Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Memory Cards.....But Were Afraid To Ask

OK, memory cards may not be the most exciting topic around, but there's that card stuck inside that expensive fancy camera and it's holding all your photos. Screw up the card and there goes that whole photo tour, workshop, weekend, outing  etc.  Card corruption only has to happen once for you to suddenly become more interested.

I happen to run across what seems to be a pretty definitive article that contains a lot of great information and suggestions. The one that grabbed me the most was a fact that I hadn't realized and will change what I do.......never delete single images from the card using your camera. I have to admit that I have done this in the past with no adverse effects, but why risk it!

The article is by Jeff Cable, and you can find it here.  It's definitely worth a read!

Autofocus Microadjustment Adjustment

A Brief Review Of Reikan FoCal Software

By now it's an old story that lenses and cameras can't be expected to be manufactured to tolerances that ensure perfect focus. If it's not an old story to you, I would strongly recommend a read of "This Lens Is Soft And Other Myths" by Roger Cicala as well as the update to that article "This Lens Is Soft And Other Facts". Oh, and this one by Cicala is good too! Inaccuracies of focus may be caused by a problem with the lens or camera, but more often than not, it's caused by mismatch of the microtolerances in manufacturing. Meaning that the lens that doesn't focus perfectly on YOUR otherwise functioning camera might focus perfectly on another of the exact same model of camera body. And vice versa, that lens that provides a perfectly sharp image on your camera body might be a bit soft when focusing with your backup body of the same model.

But what about autofocus? Of course the ability to obtain sharp images using autofocus entails all the issues discussed above, but with other added potential sources of error. Of course, that's why camera manufacturers introduced the 'autofocus microadjustment' option....and more recently have introduced the ability to input a microadjustment for both the short and long ends of zoom lenses.

For those that are unaware of this feature, it consists of the ability to 'register' a specific lens to the camera and instruct the camera to change the point of focus by a very small but specific amount compared to what it thinks is perfect when that lens is mounted and autofocus is turned on.

So what's a photographer to do? While most of my work is done with manual focusing, there are times when I walk around town or when on vacation and I want to handhold the camera looking for interesting shots using autofocus. And I never got anywhere near perfect results with my Canon 5D MK II and Canon 24-105 f4.0 IS lens even though it was pretty sharp when focused manually. In fact, some years ago I had tried using the older solution of utilizing LensAlign for manual determination of the microfocus adjustment. The keyword there is tried. It seemed tedious and I was always questioning and comparing the results of different microadjustment settings. Ultimately, I just gave up on it. (I should mention that I recently discovered that LensAlign now has automated software as well, which I have not tried).

When I received my new Canon 5D MK IV I did a brief test of tripod mounted autofocus vs manual focus with several lenses and, though the differences were small, they were nonetheless consistent. The shot I picked as sharpest (admittedly by only a small degree when viewed at 100% in Lightroom; pixel peeping at its best) was always the manually focused photo. 

So I was excited when I learned that there was software that could do the microadjustment electronically and with no human decision making involved (unless you want there to be some). I wanted to give such software a try and put it to use with my new 5D MK IV.  I discovered and purchased FoCal by Reikan and really couldn't be more pleased!

So how does it all work? First, you purchase the software via download (I am not associated with Reikan in any way other than being a very satisfied customer). Once the download is extracted there is a folder than contains the manual, another that contains the installer for the software itself, and a folder that contains printable targets. Personally I just bought one of their hard copy targets that could be mounted on the wall. Since Reikan is located in the UK I purchased their target from B&H.

You mount the target on a wall, illuminate it (instructions on minimum brightness levels etc are in the instruction manual), and connect your camera to your computer by means of the USB cord that came with the camera. OK, so there is  little 'gotcha' here. That cord isn't long enough! The manual does mention that could be the case, but that a USB cord extender could be used if the total length of the connection is kept under about 15 feet.  I got an extension cord from Amazon for under $5 and it worked just fine.

