Light Meters

Sekonic L-208 Lightmeter
Ever since I started taking pictures I have never once used a light-meter I was always of the opinion that the meter in the camera was always up to the job; if it wasn’t “quite right” you just applied some exposure compensation. With practice you could also apply this before taking the picture depending on the subject, lighting conditions and camera/lens combination in use.

The meters in the cameras got better and along with centre-weighted metering came complex manufacturer created algorithm based measuring methods such as Matrix or Evaluative metering. Spot and partial (Canon’s proprietary “large spot” metering system) meters were added to the pro cameras and are now found on nearly all DSLR/CILC cameras too.

With digital photography this got easier as you could take multiple shots and if the one you took wasn’t OK you would just take another shot, bracketing your shots no longer cost anything (apart from more post capture image sorting maybe). Capturing in RAW and using software programs like Adobe Lightroom allowed even more control and some shots could be rescued from incorrect exposure settings – to a degree anyway.

Another revolution came with mirror-less cameras that allow you to fully preview the shot before the picture is taken – provided it is configured that way.

So with all of these enhancements why are light meters (still) required?

The main issue with the in-camera meters is that they take reflective light readings; i.e. they measure the light being reflected off the subject you are taking pictures of and this is different to measuring the light falling onto the subject. This is particularly evident when taking pictures of a subject that is predominately black (i.e. a Groom) or white (Bride in white wedding dress).

Assuming you can approach the subject (be that a person, animal or object) you should meter the light falling onto the subject – i.e. take an incident light meter reading; even the best camera in the world cannot do this you need a light meter. There are a few exceptions to the rule (isn’t there always) such as translucent subjects. When you start to add flash into the mix the in-camera meter has a really hard time getting the correct exposure.

I was never sure if I needed to add a light-meter to my lighting set-up that I have progressively been creating over the last few months. That was until I watched Damian McGillicuddy at work at this year’s LCE Photo and Optics show; he showed how using a meter you could gradually create lighting configuration he required (he calls this his Lego-brick method) with taking a single test shot.

Although Damian uses a very advanced Sekonic (he is after all sponsored by Sekonic) he points out that he only uses a small portion of its features, so as long as you don’t need the advanced features a more basic model will do.

Sekonic L-308s

I had a look and after a bit of research (via Google) I found that the Sekonic L-308S would be suitable for the job. This meter usually retails for around £150 but thanks to an Amazon Black-Friday lightning deal I managed to get one for only ⅔rds the price. You can read more about this meter here.

Part of my research involved looking at the various YouTube videos initially about this meter but also about light-meter usage in general. The two following YouTube videos from the PhotoVideoEDU team (www.photovideoedu.com) provide a good explanation of how to use the light meter in two different situations.

The video “Measuring and Evaluating Light in Landscape Photography” was filmed on 6th August 2012 but the techniques are still relevant and show how to use a light meter for Landscape photographs. Even though I was talking about portrait photographs earlier the principals are the same and I do take landscape photographs:

The second video “Adding Fill Flash for Beautiful Ambient Light Portraits” was produced this year (21st April) and although is typically using a much newer touch-screen Sekonic light meter still follows the same principals. The trainer also mentions how to use the older L-308S to do the same thing:

Another photographer that I respect that advocates the use of a light meter is Frank Doorhof, there are any many articles on the Internet about this, the best one to start with is the one titled “Why I use a Light Meter (and You should, Too)”, you can read this here. I recommend a quick trip to Google and search for “Frank Doorhof on light meters“. If you have a Kelby One subscription you can watch many of his training videos too and one of them goes into great detail on how he uses the light meter.

I have read through the manual a couple of times and it seems that using the light meter is quite easy; I’m glad I didn’t go for a more expensive, complex model as I would still be reading the manual now.

