Adjustment of Group Power Levels (ALL Button)
  • Large Graphic Menu System with Multiple Custom Functions
  • Xpro series are included in the X system family, which can control all Godox products with build-in 2.4G transmission.
Godox XPro radio trigger

With the soon to be released XPro radio triggers for Sony {Canon and Nikon currently available} you’ll be able to access each group/flash individually without menu diving. Quicker access to all menu functions.  Retail is $69.

 


Performance

I’ve used my Godox flash system on countless luxury real estate shoots, headshots/executive portrait sessions, and studio product shoots. I’ve never encountered a single misfire.  The color temperature is consistent over a long shoot and jobs that have spanned several days. I haven’t mentioned the Lithium Ion batteries yet.  Read on to find out why they get a standing ovation.

Godox is made in China, and sold under a few different brand names {and is exactly the same – only the name and printed branding is changed}:  Godox is also branded and marketed as:  Flashpoint EXPLOR,  Flashpoint, eVOLV, WISTRO, and AD as in the AD200, you’ll see the speedlights referred to as V or TT.


Show Me The Money

I had faced with the same dilemma three years ago when I switched from Canon to Sony. At the time Sony had made some quantum leaps with EVF and mirrorless but had a small lens lineup.  A short three years later, they’ve flushed out an amazing line of lenses and are the leaders in mirrorless camera technology. Canon was starting to phase out support of some of their legacy L lenses…WTF?  And I needed to update both my lenses and glass.  The bill was upwards of $20k to upgrade my Canon system.  I weighed out the pros and cons and ultimately switched from Canon to Sony.

As I mentioned earlier, it was time to upgrade my lighting system.  I have more than one brand and needed a lighting ecosystem that I could work with, in each genre of photography that I specialize in.  To wit: Luxury real estate photography, portrait photography, food photography, pet photography, and wedding photography, studio product photography.  After almost 18 years as a photographer, you get to develop different brands. And because the economy is always in flux, its great to have different income streams that generate income when one genre is slow the other is busy.

Senior high school portraits with the EXPLOR 600 in a Westcott XXL Rapid Box as main light and 2-360’s modified by two Cheetah 55″ x 12″ strip banks.

An example of low key and hi key portrait backgrounds. EXPLOR 600 as key light, twin V860II’s for background lighting. Actor headshot left, Real Estate Executive portrait right.

Luxury Real Estate Photographer Marc Weisberg luxuryrealestateimages.com

Luxury real estate photography in Laguna Beach with Sony a7sii, V860II’s in manual mode.

Luxury Real Estate Photographer Marc Weisberg luxuryrealestateimages.com

Luxury real estate photography in Laguna Beach with Sony a7sii, and AD200 in manual mode.


How I Made My Decision

Last December I made the decision to switch from Profoto to the Godox system.  I’m big on reading reviews in lieu of being an early {first} adopter. And all the reviews for Godox’s flahses on the market were impressive. In a sense, I was an early adopter.  To me, however a real early adopter, just orders the product as soon as it hits the market, not reading reviews. My decision was based on the following criteria…I wanted a system that was:

  1. Completely wireless
  2. Internal radio triggered / Internal radio receiver
  3. Lithium-Ion battery
  4. Cordless {Totally independent of power cords, with the exception of the Flashpoint 360}
  5. TTL {I don’t rely on TTL but when photographing events it’s super helpful.}
  6. HSS {Great for those occasional times you need to shoot outdoors on a bright sunny day and bring down the sky a couple of stops. Synch speeds of upto 1/8000 sec.}
  7. Compact {highly portable}
  8. Redundancy {always have two of each (primary flashes) for back-up}

The Cost of Upgrading To A Profoto System

Profoto B1 $1,895 x 2 = $3,790  At the time there was no HSS/TTL trigger for for the Sony system.  Profoto has brought one to market.

Profoto B2 250 AirTTL with two heads = $2,695

Profoto Grand Total = $6,485 = Cost prohibitive.  Cha-ching! And we still haven’t added in radio triggers here which is approx another $120 each.


Compare the Value and Savings of a Complete Godox System.  All featuring built-in 2.4 G wireless X System} A few caveats when purchasing…some flashes must be purchases for your specific camera brand as noted below.

