Tag Archives: studio

The Pentax 645Z Non-Scientific First Impressions

Becky At The Refuge

Self-Portrait taken with the 55mm lens at the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, Texas

I believe I mentioned  in a recent post that I’d sold my firstborn (ok, I don’t have kids so that’s not entirely true – I sold someone else’s firstborn – just kidding) to purchase a new Pentax 645z medium format body and a couple of used lenses (the 55mm and the 28-45mm zoom).  I haven’t really gotten out with it, much; this camera is sort of like saving the “good” silverware for use at that special dinner party.  Also, I currently live in a part of Texas that is totally blah when it comes to scenic landscapes, especially in the summer. Hey, I was born in Montana and also lived in Washington State, so I tend to measure everything else by those yardsticks.  I did, however, need to get the camera set up and start learning how to use it so I wouldn’t be wasting valuable sunrise or sunset time fumbling around the controls during its use while on vacation.

I’ve got several reasons for adding this camera to my Canon family:

  • I’ve wanted to follow in my father’s photographic footsteps.  After all, Dad is the person who instilled in me the love of photography.  Back in the day, when the family lived in Montana, Dad would take his Mamiya medium format film camera and drive up to Glacier National Park or maybe Big Mountain in Whitefish to spend the day capturing the scenery.  One of my bucket list goals is to get up to Big Mountain in Whitefish, Montana, and photograph the snow ghosts in black & white with my new medium format camera, like Dad did.
  • It’s been a great desire of mine to try out medium format for landscapes as I love the dynamic range capture ability of medium formats.  To see the sensor of a medium format camera compared to the sensor of a full-frame camera is always an eye-opener.  Sure, I could rent a medium format, but I figured that for the price of repeated renting (basically to take along for each and every one of my vacations), I might as well just buy the camera outright for use for the rest of my life (fingers crossed that I at least live long enough to justify the price of camera and lenses).
  • I’m really interested in comparing the 645z to the Canon 5DSR

Don’t get me wrong.  I LOVE my Canons.  I love Canon glass and I love my 1DX and 5DSRs.  That won’t change.  The Pentax 645z is like the rich aunt coming to live with the family, promising to buy a new house of the family’s choice, for the family’s use in perpetuity.

Why did I choose the Pentax 645z, a camera that’s been around since 2014, as opposed to the new Hasselblad X1D-50c mirrorless or the Fuji GFS 50S mirrorless?

  • Price – I wanted a new, not used, camera body. That was non-negotiable. On the BH Photo site, the Pentax lists at $6,996.95, the Hasselblad sells for $8,995.00 and the Fuji sells for a comparable $6,499.95.
  • Online reviews and sample images; I used Flickr.com a lot for sample image review.  I must admit that the images are all comparable, so I knew that whichever medium format camera I chose would produce great pics.
  • Established quality and reliability.  The Pentax is a great brand and it’s been around long enough to have established its quality and reliability with users (a Pentax was my first SLR purchase when I entered high school, eons ago).  Hasselblad – well, that goes without saying, and I did consider purchasing this camera except that it is more expensive and the wide-angle landscape lens I wanted to pair with the camera (Hasselblad XCD 30mmHasselblad XCD 30mm) has been on backorder forever.  The Fuji looked interesting, but it’s brand-spankin’ new, I’ve never used a Fuji before (nor have I ever used a mirrorless, actually) and it didn’t have enough reviews or images to change my mind away from the Pentax.  It’s also easier, at this point, to find used Pentax lenses from places like KEH and Lensauthority.
  • AF fine-tune adjustment (aka micro focus adjustment).  This was the major deal breaker for me (aside from price).  I wanted the camera to have some sort of AF fine-tune adjustment in its menu.  I don’t care that lenses are supposed to focus perfectly with all cameras of the same brand – they don’t.  I have had to use micro-focus adjustment on every single one of my Canon L-lenses to make sure they focus correctly between all of my Canon models.  I read that legacy lenses for the Pentax (like the 55mm lens I own) have front/back focus issues and need to be adjusted.  In all my research, I never found out if the Hasselblad or the Fuji had the ability to fine-tune focus.

Below are my first thoughts of the camera right out of the box and after a couple of very short photo sessions:  a morning session at the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, and a session at my DIY studio in my apartment.