From there on in the entire process is essentially all automated. In short, you aim the camera at the target keeping it parallel (this is probably a shortcoming as there is no verification of the 'parrallelness' of the target and camera unless it is way off) and click on a target verification button in the software. This provides a direct Live View image from you camera to your computer screen with a grid for you to center the target in. Then you click on a button to check the target position. If the software senses that the camera and target are positioned correctly in relation to each other you are good to go and the software gives you a nice green checkmark over the target and, if not, a red X with an indicator of what the problem is. Once you get your green checkmark just click on the 'start test' button.

The software takes control and autofocuses the camera via the USB cable, looks at the image results after it trips the shutter (which it automatically does with mirror lockup), and then compares the results internally at multiple autofocus microadjustment settings. It is suggested that for zoom lenses the test be run at both the widest and longest focal lengths, as both Canon and Nikon allow you to enter a separate microadjustment calibration for both ends of the lens's focal length.

In some camera models the manufacturer does not allow the microadjustment to be changed via the USB cable (the models are listed on their website). The Canon 5D MK IV is one of those models, which initially put me off. It shouldn't have. In these cases the software talks to you and says "please change the telephoto autofocus microadjustment setting to -20" which you do manually and then click OK to continue the test. During the course of the testing it will ask you to do this five or six times. Then, when the test is over the software has you set the adjustment to the correct setting. The entire process takes maybe five  or six minutes per lens. Frankly, it took me much longer to get the target mounted and illuminated with the camera set up on a tripod connected to the computer than it did to run the test.

So how did it all turn out? I tested several lenses; the ones that I am most likely to shoot with handheld. They all 'required' microadjustment calibration. The one with the biggest adjustment was that 24-105 I started this story with. When I reran some tests shooting newsprint before and after the calibration there were definite differences.  Pre-adjustmet I could always pick out a difference in sharpness that was consistent when viewed at 100% and it was always the autofocused shot that was softer. After the microadjustment both the autofocused and manually focused images (examined at 100%) were most often indistinguishable to my eye and, if there was a discernible difference, it seemed to be both minimal and randomly distributed between the autofocused and the manually focused versions.

Overall, I found the software simple to use and was very pleased with the results. I recommend it highly if you are interested in making these sorts of adjustments to your camera!

Canon ImagePrograf 2000 Review - Part II

Unboxing, Moving, And General Impressions:

Part I of my review, Getting It Into The House, can be found here.

I have never been one to be overly excited about 'unboxing' information. But given the struggle to get this wide format printer into the house there is something to be said for assessing the packing material. In my mind probably the most important part of this involves how the printer is situated relative to the wooden shipping palette itself. In this case, the bottom of the wooden palette actually only has a very thin piece of cardboard covering it BUT there are two large pieces of Styrofoam that lift the printer off the surface of the wood and appear to provide good protection from palette damage. The top and sides of the printer are also well protected with Styrofoam, which has cutouts at the top to hold the supplied ink cartridges (starter cartridges only.....just like Epson....nobody wants to give the consumer a break!), printhead, and parts for the printer's stand.

Once the machine is unpacked and the stand assembled the next challenge is getting the printer to where you want to keep it. One no longer has to worry about a 300 pound palette. The printer itself weighs 'only' 185 pounds. Not too bad. However, it is VERY bulky and you have to be careful to lift it only from certain areas that can support the weight. There are very nice built in 'handle grips'. Two strong people can lift it, but more would be preferable.

But where to put it? Unless your home 'studio' or office is on the first level of your home, the machine is going to have to go up or down stairs. My situation was a real challenge. In the city where I live the homes can be very old and have a fairly unique architecture that is common in the region. My house is well over 100 years old and my 'studio' is on the third floor. Homes of this age are typically built with third floors! And worse, while the stairway to the second floor is normal in size, the stairway from second to third floor is extremely narrow and makes a 360 degree turn!. My Epson 7900 required professional movers to get the machine up to the third floor and I took the same approach with the Canon. It was NOT easy, but it was accomplished, though the machine did have to be turned on its side to traverse the 360 degree hairpin turn. Plan for the difficulty of moving the machine once unboxed!