2 – V860II  speedlights, HSS / TTL {must purchase for your specific camera brand} :  $179 x 2 = $358

{Compare the V860II to the top of the line Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT for $479, IMO the Godox is  built just as well and does everything that the Canon flash does for about 1/3 of the price}

2 – Flashpoint Streak Light 360 {360 w/s with Li battery packs, must get Canon for Sony cameras} HSS / TTL version   $429 x 2 = $858-

1 – AD200 TTL Pocket Flash Kit {200 w/s HSS / TTL the physical size of 2 speedlights with the output power of 3 speedlights, one version for all brands, the radio trigger must be compatible with your brand} $300-

1 –Flashpoint XPLOR 600, Bowens Mount 600 w/s HSS/TTL {Make sure that you purchase the XPLOR 600 for your camera brand Canon will work with Sony.} $749-
If you want to save some money and know you’ll never use HSS/TTL go with the full-on Manual Flashpoint XPLOR 600 for $550-

2 – X1T Radio Triggers {Supports all flash functions M, HSS, TTL} 2x $46 = $92-

1 – XT32 Radio Trigger {The Canon triggers works perfectly with the Sony system. The XT32 does not supportTTL on any camera system. I use it only for full Manual control} $46-

* Please Note One Anomaly:  I’ve noticed that each of the aforementioned triggers, when in the hot shoe and turned on, will deactivate the EVF Live View on all my Sony bodies. 

GODOX Grand Total= $2,403

WINNING! That’s a 60% savings.  A no-brainer. And a complete flash ecosystem that fits all the criteria listed above. During Xmas, I found the 600 and 360 on sale and save another couple hundred dollars bringing my total purchase well below $2,000 which is a heck of a deal for a comprehensive lighting system.  When investing in any system you need to think of upkeep and maintenance costs. Replacement flash tubes for the Godox system is a fraction of the price of Profoto.  A typical flash tube replacement for a Profoto B1 is $163- while the Godox 600 is $50-.


Godox’s Lithium-Ion Batteries Deserve A Standing Ovation
Specs on paper are one thing.  Real life shoots tell the real story. The Li battery in all my Godox products deserves an SOV!   The Li batteries for the V860ii are nothing short of amazing.  Fully charged, they’ve never run out of juice on a full day’s luxury real estate shoot. Similarly, the AD200’s Li battery has done the same.  The Li power packs for the 360 flash system have lasted me three days on location photographing over 1,000 headshots 1/4 manual output pushing f/5/6 through Cheetah 55″ x 12″ strip banks on a grey seamless.  And they still had at least 1/2 the power left in the packs.  The Flashpoint XPLOR 600 almost lasted three days of location portraiture and 1,000 headshots at 1/4 manual output through a Westcott Rapid Box XXL pushing out f/8.0 at approx. 6 feet from my subjects.  I’ve never gotten anything close to this from my Profoto heads. While I do have 4 backup batteries for the V series speedlights, I do not have any backup batteries for the AD200, 360’s or the XPLOR 600.  It just isn’t necessary becasue the last so long.


Godox Review

Godox Review


Enter Bowens Mount and Some Accessories to Round Out the Godox EcoSystem

I’d been using the Profoto mounting system for a decade and brainwashed myself into thinking that that mounting system was somehow better than others.  Truth be told, I now love the Bowens mounting system. It comes standard on the XPLOR 600.  IMHO it’s easier to deal with and less expensive in the long run.  There were a few extras that I needed to get to flush out my new Godox kit.

I got these to hold my Flashpoint Steak Light 360’s and to mount light-shaping tools:  Godox S-Type Speedlite Bracket for Bowens.

This handle to use on the AD200 do I can light free-hand no-stand for my luxury real estate photography.

 

These covers to protect the flash tubes on the Flashpoint Steak Light 360’s

These pigtail cord splitter to tap into both battery ports and speed up the refresh time on my  360’s to 1 sec.

 

 

Because I save so much money on the Godox system, I had plenty of money to purchase a few new light shaping tools.  

I’m over the moon in love with the Westcott Rapid Box 48″, Octa XXL for Bowens.  I also own the Elinchrom 39″ Rotalux Deep Octa.  Both are double baffle.  But the Westcott takes less effort to set up and break down this umbrellas style octabox,  a mere 10 seconds and it costs less and is made every inch as good.  I’ve also tested both of them an see no visible difference in light quality output.  I purchased the Wescott on sale at Xmas for $199! I take this to all my on location headshot and executive portrait photo shoots. It produces gorgeous light and a super compact and highly portable package. It comes with its own carrying case, weighs next to nothing and is about 3 feet long and 6-7 inches wide with fully collapsed.

Godox Review

Finally, I’ve switched out my umbrellas {for more controlled lighting on my seamless backdrops} in favor of these innovative umbrellas style collapsable, Cheetah 12″ x 55″ Quick StripBox that have a double baffle and ship with egg crate grids from Cheetah.  I purchased two.  They ship for $128, are built just as good as Westcott’s similar product and cost 1/2 as much and literally take less than 10 seconds to set up {because these strip boxes are based on an ingenious umbrella design instead of the more common armature spoke system.

 

Marc Weisberg is an award winning photographer and Sony Artist of Imagery based in Irvine, California. Specializing in Luxury Architecture & Real Estate Photography, Food + Wine Photography, and Weddings & Family Photography, he’s easy to work with and produces clean, crisp, and technically flawless images. Marc’s photography is published internationally in over a dozen books and magazines. You can contact Marc by phone at 949.494.5084…. or email.

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