Category Archives: Tips

July 2, 2016 Fireworks in Boston

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All images captured using the Panasonic Lumix GX85. Horizontal frames were captured using the Lumix 7-14mm f/4 lens while the vertical frames were captured with the Lumix 14-140.

Also posted in Mirrorless, Night Photography, Panasonic Tagged , , , , |

One Day Workshop Schedule

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The following is the workshop schedule for the first half of 2016:

ALL ONE-DAY WORKSHOPS INCLUDE A PIZZA LUNCH

Workshop details are available from the Registration Page.

March 20 – Macro and Close-up Photography

March 26 – Flash Photography, High Speed flash, creative lighting

April 3 – Macro and Close-up Photography

April 9 – Portrait and Lighting Techniques

April 10 – Digital Photography A-Z.  This is a one day three part course that will teach you camera basics, post processing and printing.

June 4 – The Digital Darkroom – a course that covers image capture, asset management, processing and enhancement, output to print and web media. A one day program for digital image making workflow

June 5 – Flash Photography, High Speed flash, creative lighting

June 11 – Timelapse Photography, post processing and video assembly

June 12 – Macro and Close-up Photography

If you have any questions or would like more information please call 617-759-0010 or email sv@shivverma.com

Please use this REGISTRATION link to register for these workshops.

Also posted in Composite, Flowers, High Key, Lighting, Macro, Mirrorless, Noise Reduction, Panning, Photography, Portraits, Software, Stacked Image, Strobes, Time-Lapse, Workshops

ND Filters’ Color Cast comparison – Vü 10 stop Sion, Lee 10 stop (Big Stopper) & Formatt Hitech 8 stop

The Lee Big Stopper was introduced in 2010 to compete with the Hitech 10 stop filter that was known to have flare and other issues. Subsequently Hitech reengineered their 10 stop filter and emulated some of Lee’s design features. In particular the the light blocking gasket.  Soon Lee introduced the Little Stopper while Hitech developed a wider range of solid ND filters the Pro Stop line from 6 to 10 stops and in multiple sizes.  Most recently I was introduced to the Vü system and hence this test as a comparison. I will do a full review of the Vü system in the near future.

As I own the Lee Big sStopper and the Hitech 8 stop with the Hitech holder (I do prefer the Hitech to the Lee holder) I was keen to understand the differences in the way high f-stop ND filters impart a color cast when used. Hence this test.  Please click on the images to see a larger version.

The set up was fairly simple.  Using a Sony A7R II and a Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 lens set at f/2.0 and a base ISO of 50, shutter speed 1/125 sec.  The light source was two Elinchrome studio strobes positioned to give a 1/3 stop exposure variation at the edges.  The camera was focused on a white foam-core board with a X-Rite Color Checker Passport clamped to the upper right corner.  Camera white balance set for flash rather than a custom white balance (5450 Kelvin) and an “as shot” tint of +9.  I wanted to allow for any variation in the white of the foam-core board that is typically not 100% white be adjusted in post.

The test exposure was made and the white balance adjusted in post using Lightroom – this is the image below.  White balance adjustment yielded a temperature of 4750 Kelvin and a tint of -1:

Control Shot

Next the strobes were adjusted to full power providing 8 additional stops of light.  The ISO was adjusted to increase sensitivity by two stops while the aperture of the lens was kept at a constant f/2.0 for all the exposures. Each filter was tested for color cast only.

The Lee Big Stopper (10 stop ND)

The Lee Big Stopper (10 stop ND) was mounted and the image as shown below was captured. This is as a screen shot so as to show the RGB histogram.  The info panel shows the reading from the center of the captured image.  Values are R=219, G=229, B=243

Lee 10stop at corner

Color Values measured in the center

 

In this next image the Info Panel shows RGB values from the lower third of the image. Values are R=187, G=203, B=222

Lee 10stop at center

Color Values measured in the lower right quadrant

Next the image was white balanced in Lightroom WB to 8600 Kelvin and tint +43. Compensated for the color of the board and the lights the calculated readings are 7900 Kelvin and a +35 Tint adjustment.