I also hope to learn a lot more about using light meters at the Olympus Big Shoot Experience that is hosted by Damian McGillicuddy at the end of this week (from tomorrow in fact) there are a number of training opportunities to choose from and I will be there on Thursday morning and all day Friday too. There is a Saturday option but unfortunately I couldn’t afford this as well – maybe next time Damian is in the vicinity. The shoot is taking place at Studio Antics which is just outside Nottingham (East Bridgford).

Hopefully I will be able to try-out the meter whilst I am there to see it in action.

Sony’s A7 Mark II and Forum nonsense

Sony A7-II Front

Last week Sony announced the second version of their popular “35mm full-frame” 24MP A7 camera – the A7 Mark II. Along with a number of feature updates and improvements to the Autofocus system the headline new feature is IBIS or In-Body Image stabilisation. When I read this I was surprised as they seemed to be headed down the road of Optical lens based Image Stabilisation a technology they call Optical Steady Shot (or OSS) for their zoom lenses.

What is not known at this stage if this a technology they will eventually roll out to their entire A7 range (i.e. the 36MP A7R and the 12MP low-light beast the A7S) or if this will be an exclusive feature to the A7 markII.

A lot of people are aware of the fact that Olympus and Sony are linked together in that Sony helped out when Olympus was suffering due to an “accounting problem”. The precise details of this are not publicly known and it could be expected that some joint ventures or technical licensing deals would come out of this deal.

The fact that the A7-II has IBIS and the Olympus cameras also have IBIS (and have done for some time now) hasn’t escaped the rumour sites and forums. The consensus is that Sony got this technology from Olympus. Sony claim that this isn’t the case and maybe this is true or the fact that the technology was adapted from a small MFT sensor makes it a new Sony technology is also not known.

Sony A7-II Top

For example some of the Nikon sensors are made by Sony (others by Toshiba and Aptina) even though Nikon claims this isn’t so; Nikon has no sensor fabrication capability so we don’t know why Nikon claim this. It may be that the coupling of the sensor into Nikon bodies along with their image processing allows Nikon to make these kind of claims?

So whether this is Olympus technology or not it doesn’t really matter. This is great for existing and would be Sony full-frame mirror-less users.

Forum Nonsense
I was over at the DPReview site today and was perusing the Olympus DSLR forum and one of the topics was along the lines of: “If Sony got the IBIS from Olympus – what did Olympus get from Sony?”. Although the intent of the topic was quite innocent, it is quite naive to expect a sensible answer to this from a forum; I also suspect that the answer, if this is true is very complex and will never be known to those outside of the Olympus and Sony board members.

As usual after the first suppositions, the topic had morphed into something off topic and it is this that I have a problem with. There were many users that are saying that it is now game over for Olympus as their “crown jewel” – their 5-axis IBIS technology is no longer exclusive in the mirror-less camp.

WTF? I cannot fathom why a lot of users think that the only point to own an Olympus based MFT system is because of the IBIS! I’m sorry but the main reason a lot, in fact the majority of people pick any small-sensor camera is down to weight and size.

Yes the IBIS is fantastic and when you are using an EVF (or rear screen) the only advantage to optical based IS technology is gone. Not having optical IS in lenses keeps their weight and size down and also means that legacy lenses that were created before IS lenses existed also benefit from IBIS when needed too. I was amazed at how good the IBIS system on the OM-D is but the IBIS only made me choose Olympus over Panasonic – both are MFT systems. If I was primarily concerned with video then I think that I would have picked Panasonic, but the better stills camera is the OM-D and not just because it has the IBIS technology.

Granted, a few members of the forum tried to point this out but there were drowned out by the “game over” members – I wonder what camera they use – are they actually trolls from other systems?

One day I may learn to steer clear of forums and comments on some of the websites as most of the people who post on them cannot behave and then change the intent of the forum topic or web site comments into something that has nothing to do with anything but asserting FUD!

Updated: 25th November @ 19:00 to correct the inaccuracy that only Sony made Nikon’s sensors. Thanks Anders!