In order to provide some information that I would have found very helpful, but was unable to locate on-line, I am going to give the maximal measurement for each of the machines dimensions (in inches) OFF the stand. The Canon website seems to insist on including the stand. The length is 43 3/4 inches , the depth (front to back) is 28 1/4 inches, and the height (top to bottom) is 25 inches. This information may be useful if you are trying to figure out if the printer will fit through a door or up a stairwell. The stand is no problem as it comes unassembled.

So what about the build, particularly as compared to my old Epson 7900?

The entire machine is structured very differently from the Epson printer. The ink tanks, paper roll holder, and paper feed are all in different locations. Once I get the machine going and get facile in its use I will be able to tell if I feel the arrangement is any better, worse, or the same. However, the Canon, to me, does feel somewhat 'flimsier' or more 'plasticy' than the Epson. Of course, this also contributes to its being a bit lighter, which is very helpful in terms of moving the machine to where it needs to be. Other than for protection while moving I doubt that the difference in build is likely to be meaningful in everyday usage.

The printer stand is solidly built and easy to assemble.

There are two items which I feel are missing and should have been supplied. First, no USB cable for connecting to the computer.....really?? And how about a printed manual. There is a small printed pamphlet on loading up the inks, inserting the printhead, and starting and calibrating the printer. But beyond that you are referred to the on-line manual. I do think that for a device as sophisticated as this, enclosing a printed manual (Epson does) is really scrimping in a foolish way.

Coming in August......firing up the printer, ease of use, and subjective print quality!

The Canon ImagePrograf 2000 makes it to its third floor 'resting place'

Canon ImagePrograf 2000 Review - Part I

Getting It into The House:

As I have mentioned in prior posts, after my Epson 7900 wide format printer died (again) I decided it was time to switch printer brands and ultimately decided to replace my Epson with the new Canon ImagePrograf 2000 wide format (24 inch) printer. This new printer is based on technology in the ImagePrograf 1000 printer, which has been out for months, and has received very good reviews. 

I have not been able to find any reviews of the ImagePrograf 2000 on line, so i thought it might be of some use for me to do a review of my own. However, because of various commitments which don't give me much block time until mid August, I won't be 'firing' up the printer until then.  I don't think learning a new device such as this should be done in short random increments. However, at this point I have unboxed the printer and had it moved up two flights of stairs. So I can talk about that now and return for more installments once I get the machine working.

Be prepared.....making the jump from a 17 inch to a 24 inch printer is a huge step that encompasses more than just another seven inches. The printer was delivered by a lift-gate truck on a wooden palette.  This 'big boy' weighs in at 300 pounds (including the palette) when fully packaged, though the printer itself 'only' weighs 185 pounds. The truck drops the palette on your sidewalk. Period. That's it. The rest is all up to you. You need to know what you are in for if you are a private individual, as opposed to a printing firm with a storefront.

So the first challenge is getting a 300 pound wooden palette into your home. In my case it involved getting it up two stairs at first, down a walkway about 15 feet long, and then up another 9 or so stairs and through the front door. Luckily my home is old and has a very large front door. Otherwise it would have to be unpacked and brought in without the packaging. Not good if it happens to be raining on the delivery date.

So how did I fare? Well, I arranged for the delivery to be on a day when my 22 year old son was home and I planned to see if the truck driver would help me if I paid him a bit on the side. In the past some drivers have been willing to help while others are not. Luckily, this one was. He had a palette lifting fork that could lift the palette about two inches off the ground. This was just short of getting the edge of the palette onto the first stair. But it did let two of us grab the edge of the wooden palette and get it onto the first stair while the palette lift was being removed. The three of us were then able to lift it onto the walkway, slide it forward, and then use the palette lifter to roll it down the walkway to the 'real' set of 9 stairs and to where the big challenge was.