Lee 10 stop WB to 8600 and tint +43

Lee 10 stop WB to 8600 Kelvin and tint +43

The Lee Big Stopper exhibits a heavy blue cast in both the center and the edges.

Formatt Hitech 8 stop ND filter

As I do not have a 10 stop Formatt Hitech filter, I chose to do the same test with the 8 stop that I own. As with the Lee filter before, here the info panel shows the reading from the center of the captured image.  Values are R=234, G=238, B=236

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 5.05.05 PM

Format 8 stop – Color Values measured in the center

In this next image the Info Panel shows RGB values from the lower third of the image. Values are R=209, G=220, B=212

Format 8 stop - Color Values measured in the center

Format 8 stop – Color Values measured in the lower right quadrant

Next the image was white balanced in Lightroom WB to 5750 Kelvin and tint +52. Compensated for the color of the board and the lights the calculated readings are 5050 Kelvin and a +44 Tint adjustment.

Formatt 8 stop WB to 5750 and tint +52

Formatt 8 stop WB to 5750 Kelvin and tint +52

The Formatt HiTech 8 stop exhibits a heavy green cast at the edges but is more neutral in the center.

Vü Sion Q 10 stop Neutral Density Filter

The Vü Sion 10 stop ND filter mounted using The Vü professional filter holder (more abut this in a future post) and the same test was performed. As before the image captured is shown as a screen shot showing the RGB histogram.  The info panel shows the reading from the center of the captured image.  Values are R=235, G=235, B=239

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 5.15.29 PM

Vu Sion 10 stop – Color Values measured in the center

In this next image the Info Panel shows RGB values from the lower third of the image. Values are R=211, G=214, B=219

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 5.15.44 PM

Vu Sion 10 stop – Color Values measured in the lower right quadrant

Next the image was white balanced in Lightroom WB to 5800 Kelvin and tint +13. Compensated for the color of the board and the lights the calculated readings are 5000 Kelvin and a +5 Tint adjustment.

VU 10 stop wb adjusted 5800 tint +13

VU Sion 10 stop WB adjusted 5800 and tint +13

The Vü Sion 10 stop is very neutral in the center an has a negligible shift at the edges.

In conclusion I am very impressed with the Vü Sion 10 stop and is near neutral rendering.  My full review of this system is forthcoming.

 

Hunts Photo is offering my students and workshop participants a 20% discount on all Vu filters and holders! All you  have to do is call 781-662-8822 and ask for Alan Samiljan and tell him you are one of my students.  He will give you the discount. UPS Ground shipping is free in the Lower 48 and there is no sales tax except for orders shipped to MA, RI or ME.

 

Also posted in Accessories, Blur, Lighting, Motion, Photographs, Photography, Product Reviews, Sony A7R, Strobes, Zeiss

TWiP Episode 453 – Hot New DSLRs!

TWiP_Logo_300If you’ve been listening to TWIP over the years you probably know how we feel about the relatively slow pace of innovation in the “mirrored” camera space… also known as the dSLR.

To reiterate, I personally LOVE Canon and Nikon, and I still own a bunch of Nikon gear, including many lenses and strobes. But now I primarily shoot Panasonic Lumix gear. Part of the reasoning is that the innovations and tools mirrorless technology gives me, “fits” better with the kind of media creation (stills, video, etc) that I enjoy.

Enter Pentax — a company that Ricoh acquired back in 2011 for $124 million dollars, has announced a brand new dSLR, with many features not found on any “mainstream” camera (mirrored, or mirrorless!).

Also Canon has refreshed its dSLR line-up with the 80D, as well as new glass and some accessories squarely aimed at video creation.

Click here for the Youtube Channel

Here is the link to the TWiP page

Also posted in Accessories, Educational, Mirrorless, News, Photographs, Photography, Product Reviews, Shows, Workshops

Review of the Hähnel Captur Module Pro, Captur Module – IR and the Captur Receiver

Hähnel Captur Module Pro remote trigger with sound, light, laser and IR triggering.

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Hähnel of Ireland has replaced the wonderful Giga T pro with Captur Module Pro.  Capture is high-speed trigger system that will provide remote triggering, intervalometer functions, delay triggering, long exposure and will will also work as an ordinary flash trigger.