LL first look at Samsung NX1

NX1_01_LARGE-0
One of the most interesting cameras at Photokina this year was the Samsung NX1, this APS-C sensor sized camera seems to including everything including the proverbial kitchen sink. This is the only recent camera release that I have not had a go of (apart from the Leica T series) but as neither of my local stores stock any Samsung gear it is unlikely I will get to see one in the near future. Also looking at the price of the camera I don’t see this appearing at the stores that normally do stock Samsung gear such as PC World or Currys for example.

However, a few of the various photographic based web sites out there have managed to get a hold of some of the initial production level camera bodies and lenses to give people like me an idea of what to expect. One of the better ones is the Luminous Landscape and the founder – Michael Reichmann – has posted his first thoughts on the camera here.

Michael has even posted a few images taken with the camera including some high ISO shots, I recommend that you give this a read. Samsung have clearly been thinking outside the box and if they can get the marketing sorted out and start to really talk to the photographic retailers and some of the pro photographers could be a force to be reckoned with. They have the money and they seem to understand how to make good bodies and glass and they are not hindered by other manufacturers as they make their own sensors too.

I will be going to next year’s Photography Show at the NEC in March next year and hopefully Samsung will decide to be there (they are not on the exhibitors list at the moment) and I will get a chance to have a go with the NX1.

You can read a more at Samsung’s site here.

You can pre-order the NX1 from WEX Photographic for £1299 here. There is also a “pro” kit that includes the body, lens, battery grip, second battery and charger but this does not seem to be available in the UK at the moment.

What do I think? Well I have invested into the MFT (Micro Four Thirds) system at the moment and I am very happy with the quality of images I get and the overall “bulk” or lack thereof so won’t be switching. If I wasn’t invested I would give this a serious consideration but I suspect that even though it is an APS-C sensor sized system it still might be too heavy for me – but I won’t know for sure until I can handle one. Maybe one of local LCE stores will stock them next year?

TCS Review the Canon EOS 7D Mark II

One of my favourite YouTube subscriptions is the TCS (The Camera Store) channel as they do a lot of photographic gear video reviews and for a store that is interested in selling gear they do provide a very fair review. They mention what they do and so not like. I cannot recommend them enough.

This morning I was notified that they have now a review of the Canon EOS 7D Mark II, you can watch this here:

Non-one knows why Canon took 5 years to develop the Mark II, there has certainly been a lot of innovation from various companies in that time and the Canon does deliver in key areas such as video, high frames-per second coupled with a large buffer, amazing AF performance, dual card slots and on-sensor phase AF for Live view and video. They do drop the ball in leaving out the touch-screen and not providing a flip-out screen though; if Nikon can do this why not Canon?

Granted this is not a camera that I am not really interested due to the size and weight however there is a problem that seems to be plaguing many Canon EOS cameras and the main problem that I had with both of the Canon EOS 70D bodies that I used to own too. Both Chris and Jordan do go over this problem in their video review and is to do with the quality (or rather lack of quality) and general softness of the files coming out of the camera.

Yes, the camera’s sensor is about a stop better than the 70D and a major improvement over the original 7D too but it is producing quite soft files with limited dynamic range. In fact Nikon’s bottom end SLR the D3300 which uses a 24MP sensor without an anti-alising filter is producing much better and cleaner files, it has a greater dynamic range and has better high-ISO performance as well.

Why Canon seem to be lacking in their sensor technology when it comes to image quality is any bodies guess but apart from add on-chip phase detect AF they are behind their main competitor – Nikon. My Olympus OM-D E-M1 does not exhibit the same image softness that I got from my Canon EOS cameras and it is a sorry state of affairs when their flagship DX model has these kind of problems.

Hopefully Canon can come out with some major sensor innovation (with regards to quality) soon for their next EOS cameras. However, if they take another 5 years to update their flagship DX body they could be out of the game especially if by then mirror-less cameras become the norm.

