Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Dslr with dual memory card slots vs single memory card slot dslr

A couple of readers recently sent a message to my Facebook page asking the  usage of dual memory card slot dslr cameras. Most of the professional cameras have dual memory card slots, one as Compact flash and other as SD card. Some dslr cameras have dual SD slots as well, but they are used by very few people.

dslr memory card slot
Single SD memory card slot dslr
Examples of dual memory card slot dslr cameras from Canon include:
Canon 1D Mark IV
Canon 1D Mark III
Canon 1D Mark II
Canon 5D mark III
Canon 7D Mark II
Examples of dual memory card slot dslr cameras from Nikon include:
Nikon D300S
Nikon D3S
Nikon D5
Nikon D800
Nikon D800E
Example of dual memory card slot dslr cameras from other manufacturers include:
Pentax 645D
Pentax K-1
Fuji X-T2
Panasonic GH5
Sony A9
Olympus E-M1II

The bigger question here is why do we need dual memory card slot dslr cameras and whats the advantage? Lets try to find the answer from a user perspective. Professional cameras have 2 memory card slots for a variety of purposes, although the ability to use both cards at same time varies from brand to brand. The major reasons can be broadly summarized into three categories:

Better Redundancy: Same image across multiple memory cards. This offers mirroring of same files, which in turn serves as back up. As a professional photographer, the worst scenario would be a failing memory card in the middle of a wedding. Professional photographers charge money, and clients expect them to be reliable no matter what happens. The camera writes twice in this scenario, as it has to mirror the same exact file. 

Different file format to different card: This can save a lot of buffer space and improve the speed by major gap. You can write RAW files to one memory card and JPEG files to the other. This saves a lot of time as it prevents double passing of data going through the camera every time. If speed if your top priority for a dual card slot camera, this method works wonders. 

Auto Switching: 
This category applies to users who are more relaxed about the redundancy and speed of capturing photographs. It basically means the camera switches to second card once the first card is filled.

Lastly, every manufacturer is coming up with unique ways to store different format data on multiple cards. Some Nikon dslrs allow users to write video to one memory card and photos to the other. Canon allows a user to use both compact flash type I and II cards in some dslr cameras. Also, the ability to use existing memory cards when upgrading bodies is another way to save some decent amount of money. Do you think the flexibility offered by dual memory card slot dslr cameras is worth the price? 

Friday, 28 July 2017

Best dslr lens for astro milky way photography

Selecting a dslr or lens for particular type of photography is never easy, speaking from personal experience. Photography is an expensive hobby, which is the reason we want to get the best out of every dollar spent. I am writing this post to help my readers know the various options available in the market for ultra wide angle lenses. Tokina 11-16 mm F2.8 ultra wide angle lens is still a part of my night photography or astrophotography gear. It is one of the best purchases I ever made when it comes to photography.
An ultra wide angle dslr lens is a lens having range less than 15 mm for a cropped (APS-C) sensor. For a 35 mm film or full frame camera, the value is 24 mm. In simple terms, an ultra wide angle lens covers an extremely wide area. This makes even bigger mountains look smaller when an ultra wide angle lens is used. 

There are so many third party manufacturers of lenses in addition to the existing major brands such as Canon, Nikon, Sony and Fuji. After this comes the battle of lens compatibility between full frame cropped sensor cameras. I have made a list of available ultra wide angle dslr lenses with description text explaining their compatibility with cropped sensor and full frame dslr cameras. 

Milky way dslr photography
Milky way shot taken using Tokina 11-16 mm
An ultra wide angle lens can be used for milky way, northern lights and star trail photography. Another good use of an ultra wide angle lens is landscape photography to give the image a panorama feel. Tokina manufactures good ultra wide angle lenses, and they are well known for their sharpness and less distortion. A few of the well known Tokina lenses for astrophotoghraphy:
Tokina 14-20 mm F2 -> APS-C/DX. Cropped sensor lens.
Tokina 16-28 mm F2.8 -> Full frame/FX. Full frame sensor lens.
Tokina 11-16 mm F2.8 -> APS-C/DX. Cropped sensor lens. Nikon version doesn't have auto-focus.
Tokina 11-16 mm F2.8 II -> APS-C/DX. Nikon auto-focus version.
Tokina 11-20 mm F2.8 -> APSC/DX. Cropped sensor lens.
Tokina 12-24 mm F4 -> APSC/DX. Cropped sensor lens.

After Tokina, Rokinon (also known as Samyang) is the cheap and best choice for manual focus astro photography lenses. Here are a few options from Rokinon:
Rokinon 14 mm F2.8. Full frame (FX) sensor lens.
Rokinon 24 mm F1.4 Full frame (FX) sensor lens
Rokinon 12 mm F2. APS-C/DX. Cropped sensor lens.
Rokinon 16 mm F2. APS-C/DX. Cropped sensor lens

Lastly, there are the original Nikon and Canon lenses. 
Nikon 14-24 F2.8 Full frame sensor lens.
Canon 10-22 mm F3.5-4.5. Cropped sensor lens. 
Sigma 8-16 mm F4.5-5.6 APS-C/DX. Cropped sensor lens.
Canon 16-35 F2.8 L. Full frame lens. 