Out of the box:

  • Without any lens attached, it’s actually as light as my 5DSR and definitely lighter than my 1DX.  It feels like that to me, anyway.  The heaviness comes from the lenses. That 28-45mm zoom lens I have is a freakin’ tank!  The 55mm lens, on the other hand, is light as a feather.  Ok, allow me to amend this:  any lens affixed to the Pentax after hefting the camera with the 28-45mm zoom attached would feel light as a feather.
  • The Pentax 645z body is sort of “boxy” compared to my Canon’s, but I love the grip – it’s a deeper grip which allows my small arthritic fingers to get a better handle on the camera.
  • This camera has a built-in remote receiver, so I don’t have to attach a wireless receiver to the hot shoe or any other internal attachment point like I do my Canons.  Plus, the Pentax wireless remote sender is cheaper than the ones purchased for my Canons (naturally, it must be purchased separately, because – well – they want to make all the money they can off of you in terms of accessories).  That said, after use for all the self-portraits, I can say the Pentax wireless remote is definitely less sensitive and much slower than my Canon wireless remotes.  I can hold my Canon remote sender behind my back or on the floor (pushing the button with a toe) and the Canon picks it up.  Not so with the Pentax remote sender/receiver setup.
  • Cameras of different brands will, of course, have their buttons located in different positions, those buttons will represent slightly different uses, and even the way a lens is attached to the camera body will be different.  So, I continue to have a bit of a learning curve.
  • Both of my lenses (55mm and 28-45mm) needed to be AF fine-tuned.  Easy enough, except here’s the kicker:  unlike each of my Canon cameras, which allow for, and keeps in the camera’s memory, each of the settings for the wide-angle as well as the telephoto portion of a zoom, the Pentax 645z does not do that.  Oh, it does remember the AF fine-tune settings for each separate lens, but when it comes to fine-tuning the AF of a zoom lens, it only remembers the last setting entered for that lens.  So, I must remember the separate settings for the 28mm focal length and the 45mm focal length, then re-adjust in the camera depending upon which focal length I choose to use for a shot.  Oh well, memorization is good for the aging brain, right?  It just takes a little more time to set and then re-set focus adjustment for focal lengths, so it’s good I am photographing only landscapes and not wildlife or sports.Speaking of which, I did not purchase this camera for sports or other action shots.  I only wanted this camera for landscape and portrait imagery.  Good thing, because the Pentax 645z has a speed of 3 fps (frames per second) as opposed to my Canon 5DSR (5 fps) or 1DX (12-14 fps).
  • All of my Canons sport L-brackets.  I love those things because it allows easy setup on the tripod for vertical or horizontal shots.  Initially, the closest thing I found to an L-bracket for my Pentax 645z was to purchase two separate quick-release plates from Really Right Stuff (RRS), which I did.  Each plate is $55.00.  Another, later, search dug up camera plates for this camera as sold from KES (Kirk Enterprise Solutions).

Regarding quality, I LOVE the results from this camera.  Below are some landscape and studio self-portraits captured using each of the focal lengths on my lenses.  The dynamic range is amazing, as is the ability to crop to 100% and still get awesome resolution.

Sunrise On Big Sough

Sunrise over Big Slough in Brazoia National Wildlife Refuge (28-45mm zoom at the 28mm focal length)

Boardwalk Over Big Slough

The boardwalk over Big Slough at the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge (28mm focal length cropped)

Boardwalk Over Big Slough

The boardwalk over Big Slough at the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge (28-45mm zoom lens at the 45mm focal length)

The Brazoria NWR trip was the very first time I’d used this camera and lenses, and of  course I’d forgotten the AF adjustment settings for the zoom lens focal lengths. So I messed around with the adjustment there at the refuge, not really knowing if I’d applied the right settings (I had not). Thankfully, these zoom lens shots still look pretty good, as long as you don’t zoom in 100% on those two black-bellied whistling ducks perched on the railing way in the background.

Becky At The 55mm Perspective

Taken with the 55mm lens

Becky At the 45mm Perspective

Taken with the 28-45mm zoom at the 45mm focal length

Becky In Her Studio

Taken with the 28-45mm zoom lens at the 28mm focal length with the top and sides cropped.

Becky And Her Backdrop

Taken with the 28-45mm zoom lens at the 28mm focal length with the camera and tripod moved much closer to the subject and the top and a bit of the sides cropped off.

These self-portraits were all edited with some very minor sharpening applied.  The 100% crop below of the second image in the series above shot using the 45mm focal length, however, is the original with no sharpening applied.