The three of us could not simply lift the palette and walk it up. Even if we could lift a combined load of 300 pounds, it is just too big and bulky to be able to balance. With four people maybe. Maybe. My other concern is that the palette is meant to be lifted via fork lift, which supports the palette under its entire length. When people lift it, they hold the wooden palette by the edges which means that the weight of the device is borne by the unsupported center.  With the ImagePrograf 2000 this was fine and the palette held up. I would be pretty concerned though if this were the ImagePrograf 4000 48 inch printer. I believe that palette, when delivered, weighs in at about 450 pounds. That would have been essentially impossible to get up stairs and even if I had many friends help I don't know if the palette, held at the edges, would have held up without breaking. Perhaps it would have. 

So here is how it worked. Two people at one end of the palette lift and pull while the person at the rear pushes, in order to slide one end of the palette onto the stair and rest. Repeat. Nine times. At the bottom of the picture you can see how this type of activity actually broke a piece off the bottom of the palette. Then, at some point the entire palette is at a steep angle and the person in the rear has to ensure it doesn't slide down. Once it gets onto the top step lift from the back and push to get the palette onto the landing. Then tilt an end up and get a throw rug under the palette. Pull the palette into the house on the rug to protect the floor. We're in!

Sydney, the cat, halfway down the right side of the picture, was totally unperturbed by the whole process.

Canon ImagePrograf 2000, as delivered.

For the next installment, in a few days, I will describe the unboxing and my impressions of the general build. Then I will take a bit of a break from the review process until I get the printer functional.


The Perfect Lens

by Howard Grill I have written before about issues regarding 'good' and 'bad' copies of the same lens, mostly by referencing some of Roger Cicala's great articles.  Well, Roger has done it again.....demonstrating the wide variety in lens test results from different copies of the same lens and also showing that for the most part, when it comes to making photographs and not pixel peeping, the variations make very little difference.  These variations will never be eliminated unless a company wants to sell single lenses for a small fortune each.  There are however, some grossly faulty copies that occasionally sneak through and these should, in fact, be removed by quality control and do visibly effect the appearance of the photo.

The article makes for an interesting read and can be found here: "There Is No Such Thing As a Perfect Lens".

Gura Gear Bataflae 32L Review

I recently purchased the Gura Gear Bataflae 32L camera bag and sold my Kiboko bag. I ended up never really using the Kiboko because I just didn't like the fact that I couldn't completely open it in the traditional style.  I purchased the Bataflae just prior to going on a trip to Smoky Mountains National Park and got to give it a good 'real life' workout.  Given the relatively hefty price tag for the bag, I thought I might review it in a slightly different way.  Most of the reviews out there are exceedingly positive and say little about the negatives or areas of possible improvement with the bag.......I want to give 'both sides of the coin'. Let's start with the positives:

1) It is extremely well made, no question about it....high quality craftsmanship.

2) The sailcloth it is made from seems to live up to the durability that Gura Gear claims

3) It holds a ton of camera gear.  I fully loaded mine for the trip and, even if it were bigger, I don't think my back could carry much more.

4) As most reviews state, the zippers are amazing.  Why get so excited about zippers? Zippers are often a weak point in bags, especially the internal ones (I don't think I have a single Lowepro bag where the internal zippers still work properly!).

5) Great array of flaps and pockets for smaller pieces of equipment

6) It feels comfortable when worn

7) The ability to open the entire cover like a more traditional bag is a big plus, at least for me.

But you can read all the above in an array of on-line reviews.  I am going to now talk about what I think (opinion here) are the areas that could be improved upon and that I didn't find mentioned in other reviews:

1) OK, this first comment isn't really going to be a negative, but just a statement of compromise.  The bag, to me, clearly seems less protective than the Lowepro and Tamrac bags that I have had or have.  The dividers are thinner, less rigid, and less padded, as are the sides and bottom of the bag itself.  If I had to put all my equipment in a bag and drop it onto concrete this is not the bag I would choose.  Would the equipment survive......I have no data to base it on, but my sense is that it probably would.  But, despite having no hard data, I just don't feel that the protection is as great as in the other bags I have owned.