I haven't tried all of the above lenses, but Tokina lenses haven't disappointed me yet. Both the pics in this blogpost were taken with a Tokina 11-16 mm F2.8 lens. It stays on my dslr 80% of the time. 

What's your favourite go to ultra wide angle lens? Don't forget to share in the comment section. 

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

What's the difference between TTL and manual mode for external flash photography?

My recent love for doing dslr photography using external flash has made me do a lot of experiments in past 2 weeks. In this post I am going to talk about the two important working modes of a dslr flash unit. This post will summarize the working of each mode of operation and which one to prefer based on your subject, lighting, etc. The mode of operation of an external flash in photography is classifies into two main types:
1) TTL 
2) Manual
TTL: Through the lens. Canon dslr models have E-TTL whereas Nikon ones have i-TTL for the same mode.
When to use: Indoor photography with rapidly changing lights, fast movement, changing angles, distance variation from subject,etc. are some major factors where ettl comes to rescue. It is not convenient to adjust the flash power every time in order to take a shot just because lighting changed. What would happen? The shot that you wanted to take might be gone by the time power is adjusted. If you are going to change aperture or shutter speed as well, try to stick with TTL. I usually like to keep TTL flash on my camera hot-shoe. 
Bad side: TTL uses 2 flashes, one for metering and other one for actual shot. This makes it really heavy on power consumption. Be sure to carry an extra pack of batteries. 

Manual: Like the word itself says, this mode involves setting the power manually. 
When to use: Outdoor portraits, studio portraits, off camera flash. This mode of external flash operation works really well when a user has full control over the subject and lighting. Example: Portrait photography. 
Bad side: For me, the only inconvenient thing was multiple physical movements required to adjust power. Not an issue anymore, there are cheap third party remotes easily available these days. 

Pro tip: 
1) Variation of f-stop in dslr photography controls flash exposure, whereas shutter speed controls ambient light.
2) The manual changing of flash power and zoom level can be done by using optical or radio based triggering. 

Monday, 12 June 2017

How to focus at infinity doing night photography?

In the previous post we talked about taking pictures of moon with a dslr. The reason for this post can be contributed to the fact that focusing on moon is still easier as compared to stars. Also, what to do when you are in middle of nowhere trying to take pictures of star trails, night sky, milky way, etc. It is hard to see your camera controls on a night without moon and away from city lights.
I recently went on a night photography excursion with a group of photographers to do astrophotography. It was pitch dark as there was no moon at all. Here are a few things that worked for most of us when it comes to focusing, pretty sure at least one of them would work for you.

1) Switch to manual mode. Go to live view and zoom in all the way using your camera functionality (not lens). Point it to the brightest star, focus by rotating the focus ring manually. Take a few test shots and see stars by zooming all the way into the photograph.

2) Use magic lantern. This software adds multiple inbuilt functionalities to your camera. Here is link to magic lantern website where you can download the zip file for your dslr camera make and model.

3) Focus (auto) at a very distant object during daytime (mountain peak or a building) and then turn into manual focus. You have to be really careful about not disturbing the focus ring which might lead to blurred images.

4) Sometimes there might be a distant light source available like a lighthouse or ocean navigation warning lights. You can use them as a source to focus your camera in auto mode and then switch to manual mode. 

Talking about the excursion, it went really well. We got to see the milky way as well for the first time, it was a priceless moment.  Here is one of my shots showing milky way over the pacific ocean. It was taken using a Tokina 11-16 mm F2.8 ultra wide angle lens on my dslr.

astro photography canon dslr
Milky way over pacific ocean

Tip: To see your camera controls in dark, buy a red colored light source. It keeps the light disturbance to a minimum level and your eyes will adjust easily. Keep in mind that some lenses focus beyond infinity, so use a marker for easy identification of the infinity focus spot.

Be a dslr pundit.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

How to use flash exposure compensation for better images?

When doing photography in a dark environment with dslr camera in auto mode, the pop up flash gets activated automatically. This is because the brain of camera thinks it is too dark, and requests help from pop up flash to throw in some light. Most of the entry and mid level dslr photography cameras have an on board flash system from the manufacturer itself. Example: Canon Rebel series, 20D, 30D, 40D, etc.
FEC(Flash exposure compensation) is the ability to adjust output power level of a dslr flash unit. The need for flash exposure compensation is due to the fact that the internal flash can cast really harsh shadows or can even lead to an over exposed subject. The adjustment of power level allows a better control over the lightning which leads to properly exposed subject. 
For most of the canon dslr cameras, flash exposure compensation value can only be changed in manual, program, aperture priority, and shutter priority modes.  The images below were photographed in a totally dark room with the external Yongnuo flash unit as the subject.

Image 1: FEC -2
Image 2: FEC Zero
Image 3: FEC +2

Decreased exposure compensation in flash

Flash exposure compensation 0
FEC Zero

FEC +2
The impact of changing flash exposure compensation is clearly visible in above 3 images. Image 3 has the highest value of flash exposure compensation, and that's why it is the brightest.