IMG0257_100 pct crop

I’ll be taking this camera and the lenses (as well as my Canons)  along for my Mt. Rainier National Park and Glacier National Park trips this year.  I am super-excited about this and will, of course, share my thoughts and images here.  I especially want to see just how well this medium format camera does with high-ISO environments, like night photography and other general low-light conditions.

 

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Filed under Equipment, HD PENTAX-DA645 28-45mm f/4.5 ED AW SR Lens, Pentax 645z, Pentax Lens, Pentax-D FA 645 55mm f/2.8 AL[IF] SDM AW Lens, Uncategorized

My New Little Mini-Studio and Fun with the Christmas Lights

studio-2_small

My unwavering goal in life is to eventually move out of southeast Texas and back to Washington State to live close to my sister and her family.  With that in mind and because it feels like I am actually doing something toward that goal, I have donated lots of clothing and other items to the local hospice thrift shop and  boxed up (and continue to box up) items in my apartment that I don’t use much but don’t wish to part with at this point in time.  Over the 4-day Thanksgiving holiday, I managed to move most of the boxes off of my apartment’s spare bedroom floor and into the spare storage closet, leaving enough room in said spare bedroom for a tiny studio, complete with 2 studio lights & umbrellas, black bedspread backdrop and a black covered table.  So tickled was I with this setup that I decided to take a break from housework for the weekend and have some fun with glass and Christmas lights.

DecantersStill Life With WineIlluminated WineIlluminationPrime IlluminationClear And Bright 2Glass And Pretty Lights 2Glass And Bright ColorsLots Of LightsColored Lights And Blue Glass - HorizontalBaubles And Lights CROP

I used my Induro tripod and Canon 5DS and Canon 24-70mm f2.8L II lens, ultimately switching over to the Canon 50mm f1.2L lens.  ISO for all of the photos you see was 100 and aperture was f11.  I played around with the shutter speeds, ranging from 1/6 of a second to 30 seconds.  For the plain glass images, I used my two studio lights.  For the glass with Christmas lights images, all lights were turned off.

 

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Filed under 5DS, Canon, Christmas, glass, Holidays, Uncategorized

The Trickiness of Christmas Lights and Portraiture

I like buying local when I can, and I like buying hand-made. So when my friend Sabyn of Simplysabyn crocheted an adorable little Santa holiday hat for a baby, I asked her if she made them for big people, too. Yes, she did. So I ordered one. After receiving it, I thought it would make for a great Facebook profile pic to get a portrait of me modeling the hat in front of my Christmas tree (yes, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet and I have the tree up, lights, ornaments and all).

My goal was to try and get a relatively well-lit shot of me but with all the color and brightness of the lit tree in a darkened room behind me.

Easier said than done.

My first experiment was a shot of me and the tree using only the ambient light given off by the tree. My Canon 5D Mk III was set up with my Canon 85mm f1.2L lens on a tripod. The ISO was set at 1600 with an f-stop of 5 and a shutter speed of 1/10 second. I used my $20 Pixel-brand wireless remote shutter release to get clear images of myself. Oh, and I used myself as the model because I not only like the way I look but I was also the only one around at the time. I wanted to do this experiment right then and there, and I don’t mind doing this over and over until I get it the way I want. I figure other models would get a little bored after awhile. Plus, I wanted to send the final result to my friend Sabyn so she could use them on her FB site if she wanted.

Christmas Becky - Ambient Light

After many takes, here is the resulting image using only the ambient light. The entire image was cast in a golden-red hue which was further emphasized by my red hat and red fleece top. Interesting, but not quite what I was aiming for.

So I brought out a single light stand and screwed in a 500 watt bulb in front of which I put a 24” white umbrella for diffusion since 500 watts at close range is pretty intense – particularly since I was still trying to get the color and glow of the tree lights behind me. The camera was set at ISO 320 with a f-stop of 4.5 and a shutter speed of 1/30.

Christmas Becky

As you can see, the light was great on me, but it totally eliminated the ambience of the tree lights and ornaments.

I’d been working on this for over an hour, was hot and sweaty and more or less done for the day. It wasn’t until the next day that I considered using my flash off-camera. The only problem with that was my focus issue. I couldn’t have my Canon dedicated flash remote trigger on the camera *and* a wireless shutter release (I probably could if I had a different setup). In the end, I relied on manual focus. That was tricky because the only light in the room was provided by the Christmas tree. So I had to set up one of my camera backpacks in the chair in front of the tree, then shine a flashlight on the backpack to help me get the focus correct. Eye roll. But it worked.