Some of the more interesting features are sound, light, laser and infrared sensors for high-speed or wildlife photography. What is even better is that  the system has an auxiliary port.  This allows you to use any third part triggering devices to be connected to the Captur Module Pro  that in turn will trigger your camera.

The basic kit comes as a set of two devices. A hand held control unit and a IR transmitter.  You will need an optional wireless unit to control your camera wirelessly.  The controller is a 2.4GHz transmitter with a range of 320 feet. It will work with either shoe-mount flashes or studio lights as there is a hot-shoe and a sync port. There are models for Nikon, Canon, Sony and Olympus/Panasonic. Best of all the modules all use AA batteries.

Features:

  • Captures Time Lapse Photography, High Speed Photography, Motion & Wildlife Photography
  • Four built-in sensors (light, sound, Laser & IR). The package indicates five built-in sensors however there are four sensors (three windows) and an auxiliary port that can accommodate an infinite variety of sensors and triggers.
  • Auxiliary port allows to connect 3rd party sensors such as pressure plates, humidity & temperature sensors
  • Fully programmable timed sequences including delay, interval timer, exposure count & exposure length setting
  • Shutter release button with autofocus, single & continuous shooting & bulb mode
  • Connect wirelessly to camera using the Captur Receiver (sold separately)

Construction:

The Captur Module Pro and the IR Transmitter are encased in rubber shield that covers the unit with the exception of the display and control face.  Each has a 1/4 20 thread that lets you mount the units on a tripod, light stand or clamp.  The IR Transmitter mounts inverted to protect it from the elements. The Capture Receiver is not rubber encased.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Module Pro:  The face of the unit has the display window, three buttons – Lock, Trigger and Start/Stop.  Blow these is the four way rocker and a center “set” button.  The left side has the cameras cable release port and the auxiliary port. The top has the microphone, IR sensor and Light sensor. The right  side has a micro USB port that can be used to power the device, and the on/off switch.  Note the micro USB port is covered by the rubber enclosure.  The underside of the unit has the 1/4 20 mount and the battery compartment also accessible by removing the upper enclosure.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Module IR has a high/low switch on the front face and the 1/4 20 mount.  The IR bean is emitter from the top of the unit.he On/Off switch is located on the left side and the batter compartment is in the bottom also covered by the rubber enclosure.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Capture Receiver has a flash hot shoe on the face a test button and an indicator light that flashes green when the unit is ready and turns red when the unit is activated. The left side has the remote trigger cabe port while the right has the On/Off switch. The bottom of the unit has a combination hotshot mount and a 1/4 20 mount. Also on the bottom is the battery compartment. Note: this unit does not have a rubber enclosure.

Using the units:

The handheld remote controller can be connected to your camera with a remote cable or wireless is used with the wireless receiver unit.  The controller will allow you to configure various shooting scenarios that require precise delays and also works as an intervalometer for time-lapse photography. Unlike the Giga T Pro, Captur Module Pro will work as a conventional flash trigger in addition to the remote triggering functionality when paired with a Captur unit.

The control unit has settings for Hours, Minutes and Seconds (HH:MM:SS) and a mode delay of 00:01 through 10:00 seconds (duration in 1/100th second).  A 4 way rocker for modes and a central push button for setting the parameters. Buttons for triggering, start/stop and lock. There are four configurable options:

  • Delay – lets you set an interval between the time the trigger is fired and the shutter is activated.
  • Long – allows you to set a long exposure duration – the camera must be set to bulb mode.  It is also possible to do long exposures without programming.  This is achieved by depressing the release button for 3 seconds and the bulb function will lock and you can release the button. Depress the button once more to end the bulb exposure (long exposure).
  • Interval 1 – is configured to set the interval between shots and then N1 sets the number of shots to take.
  • Interval 2 configures the time between interval (Interval 1) activation sand N2 configures the number of times the Interval 1 and N1 sequence is repeated.

Using the Captur Module pro is easy if you are familiar with the Gia T Pro system. There is an online manual that is reasonable week detailed for those who have not used a Giga system or are new to Remote triggers and intervalometers.