But here is the kicker.  It is far lighter than those other bags.  I can't load up and wear those bags for very long.  So if the gear is better protected but I can't bring what I want because I can't wear the bag, then what good does it do me?  In short, I feel that Gura Gear has really hit a very nice compromise between protection and weight/usability.  If you want to carry very little gear then, by all means, get a bag built like a tank......because putting a body and two lenses in it isn't going to make it weigh very much more.  But if you are like me and would like to bring the kitchen sink if you could, then I think this bag really hits the 'sweet spot' between weight and, in retrospect, perhaps I should have listed this comment as a positive.

2) I think Gura Gear made a poor decision in increasing the depth of the bag compared to the Kiboko.  Now this is a personal opinion and may simply reflect the equipment I own, but there aren't any lenses that I can stand upright in the Bataflae that I could not already stand upright in the Kiboko.  So why make it a bigger bag, making it that much more unlikely to get on board a plane or regional jet, etc.  For example, I can not stand my Canon 180 macro or 70-200 upright in the bag.  All the other lenses that I can stand upright, I could also store in the same position as the Kiboko.

3) The top flap for smaller items that opens without giving access to the inside of the bag is very, very convenient.  But why only allow it to zip on two sides, limiting accessibility to the inside. The only reason I can think of is that the pocket, while very large, is shallow and if you opened it all the way perhaps objects it contained could spill out.  However, there are pockets within the flap to contain items and that is where I store things, not loose inside to 'jangle' around.

I think that a better design would be for the zipper to go around three sides of the flap to improve opening and access.  A compromise might have been to have it go around three sides with an expandable pocket along the short third side to keep the flap contained but able to open wider.

4) A warning:  Using a bag with side flaps as opposed to the traditional opening design takes some getting used to.  With the traditional design, if the bag is open it is clearly open.  Even if you close the cover and don't zip it up you can pretty easily tell at a glance that the bag is open.  In the side flap access method, the flap doesn't really lay open if the bag is loaded.  With there being two flaps, it is easy to look at the bag from the side of the closed flap and think both sides are zipped.

True horror story:  One day during the trip I was exhausted from the early morning sunrise shooting and, since it was bright in the afternoon, took a mid-day nap.  When the alarm woke me in a daze to get things together to go back out for the evening shooting, I put the bag on thinking it was looked closed.  In actuality, I had left one side flap unzipped in order to put a new card in the camera. I made it all through my carpeted motel room and down the stairs out to the car when out crashed my brand new Canon 24-70 f2.8 L MkII lens to the pavement.  Goodbye VERY expensive lens with the front element scratched , a noise inside when you shake it, and 'jamming' when you zoom past 5omm focal length!  So it is always good advice to make sure you are all 'zipped up'!

5) Though the sailcloth is quite tough, my gray bag developed a small yellow/orange stain after it was in use for only a few days.  I am not sure where it came from but I certainly wasn't dripping any foreign substances onto it.

In summary, I do think that this is an excellent bag for people that would like to carry around a fair amount of gear.  It is an extremely nice compromise between weight and protection.  But, as my friend Bob who went on the trip with me always says, 'everything in photography is a compromise'!  And he's right.

The above caveats notwithstanding, I do recommend highly recommend the Bataflae!

Lens Testing

Getting a new lens is really great fun, no doubt about it.  It opens up whole new creative possibilities.  But there is always just that little bit of concern (especially if the lens is expensive)......did I get a 'sharp copy', is it as good as it 'should be'?  No doubt one can go a little too far when it comes to lens testing and end up spend more time testing than using.  I know the thought of testing makes me crazy.  So what is a person to do? Well here is a great article on lens testing that is reasonable by Roger Cicala of with some very good advice on what to do to ensure that your new lens is all it should be.  A very worthwhile read!