This little photo session took forever, because I just couldn’t get the whole lighting thing right. I set the flash to one side of the camera, then I set the flash to practically in front of me, then I set the flash directly behind the camera and raised the stand about a foot above the camera. Finally, just as I was about to give up, I decided to try something. Leaving the flash on the stand behind and above the camera, I deliberately set the camera shutter speed slower than the flash, so that the flash would trigger but the camera shutter would be open for just a bit longer after the flash went off. ISO was 160, the f-stop was 7.1, the shutter speed was ½ second, and the flash intensity was set to between 1/128 and 1/64 (with it being closer to the 1/64 mark).

Christmas Becky-Flash

Ultimately, I had to brighten my face up post-process, but by golly, I got what I was working for: a nicely-lit view of my face and the colorful, glowing ambience of the tree behind me.

Christmas Camera Becky-Flash

Christmas Camera Becky Ornament

Photography is all about practice, experiment, and climbing that learning curve.

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Filed under Canon Lens, Christsmas, Equipment, Flash Photography, Holidays, Photography, Portraits, Studio Lights

Working On That Flash Photography Thing

Wireless-Manual-1/4

Once upon a time, I used to think of myself as only a landscape photographer.  Then, one day, I offered to photograph my nephew’s wedding as a wedding gift to them from me.  One thing led to another and I have now photographed several weddings, a wedding reception, a model portfolio, a bellydance portfolio, a couple of different dance troupes, my oil & gas company’s Dilley TX field office party and several years’ worth of King’s Feasthall / King’s Winetasting / Texas Renaissance images.   This all being done in addition to my regular , non-photographic day job.

For the majority of my images, I prefer using natural light as opposed to flash; I would increase the ISO and utilize noise reduction software during the post processing.  Oh, I  did use flash for a number of photos, but not many of them, since I have not been that enamored with flash photography.  Why?  Well partly because I don’t like the harsh shadows, partly because I know it bugs some people to have a bright light flashing in their face a lot, and partly because I am not very experienced with flash photography.

I am, however, totally enamored with light quality, quantity, and control of these two elements.

Because I currently have at least one, possibly two future weddings to photograph in 2013, along with an unknown number of portrait sessions, I finally bit the bullet and purchased Canon’s Speedlite 600EX-RT along with the Canon Speedlite ST-E3-RT  wireless flash transmitter and a couple of studio lighting props.   Practice makes perfect, so  I executed a number of  test shots of me (since I was the handiest human subject) that I’d like to share with you all.

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Note:  the majority of the images in this post only have sharpening and portraiture applied to my pretty little face via the post process, as well as removal of glare spots on my glasses.  The lighting is as it was out of the camera.  If I made any changes (say, lightening up some of the shaded spots on my face), I made mention of that.

Also, for some reason, the photos inserted into this post have a bit of a murky, green or off-color tinge to them.  If you click on each photo, it will take you to this photo on my website, where the color is true.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

I already owned a Lastolite Ezybox 24×24 softbox and stand, but haven’t been that thrilled with the results during the times I used it (again, remember I don’t have much flash photo experience under my belt). So, I decided to order a couple of other lighting accessories:  the Gary Fong Lightsphere and some sort of umbrella  lighting setup.

Sure, I know that I could have probably created a DIY lightsphere using a plastic milk bottle at a fraction of the cost of the Gary Fong version, but I didn’t feel like taking the time and effort and the lightsphere really is a pretty nifty item that fits quite well on my flash unit.

Becky-Straight Flash

Here’s the image with the flash straight out of the box.   I was pleased to see no harsh shadow.  The light was a little bit  harsh, though and  I was not so pleased with the resultant white balance.  Did it occur to me to set the camera’s white balance on something other than AWB?  Hell no!  It didn’t occur to me until after I’d run through a number of test shots.

Lightsphere_MontanaHat

Here’s an image using the Gary Fong Lightsphere.   Remember, not much experience with flash, have I (I say in my best Yoda voice), so to get a result like this made me pleased and proud, indeed.