Configuring for various modes:

All modes have some common options: sensitivity, amount of delay before the unit will trigger the shutter, the duration of shutter open when the camera is in bulb mode and the number of allowed activations. To enable a mode all you need to do is to press the Start/Stop button to start the process. A ready LED turns green and when the mode is triggered the LED turns Red as a verification.

To set the mode, use the rocker switch to get to the sensor mode you want. The modes are in the following order:

Sound mode– adjust the sensitivity of the sensor as needed.

Infrared (IR) mode, (you need to use the Module – IR).  Set the Module – IR and the Module – Pro so they are aligned with the IR beam lens in line-of-sight with the receiver window of the Module Pro. When the IR beam is interrupted the unit will be triggered.  The Module IR has High/Low setting.  Use the low setting for a beam length of 4.5 feet or less and the High for lengths greater than 4.5 feet.

Light Mode – here the sensor is activated when there is a change in light level – bright to dark, dark to bright. Ideal for fireworks, lightning, or indoors with any light being turned on or off.

Laser – this mode requires a laser beam to be pointed at the receiver window and works the same way as the IR beam but with a much greater distance between transmitter and receiver.

AUX – this mode requires you to connect any triggering device to the Captur Module Pro via a 1/8” Tip-shield plug.

Pricing:

The Captur Pro Module is $120, Two receiver modules are $45 each; A pair of flash triggers not reviewed are $100 and the Capture Timer Module also not reviewed is $60.

Conclusion:

In my opinion the Captur system is probably the most versatile triggering system I have used and as it uses AA batteries it will last through extremely long time-lapse sequences without having to worry about a premature shutdown. The construction is solid as is the performance. In all of the tests performed the unit did not miss-fire.

Also posted in Accessories, Lighting, Motion, News, Photography, Product Reviews, Time-Lapse

Iceland – February 28 to March 7

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With the exceptional Aurora Borealis activity in Iceland, I am doing a 1 week photo tour and workshop that will be exceptional.

From the western peninsulas of Snæfellsnes and Reykjanes to the exceptional south coast including the exquisite black sand beaches and icebergs in Jökulsárlón and surrounding areas this trip is designed for all levels of photographers.  This trip is limited to a maximum 7 participants.

All Iceland photo tours and workshops in 2014 and 2013 were fully subscribed within days so please register as soon as possible.

CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS

 

Also posted in Horses, Photography, Stacked Image, Time-Lapse, Workshops

Fog Photography – a new article in “Tips”

Three Trees In The Fog - Cold Toning Applied

Three Trees In The Fog – Cold Toning Applied

After the fog this weekend and some of the questions that have been asked, I have written an article on Fog Photography that you may find useful.  The article is posted in the “Tips” section of my web. Click Here for the article.

Also posted in Black & White, Educational, Photographs, Photography Tagged , , |

What else is in my bag and more – Part 2

Here are some additional items I find useful.  Some for the bag and others that are just good to have.

  1. Remote Shutter Release (wired or wireless) – A must have for tack sharp photography. There are 5 types available:
    • A wired version that physically connects to your camera with a cable. Good for most photography when you are close to your camera.
    • An Infrared trigger that is used to trigger the shutter using an IR beam (this requires you to be in “line of sight” to the front of your camera. These are usually OEM products but a few third-party devices are also available. I find these limiting.
    • A wireless radio trigger.  This is a two unit device – one is mounted and connected to the camera and the other is the hand-held controller. Hahnel and Phottix are the ones I use.
    • An iOS  or Android wired trigger. The smart phone is physically connected to the camera to trigger the shutter.
    • The IOS or Android trigger.  Here you use your smart phone and connect to the camera in WiFi mode to control and trigger the camera.
  2. Filter wrench (pair) –  These come in two sizes and based on the lenses you have you may want to get both sets. Amazing how screw-on filters just don’t come off.  The plastic wrenches allow you to apply pressure at the right places and lever the filter off so easily.  Adorama branded wrenches are less than $5 a pair.
  3. LED Head Lamp – a must have when you are in the dark.  Always carry one in your bag.
  4. Intervalometer – A must have device if you do any timelapse. long exposure, or multiple exposure photography.  From basic wired devices to wireless units these are made most cameras including ones that have built-in intervalometers. Phottix, Hannel, Canon all make great units.  Promote Systems makes a product called Promote Control, one of the finest devices not just an intervalometer but a whole lot more. The Promote Control will do focus stacking, automatic brackets of up to 45 images, with up to 9.0 EV step between shots for HDR. It can even automatically step into Bulb for night-time HDR!  More expensive than the others but the Promote Control is my first choice.