Olympus release Firmware 2.2 for OM-D E-M1

OM-D E-M1 Front

Hot on the heals of v2.1 of the firmware for the OM-D E-M1, v2.2 has been announced, you can read my post about version 2.1 here.

Again this was brought to my attention by 43Rumors. According to the Japanese Olympus website the update is a bug fix as follows:

The issue in firmware version 2.0 and 2.1 where bright points appear in some images has been resolved.

And like v2.1 the update has yet to hit the UK site yet. The OM-D E-M1 firmware update will most likely be available from here when it is available.

Lightroom 5.7 Available

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 07.11.07

Thanks to a tweet from Richard I found out that Lightroom v5.7 has been released today. As I use the Creative Cloud for Photographers plan I will need to use their Creative Cloud application on my mac to do the update rather than download it as the screenshot above suggests.

This version of Lightroom adds the following camera and lens support:

  • Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Canon PowerShot G7 X
  • Canon PowerShot SX60 HS
  • Casio EX-100PRO
  • Fujifilm X30
  • Fujifilm X100T
  • Fujifilm X-T1 Graphite Silver
  • Leaf Credo 50
  • Leica D-Lux (Typ 109)
  • Leica M-P
  • Leica V-Lux (Typ 114)
  • Leica X (Typ 113)
  • Nikon D750
  • Olympus PEN E-PL7
  • Olympus STYLUS 1s
  • Panasonic DMC-CM1
  • Panasonic DMC-GM1S
  • Panasonic DMC-GM5
  • Panasonic DMC-LX100
  • Pentax K-S1
  • Pentax QS-1
  • Samsung NX1
  • Sony ILCE-5100
  • Sony ILCE-QX1

Newly supported cameras for Tethered Capture in Lightroom 5.7

  • Nikon D4S
  • Nikon D810

As is usual Adobe has added a large number of lens profiles too (too many to list here). Amongst them are the Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6+ (not aware of any prior support for previous iPhones – I’ll have to check). Their are also many Leica lens profiles this time – a lot of them. No support for Panasonic or Olympus glass still :(.For a full list of lens profiles, check out the Adobe Lightroom Journal.

Firmware updates update

M.Zuikio 60mm f2.8 Macro Lens

I received my Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm f2.8 macro lens this morning (more to come about the lens in a later post) and one of the first things I checked was the firmware version. Unfortunately it was v1.0 and not v1.1 so it will need to be updated; I guess it must have been in stock for a while.

So now I have two items that will need firmware updates; the OM-D E-M1 needs to have v2.1 installed too which is now available on the Olympus UK site.

Details on how to install the updates can be found here. Unlike most camera company’s firmware updates they have to be installed via software with the camera connected to a PC or MAC; I much prefer the method where the update is downloaded, copied to an SD or CF card and that card is used by the camera to perform the update. Olympus make the process just that bit harder by having a non-standard USB connection on the camera body meaning that you have to make sure you have a suitable cable to hand too (the camera comes with such a USB cable).

I have also noticed a discrepancy in version numbers of the Digital Camera Updater software, depending upon where you start. If you start at the downloads page here and scroll down to just below the “Latest news” section it provides a link to v1.2 of the “Olympus Digital Camera Updater”; by the time you get to the download page there is no v1.2, the current versions are older.

However you get to the “Olympus Digital Camera Updater” page you are eventually given two download options:

Simply download the relevant version for your operating system and you will have the latest version of the software required to update the firmware on your camera. I have already installed this onto my iMac – it did require a reboot (I think).

As already mentioned, I will be updating the firmware on the E-M1 and 60mm this weekend and depending on how easy or difficult it is I will provide another update. I also want to test the 60mm Macro out and have a go with the Cactus radio wireless triggers and flash guns that I have as did not have the time last weekend (Scones don’t make themselves you know :) ).