The following day, I started working with my new umbrella and stand.  I ordered the Westcott 7’ parabolic white umbrella with 8’ stand. Um…ok…when I received the umbrella and unfurled it for attachment to the stand, it was *then* that I realized just how wide 7’ is.   I couldn’t raise the stand up too high or else the umbrella hit against the ceiling.  My spare bedroom is not a studio and the ceiling isn’t that high.

Lighting Setup #1

Ah well, size  issues aside, I went ahead with my tests.  The tripod, camera, umbrella and flash were on one side of the bed while I stood on the other side against the wall with the shutter release cable in my hand.

My flash was set up ETTL Manual and I was using my Canon 5D Mk III with a Canon 24-70mmL II lens.  The flash frequency was set at 1HZ  and the output was initially at 1/128.

Wireless-Manual-1/128

My reaction to a flash output of 1/128:  bleah.  Plus, that damned white balance looked horrible.  Not understanding flash output at all, I set it to 1/4 and my result is the very first image you see on this blog post, right beneath the title……a bit too bright.  But, at least I’d fixed the white balance by setting it on Tungsten.

Wireless-Manual-1/8

Output of 1/8

Wireless-Manual-1/16

Output of 1/16

Wireless-Manual-1/32

Output of 1/32

Now, in addition to the flash setup, I also had an overhead room light, two tall floor lamps (one on each side of the room), and a nightstand lamp to my left (that would be camera right).

Three Lights plus flash thru umbrella

So, here is a shot of me with the flash through the umbrella, at a flash output of 1/32.  This photo above was taken with all of the lights on. The only issue I found was the fact that the upper left side of my face was a little shaded.  Since I still wasn’t totally happy with the results, I decided to do something different with the umbrella.  I turned the umbrella and flash around, so that the flash would bounce off of the umbrella and the bounced light (rather than the light straight through the umbrella) would fall upon the model (aka Me).

Lighting Setup #2

Lighting Setup #2

Originally, I wanted the flash higher above the camera.  Unfortunately, the umbrella’s size precluded that little experiment (I’ve subsequently ordered a 32” umbrella).  That seven-footer kept scraping against the ceiling the higher I raised the light stand.  In the end, I kept the umbrella behind and to the right of the camera, just a little bit above the tripod setup.  I also decided to experiment with turning the various other lights off and on.

Nightstand and Flash

This shot was taken with just the flash bounced off of the umbrella, and the single nightstand lamp.  Sort of film noir-ish….or sort of sinister, depending upon your outlook.

Nightstand-Window Tall Lamp-Flash

This photo was taken with the flash, the nightstand lamp, and the floor lamp next to the window to the camera’s right.

Nightstand-Window Tall Lamp-Flash-Layers

I took the photo above this one and lightened up the shaded parts of my face a bit as well as lightened up the overall composition, in Photoshop.

Lamps-No Overhead -  plus Flash

I then turned off the overhead light, but kept both floor lamps and the nightstand lamp on while using the bounced flash.

Lamps-Overhead-Flash

This shot was using the bounced flash and all of the lights turned on.  My left side was a little on the cool side, while the right side was much warmer.  Nothing that couldn’t be fixed in Photoshop.  I should have tried using my large gold reflector to compensate for the cooler color on my left side, but I honestly didn’t think of it at the time.

Ok, so during all of these experiments, I noticed that I literally needed to keep an eye on the glare and little reflections the flash created on my glasses.  The glare was minimal and I managed to fix this issue in Photoshop.  This is something that can be normally corrected in-camera when looking through the viewfinder and telling a glasses-wearing model how to move their head to eliminate those pesky reflections.  It’s a little more difficult, though, when one is the model in front of the camera, getting the composition in focus with a shutter release cord.

There is so much to learn about lighting for photography.  I’ve only just taken baby steps. More testing will be in my future.  I’ve not only ordered a Westcott 32” white umbrella, but also a Westcott 32” soft silver umbrella.  Oh, and I’ve noticed something else, thanks to my sister pointing this out.  Makeup really helps!  Lipstick, mascara, foundation, blusher all add color and definition and keeps the model from looking washed out.  Compare the earlier images in this post (you can tell the earlier ones because I am wearing a different necklace) to the later ones.

Photographer Extraordinaire

I still love landscape photography, but I’m really glad I have branched out and am stretching my talents to improve upon my existing photography skills by focusing on more than just landscape photography.

Stay tuned! Winking smile

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Filed under Equipment, Flash Photography, Photography