Quick Quotes: James Brandenburg

" I realized the most important part of a photo was not the subject matter.  Vision--or how you viewed things--was the most important part"

James Brandenburg

We all want to go to "other" places to photograph......I do to.  But great photos can be made close to home as well.  It just depends on looking at things you are familiar with a different set of eyes.  This quote is a great reminder of that!

You Just Never Know What You Might Find

I think it is interesting that no matter where you go with a camera you can always be surprised by seeing the unexpected.  Perhaps that is because when you are out with the purpose of making photographs you are in the mindset to look and see deeper and use a visual process that is different from your everyday one. Case in point.  I wasn't really sure where I wanted to go two weeks ago to try to make images.  I ended up telling myself I would take a quick trip through a very large cemetery not too far from my home.  I had been there before and frequently found some interesting headstones.  There is also a small pond and a large willow tree there.  But the pond is artificial and things grow pretty wild in it, so I didn't expect to find much at that location.

I guess I was never there at this time of year before, because the pond was filled to the brim with water lilies.  In fact, there were so many growing every which way that it wasn't particularly photogenic.  I thought things might be simplified if I photographed an isolated one close up, but they were seemingly all too far away from the shore for that. So I took a walk around the pond and found one, only one, that was close enough for me to take its portrait:

Lotus Blossom

Copyright Howard Grill

You just never know what you are going to run across when making photographs is your main objective.  And I think that is part of the joy of photography!

Epson Woes Update

In past posts I have documented the woes I have had with my Epson 7900 printer. The first one I had required a printhead replacement within the first two weeks of use and the machine ultimately died an untimely death of printhead failure about three years later (far too prematurely for a machine of this price), but not before I got to sink close to $700 into repairs that did not fix the problem.  The repairs are criminally expensive, monopolied to one firm, and seem to follow a script of sequential and escalating repairs until the problem resolves, which is great if your machine is under warranty but, well, not so great if it isn't.  Rather than throw good money after bad, I elected to stop at $700 when the next step (replacing the printhead) was going to cost over $1800 when labor was included, with only a 90 day guarantee.  For little more I could buy a new machine with a one  year guarante, which is what I did.  Stupid, perhaps, but I went with another of the same printer thinking that the first was anomalous. The other day I ran across a great video on how Epson repair charges $300 for changing out a $13 part that literally takes 50 seconds to do.  Even if you don't have a 7900, this video is worth the very brief watch if only to see the absurdity of it all.  Now, if he would just tell us where one can purchase the $13 part!

Watch this great video on the Epson 7900 wiper cleaner assembly change.  The video looks like it is 'under construction' but if you just click the start button it plays.

Hammer Forum

I had to take a break from photos in order to post the following, so that everyone could get a good laugh.  I am sure that many who read this blog have had the opportunity to check out more technically oriented photography forums and read some of the banter back and forth about what is better....Canon or Nikon, PC or Mac etc.  Lately, with new Nikon (D800) and Canon (5D Mk III) cameras being released almost simultaneously, these arguments have reached new heights.  For a humorous satire about these arguments check out this piece by Roger Cicala.  Only then will you understand the title of this post!

Epson 7900: More Frustration

About 2 1/2 years ago, when I first bought my Epson 7900 printer, I did a series of posts related to my unhappy initial experience with the output related to what appeared to be linear 'scuffing'.  At that point, since the machine was only days to weeks old, it was still under warranty.  After several 'house calls' by the service team the printhead was finally replaced, as nothing else seemed to do the trick.  As soon as the printhead was replaced the machine worked perfectly and delivered beautiful output.  I have to say that it wasn't as easy as it should have been to get the repair done because I wasn't using Epson paper and the service agents, over the phone, kept repeating that they could not warranty the machine for output onto non-Epson media, which was, of course, total nonsense. They finally agreed to service this brand new machine after I mailed them the output, including output on Epson media, showing that it occurred on their paper as well. Now, as I need the printer more than  ever since : i) I am trying to finish the project I have alluded to in this blog several times and ii) it appears that a nearby institution might make a sizable purchase of my artwork.....I have discovered a problem.  I noticed horizontal banding, mostly in the highlights limited to neutral coloration and when I print in black and white.  Printing a gray square showed why.  There is severe horizontal banding when I print gray/light black that is not present in other solid colors.