    Flash Photography:

  5. Flash Gels   Filter gels are a great way to modify the color of your light but more important, they can balance the color temperature to match the ambient light. Roscoe and Rogue make excellent gels.  My personal choice is the full set with the case and elastic band from Rogue. The Rogue set is around $30.
  6. Rogue Flashbender  – These flash diffusers and reflectors are the best I have used.  The come in multiple sizes and when used with the front diffuser, that act like a small soft-box.  The cam be molded to direct light as needed or rolled up to form a snoot.  These start at $20 for the Flashbender bounce card..
  7. Rogue Grid – If you need more control with the direction of the light from your flash the Rogue Grid is an excellent tool. The design features stacking honeycomb grids that produce 16, 25 and 45 degree grid spots.  In addition you can get a set of bells that match the shape of the grid collar.  The grid is under $50 and the gels will cost under $30
  8. Kupo Off-Camera Flash Alli Clamp – The clamp has a jaw that can clamp onto items up to 1.57″ thick. Rubber nubs on the inside of the clamp prevent damage to paint or furniture. The clamp has a 5/8″ receiver for light-stands or a 5/8″ stud for super clamps with matching receivers. The Alli Clamp is topped with a metal locking shoe mounted to a rotating ball for your flash.  I use it to mount my flashes, action cams, video lights and any other objects that need to held in place. Cost under $50. A lighter version called the Kupo Alli Clamp is for under $15.

    Macro and Close-up

  9. Focusing rails and racks – These are ideal for precise positioning of a camera in X and Y directional axes. These come in single axis (front to back adjustment and 2 axis where a left right adjustment is also possible.  Prices range for under $100 to $600 plus.
  10. Diopters or Close-up filters – This is one of the least expensive method of doing close-up photography. These filters attach to the front of your lens allowing you to focus closer hence magnifying your subject.  They are available in single and dual elect construction.  I recommend the dual element as you will have better optics. Prices range from $30 and up.
  11. Extension tubes – If you like macro these will allow your lenses to focus closer to the subject. As they have no optical elements in there is no image quality degradation. Kenko extension tubes are what I have and love. They come in a set of 12mm, 20mm and 36mm.  For the newer mirrorless cameras the tubes are in sets of two at 10mm and 16mm
  12. McClamp The Clamp – This clamps to a tripod leg and can hold such items as gray cards and 12″ reflectors, and small delicate subjects in place. It has a 26″ flexible arm with a spring-loaded clamp to hold your subject in place.  Wimberly also makes a similar device and have a new version called the Plamp II.  Both products are about $45.
  13. Light Tent or Cube – A great light modifier for your product photography, food photography and macro work. These come in various sizes and cost $40 and up.
  14. Triflip (Trigrip) 6 in 1 or 8 in 1 reflector/diffuser – The TriGrip from Lastolite has a triangular shape with a built-in handle that allows easy hand holding or for attaching to a stand.The TriGrip is 30″ at its widest point and collapses storage.  I prefer this to the typical round diffuser reflector kits.

    A few for those who dabble with video:

  15. LED Light Panels – these come in various sizes – remember to get one that is disable and has the intensity you need for your kind of video shooting.
  16. Variable ND filter – for those bright days when you need to slow your shutter down and keep your aperture wide.
  17. Shotgun microphone – DSLRs are great at capturing video.  The audio on the other hand really is pathetic.  The minute in-built microphones are really bad. So get a good starter microphone. A shotgun mounts on the hot-shoe and connects to the mic input port of the camera. My choices for a starter microphone is the Rhode Video Mic Pro with the Dead Cat for around $210

Please use the comment link on the top of this post to share with us some of your special items.