Use: This flash exposure compensation technique can be used to assist in filling shadows for outdoor portrait photography. Another use can be for indoor events. Increase the exposure compensation and use a bounce card or cover to reflect it from the ceiling. This would light up the whole area with a very pleasing light. Bouncing flash prevents harsh reflections and over exposed edges while doing indoor photography. 

Pro Tip: Camera retains the flash exposure compensation values even after switch off, restart. Let's say you finished a photography session with fec+2 and switched off the dslr, keep in mind that this value would be retained next time whenever a photograph is taken. 

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Top reasons to use high ISO on a dslr

When I started photography 2 years ago with a cropped sensor dslr, ISO was one of the terms that would make me feel nervous about my own shots. Going through various blogs, there was a general perception about higher ISO values being always bad. I made a real solid picture in my mind that anything above 100 ISO would make pictures look really ugly and noisy even when the format was RAW. 
Switching slowly from landscapes to event and indoor photography after one year, the struggle to get properly exposed shots started to become fairly evident. Cultural events, music concerts and indoor sports taught me how important is the value of ISO. The need for faster shutter speed in a low light environment is one of the most common scenarios every photographer has to face at some point in his photography journey. 

Increase shutter speed -> Leads to less incoming light
Wider aperture-> Allows more light
Environment lighting -> Already very less during events.

As seen above, a poorly lit environment makes it harder to do dslr photography even when a lens with wide aperture is available. ISO or external flash can be the only life saver here. I recently shot my first indoor dance event with a prime lens and a telephoto zoom lens. Interestingly even my 50 mm 1.8 mm struggled to get properly exposed shots because I was still in my old mindset of not bumping up the dslr ISO. The event was in progress and I was losing shots, there is no worse feeling than this. Had to swallow my low ISO pride and changed the value to 800. Voila! The shots looked much much better from an exposure point of view. I came home and copied the photos to laptop for post processing followed by 2-3 hours of post processing. Here is what I observed:
A poorly exposed low ISO shot when post processed is inferior in quality as compared to a properly exposed high ISO shot. 

Low light high ISO shot
400 ISO shot in low light at 1/15 seconds

Use of external wireless flash units can help with properly exposed shots without bumping up the ISO, but most of the events don't allow this. Astro and star trail photography is another huge branch of photography that involves usage of higher values. What do you think is a usable range of  ISO value for a cropped sensor dslr?

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

How to do macro photography using reverse lens technique?

If pictures of extremely small objects sometimes draw your attention, then this post is for you. Taking pictures of small insects, objects, etc comes under the branch of macro photography. There are multiple techniques in order to do close up or macro photography as mentioned in the list below. In the next section we will get started with the third technique i.e. reverse lens macro photography.

1) Extension tubes: Electric and Non electric.
2) Macro lens
3) Reverse lens technique.

Close up or macro photography can be done using a cheap kit lens. The quality of pics produce by using the reverse lens macro technique is simply astonishing.  All you need is a reverse lens macro ring matching your lens filter size. Filter size of my canon 18-55 kit lens is 58 mm, ring is shown in image below.

ring adaptor for reverse macro photography
                                Reverse macro ring for canon 58mm
 Once you have the ring, following are the steps:
1) The ring comes with threads. Screw the ring to front element of your kit lens. Set the lens focal length to 55 mm. Lower the focal length, the closer you have to be the subject and thus greater magnification.

reverse macro photography ring attached to kit lens
                     Canon kit lens with reverse macro ring attached

2) Disconnect the lens from your dslr body and attach it backwards. The ring has threads which help in the attaching the lens in reverse direction.

Reverse ring adapter used to attach kit lens.
                      Kit lens in reverse macro style on 40D

3) Turn on the dslr camera. F stop value would be 00 as there is no electrical connection between the lens and the dslr body. Don't worry about controlling the depth of field as of now. Manual focus lenses (ring to adjust f stop value) really help to achieve superior depth of field, will make a separate post explaining this.

4) Look through the viewfinder and go close to a really small object such as a coin, almond, pen cap, etc. Everything would look blurry and out of focus. For accurate focus, concentrate on one object and move back n forth. You will see a particular distance at which the object would get in focus. This is your optimal distance, stick to it.

5) Take a few shots and adjust shutter speed accordingly for exposure. As there is a lot of shake, I would definitely recommend either a higher shutter speed or using a tripod. To compensate for a proper exposure, in built or hot-shoe mounted flash can also help. This topic would be covered in detail in next post.

Here are some sample shots taken by me using this technique.

Reverse lens macro photography example

Reverse lens macro photography example
                                                                            Cumin Seed

Reverse lens macro photography example
                                                                           Water drops

Reverse lens macro photography example
                                                                Ray ban logo on sun glasses
Reverse lens macro photography is not an easy technique, it needs a lot of patience and practice. I would definitely add that the pain is totally worth it, as you can see the in example images. A 5 dollar reverse macro lens ring from ebay is all you need, so why not give it a try? Share your results in comments.

Pro Tip:
18 mm -> Example photography subjects: Cumin Seed, Fruit fly, Ant, etc.
55 mm -> Example  photography subjects: Currency coins, cashews, keyboard alphabet, etc.