A nozzle check revealed a small area of nozzle clogging in the Light Light Black ink. The clog would dissolve with regular and power cleanings, though even when open the line of the nozzle pattern 'stairstep' seemed light, and then some nozzles would drop out a minute later.  A small fortune of ink and a maintenance tank later (related to power cleans) it still prints with gross horizontal banding.  This persists even with two head alignments.

Of course the machine is now out of warranty.  Though the printer has been used only very lightly, complex machines break and I would just attribute it to bad luck.....and bad luck always comes at the worst times.  However:

i) When I look 'out there' on the internet it appears that this is a known problem with the 7900, specifically in the Light Light Black channel, possibly attributed to the chemical composition of the ink.  It does not seem to happen in the other channels.  It does not seem to be a simple 'clog', and my experience bears that out.  Simple nozzle clogs are easily removed with the regular cleanings and don't recur within seconds.

ii) Once Epson tech support recognizes that the machine is out of warranty, they do very little to help except set you up with a service visit.  This too is well reported on the internet (with the realization that people don't usually take the time to post about good interactions in forums).

iii) Epson has a service agreement with only one service company (they don't do the repairs themselves), so there is no competition.  The cost, in this instance?  The charge will be $100 for them to travel here (even though there is a local office), $175/ hour labor and they want to start by charging my credit card for $1712 (yes, you read that right) in parts to be shipped by Epson, with the caveat that they will refund the cost of parts they don't use.  The whole printer cost $2500-3000 when I bought it.  The repairs are rapidly approaching the cost of the printer itself and may even exceed it when you start counting in the price of the ink/tank used for the initial cleanings.  This seems like highway robbery, but what else can one do except go along with it (or buy a new printer)!

My Lens Is A Bad Copy

Back in May, I wrote a post entitled "I Have A Bad Copy Of Lens X", which referred to an article written by Roger Cicala about the variances and tolerances involved with the manufacture of cameras and lenses and how these factors play into the conclusion that a particular copy of a given lens is 'soft'.  Cicala has now written an excellent summary article on the same topic that incorporates  many of his former writings on the subject into one concise piece. If you have ever wondered about the validity of 'soft' or subpar copies of a lens, this is the place to learn about some of the realities involved.  The article is entitled "Variation Facts And Fallacies".

What About Us Still Photographers?

It has been some time since the Canon 5D MkII has been updated, and rumors of the 5D Mk III abound.  However, I find it disconcerting that most on-line discussions seem to focus on a new camera's video capabilities.  I understand how exciting video capability is to some people, but I miss the days when speculation and improvements were directed towards still imaging.  Frankly, I find trying to produce the highest quality still images that I can extraordinarily challenging.  I don't know where I would even find the time to try to learn video capture to the level of quality that I would want to achieve. Is it too much to ask for the ability to capture 7 or even 9 exposure bracketed images in this era of HDR capture (Nikon in this price bracket can)?  How about better noise characteristics at 400 and 800 ISO?  The ability to capture in-camera multiple exposures (yup, Nikon can)?  Improved auto-focus? GPS tagging in camera (OK, I could let that one slip by and be none the worse for the wear)?  An articulated LCD to be able to get higher or lower tripod mounted angles while using Live view to focus?  The ability to g0 +/- 3EV without calculating exposure and going to manual? Yes, the newly announced 1D-X does many of these things, but at an almost $7000 price tag.