If you do plan on getting any of these items please use my affiliate links on the right column of this blog post or use the Products and Discounts Page for additional links. 

Also posted in Accessories, Educational, Lighting, Mirrorless, News, Photography, Strobes, Time-Lapse

What else is in my bag – Part 1

Apart from cameras, lenses, filters we as photographers carry a number of gizmos to help our image capture.  This is part 1 of my list of gizmos.  These are all reasonably priced and many are less than $10.  Most on-line photography stores carry these items and you should check them out.

  1. Gray Card  – Get your exposure right. Available in cardboard and durable plastic these are one of the most valuable tools for your camera kit. The camera may be smart but it is easily fooled.  It will under or over expose very bright or very dark scenes. You should use a gray card to set the exposure for much more accurate results. Some of the newer cards come as sets with a black and white card.  This can also help you set your white balance.  A step-up would be the X-Rite Color Checker Passport.
  2. High velocity blower – Never clean your lens without first blowing off any dust, grit or lint.   The last thing you want is to scratch your lens as your clean it with a lens pen or lens cloth.  A good blower costs under $10 – the one I like is the Visible Dust Manual Blower. Adorama and B&H have these.
  3. Lens Pen – This is another must have tool for your bag.  There are many manufacturers and models available.  The ones with a carbon bad need to be activated before each use. Others like the Allsop have replaceable tips.  I keep an Allsop in each of my camera bags.
  4. Lens Cleaning Cloth – A good lens cloth is a must in your bag.  Zeiss makes some of the finest and can be purchased from Walmart and B&H for $3 and up.
  5. 1 or 1.5 inch natural bristle soft painter’s brush – An ideal too to get lager dust and sand particles off your equipment.  Keep one in your bag – you will be happy you have it on those dusty trips.
  6. Small micro fiber or cotton hand towel – You never know when you will need it.  These are great for wiping of moisture from your gear on those wet days. Grocery stores and Bed Bath & Beyond carry these.
  7. Spray bottle – You may not always get a dewy morning but you can create dew on flower petals and spider webs with a handy fine-mist spray bottle. Fine mist spray bottles can be found for under $2 at Amazon.
  8. Bubble level – A three axis bubble level for your hotshot mount will keep your horizons level.  If you have an inbuilt electronic level in the camera then you can skip this tool.
  9. Elastic bands and small ziplock bags – You will find many uses for this combo. A lost lens cap can be a problem but not if you can put a ziplock bag around the front element and secure it with an elastic band.  If your zoom lens tends to creep the elastic band can help keep it in place.
  10. Large garbage bag – During any outdoor shoot I always pack one or two large garbage bags in my bag or in the car.  They are great when you need some rain protection, need to keep your equipment on the salty sand, need to lay down at ground level when shooting low to the ground.  A black garbage bag acts as a great gobo when needed, translucent bags make great diffusers.
  11. Gaffer’s tape – 1 inch width in black, a small roll is perfect to secure items when needed.  This is a must have to tape down your lens at infinity when doing any astro photography.  A small piece can be used to cover the eyepiece of the viewfinder, preventing stray light from spoiling the exposure.  It is also a great all around repair tool.
  12. Parchment paper, issue paper, or rip (stock) cloth – A small piece about 4 inches square is good but larger pieces can be useful for other situations.  You can tape this (using gaffer’s tape to your flash to diffuse the light.  If you keep a larger piece you can have someone hold it to diffuse bright sunlight while doing close-up or macro photography. Get parchment paper any kitchen or grocery store. rip stock can be purchased from a fabric store or on-line.
  13. White foam-core – This makes a great reflector, if you need a silver reflector keep some kitchen foil and fold it over the foam-core.  You can use the foam-core as a gobo or even as a white background for small subjects. Staples, Office Max, Michael’s or A.C. Moore are ideal for this.
  14. LED Flashlight – a must have when you are in the dark.  A great tool for light painting and when you need just that added light for filling in shadows or adding a highlight. My favorites are Coast and SureFire (SureFire lights are available from the SureFire website and Amazon).  Others can be purchased at Home Depot, Amazon or Lowes carry great LED Lights
  15. Small notebook and a ballpoint pen – Journaling is key.  Write down locations, notes, day and time of best light, etc.  Draw sketches of what there is so you can come back for better images.  If nothing else – you can use it to jot down names and contact info of fellow photographers you meet.