Really, I would rather have these things than improvements in video capture.  In fact, for me, I would gladly give up the ability to capture video if Canon would just deliver these features in a reasonably priced model with a top notch full frame sensor!  Ah well, I guess I must not be the type of consumer being targeted by the marketing departments.  I don't know, perhaps I am alone in this........

Dirty Lens....Not To Worry

As photographers, we try to obtain the highest quality images that we can.  Of course, it is not the pure technical quality of an image that makes it a succesful one, as there needs to be a compelling subject as well.  All other things being equal though, we would all like to obtain the best quality image of any given subject that we can.  So we try to keep our equipment clean and protect the exposed front element of our lenses one way or another.  If we buy used equipment we look very carefully for any scratches etc that might be on our new lens. Now, I am not implying that we shouldn't be doing any of the above to try to ensure that we obtain the best image quality possible.  But did you ever wonder how much scratches or dirt on the front element really effect image quality?  Well, have a look at Kurt Munger's Dirty Lens article here and find out.

I do wonder how much more might be found if the images presented were inspected more enlarged or printed large and if the effect might be more obvious if the lens in question were a higher quality one but, nonetheless, the answer seems to be that these imperfections of the front element do far less than one might think!

Along the same subject line here is an interesting, if not a bit absurd (with a bit of humor ) article by Roger Cicala of on shooting through filters entitled "Good Times With Bad Filters".


Lloyd Chambers

There is a sense that everything available on the internet should be free of charge.  Well, there is certainly a lot of free material, but how much of it is good....I mean really good. When I first found the information that Lloyd Chambers makes available as subscription sites, I wasn't overly interested because you had to pay.  But something kept nagging at me.  The "Table of Contents" to his on-line writings sounded good.....I mean really good.  I figured what could I lose but a few bucks, and so I subscribed to one of his subscription only sites.  It was well worth every cent.

Lloyd has put together material that will educate you, help you make choices, and help you to become a better photographer.  His work centers around the technique and technical, as opposed to the aesthetic.  His in depth writing covers topics deeply, leading to your having truly garnered a better understanding of any subject he writes about.  Within a short time I ended up subscribing to three of his topical sites and am glad that I did.  My favorite?  His work entitled "Making Sharp Images".

Check out all his writing.......

His free blog is here.

"Making Sharp Images" is here.  VERY HIGHLY recommended!

His "Guide To Digital Infrared Photography" is here.  If infrared is an interest of yours, this contains a wealth of information.

The "Guide to Zeiss ZF/ZE Lenses" is here.  Don't bother spending your hard earned money on a Zeiss lens until you read what Lloyd has to say about each one.

Finally, his "Guide To Advanced Photography" is here.

Here is a selection of Lloyd's articles that he makes available as sample freebies.

If the table of contents of any of these series captures your interest, just will definitely be glad you did.

I Have A Bad Copy Of Lens X

When reading about different lenses or browsing through used lens ads (don't all photographers do that??) it is hard not to read that this is 'a great copy' or a 'soft copy' of any given lens.  We all want those great copies......right?  Well here is a great article about why that great copy of a given lens might not be so great on your particular camera body........that, and lots of other interesting information about why manufacturing tolerances guarantee differences between samples of any lens on today's high resolution digital cameras. This is a really interesting read.  Check out "This Lens Is Soft And Other Facts" here.

Using The Singh-Ray Vari-N-Duo Filter

I own the Singh-Ray Vari-N-Duo filter and find it quite a useful creative tool.  I thought I was using it properly, but then ran across a YouTube video of photographer Jason Odell explaining how he uses it.  I found the video very helpful. While I had been using the filter reasonably correctly, I did find a few great tips in the video that I will put into use, such as picking a specific white balance setting and not using auto-balance (which is good practice anyway, but more important here) and picking your aperture and shutter speed manually and then rotating the filter to achieve the exposure, instead of vice-versa.

Anyway, I found some nice tips here and thought I would share it.  If you own and use the filter, have a peak at this instructional is well worth the 5 minutes.  Check it out at the link below:

Var-N-Duo Filter