In the near future I will follow-up with additional items I find useful.  Some for the bag and others that are good to have. In the mean time, why don’t you use the comment link on the top of this post to share with us some of your special items.

If you do plan on getting any of these items please use my affiliate links on the right column of this blog post or use the Products and Discounts Page for additional links. 

Also posted in Accessories, Educational, Lighting, Macro, Night Photography, Photography

Flash Sync Speed Limitation – a question from a subscriber

Question: “One thing I am curious about is the shutter with regards to off camera flash. Is there still a physical shutter that limits me to a max synch speed of around 1/200 of a second? Or have they moved to an electronic shutter that would allow much faster synch times?”

In order to appropriately respond to the question lets first understand how mirrorless camera sensors operate. Most mirorless cameras use CMOS sensors that contain light sensitive pixels arranged in rows. These sensors are always live as long as the camera is powered on and booted up.

Panasonic LUMIX FL580L Flash: Hybrid Flash System with Built-in Video LED

Panasonic LUMIX FL580L Flash: Hybrid Flash System with Built-in Video LED

In the mirrorless world, the sensor information is being constantly fed to the LCD and/or the electronic viewfinder. When you press the shutter the following sequence takes place: a) the sensor is wiped clean electronically; b) next the sensor is turned on and receives light while the pixels record the information; c) now the computer in the camera reads the data collected by the sensor pixels to generate the image. This data is finally recorded to the memory card.

We know that the sensor is sensitive to light and always receiving information. In order to capture a good image, the sensor should be restricted from receiving light while it is being wiped clean and then again when it is reading the data captured during exposure. As the sensor data is being read you do not want the pixel information changing with any new light that may fall on the pixels. So, for both these events, mirrorless cameras use electronic or mechanical shutters or a combination of the two.

The electronic shutter works by first erasing all the pixel data on a row-by-row basis. Then new image information is gathered and the data is read by the computer on a row-by-row basis very similar to how a television picture is generated. All of this takes time, albeit just a fraction. The greater the number of pixels the more the rows of information and the slower the process. This limits the cameras from achieving high shutter speeds. For proper exposure these rows of pixels gather the same amount of light but do so a row at a time. The data is read at the same rate. The collective time determines the fastest achievable electronic shutter speed.

We are aware that to expose properly for flash photography all the pixels must be “alive” and ready to receive data while the flash is on. If the row by row read process starts too early then you will get areas of dark under exposure. In order to properly expose for flash, the computer in the camera has to wait before it can start reading the data collected by the sensor. This wait time determines the highest sync speed for flash photography.

As an adjunct to this, in order to achieve higher shutter speeds mirrorless cameras use mechanical second curtains. The curtain can rapidly close all light from entering the sensor while the computer reads the information. On the Sony A7 that has a 24 MP sensor, there are 4000 rows of pixels. The only way to attain shutter speeds of 1/8000 sec. is possible using a mechanical rear-curtain. On the 36 MP A7r however, there are 4912 rows of pixels. To attain speeds of 1/8000 sec. this camera needs both a front-curtain and a rear-curtain shutter. The MFT cameras like the Panasonic GH4 and the Olympus OM-D series have 16 MP sensors that have only 3456 rows and can achieve 1/8000 sec. electronic shutter speeds without the need for mechanical shutters..

The Sony A7 has an optional mechanical front-curtain that must be deployed when using lenses of longer focal lengths at high shutter speeds.

Unlike DSLR’s, the mechanical shutter on mirrorless cameras remains in an open state in both the powered off and powered on modes, allowing for live view data to be collected and displayed continuously.

The highest flash sync speed is currently 1/320 sec on the Olympus OM-D E-M1 , 1/250 sec on the Panasonic GH4 and under 1/200 sec for most of the Sony cameras.

Hope this explains why the current mirrorless technology is limited and high flash sync speeds are not feasible.  If you have other photography related questions, please do not hesitate to ask and I will do my best to get you answers.

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