Points in Focus Photography

More on AA Rechargable Batteries lede

The last time I posted to the blog, I was just getting started with measuring the capacities of my AA NiMH rechargeable batteries. With twenty-four 2000 mAh Eneloops and sixteen 2500 man Amazon Basic batteries, the process was almost painfully slow.

The Lacrosse Tech BC–700 charger I got can discharge at no better than 350mA, and charge at no better than 700mA. That means for a 2000 mAh battery, that’s almost 6 hours for each discharge and 3 hours to fully charge. On top of that, before the charger discharges the battery it fully tops it up, so there’s a further charge cycle—though a much shorter one than a full charge—that has to complete as well. At 9–12 hours per 4 batteries, I averaged about somewhere just under 2 sets a day for the duration.

The good news is that time has been pretty kind to my first generation eneloops. I looked at both the percent of the typical and minimum capacities, anything lower than the minimum I’ve pulled from photographic usage but I’ll probably keep them for remote controls and computer mice since they’re low power applications.

Eight of my 24 Eneloops I’ve deemed unworthy to continue as part of my photographic energy reserve. All of these batteries tested at less than the published 2000 mAh minimum capacity for the Eneloops. The worst of these measure at a dismal 1583 mAh, the best at 1863 mAh, with most in the 1700 mAh range. I’ll probably keep these for the time being and stick them in IR remotes or something low power.

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Rambling about NiMH Batteries and Chargers lede

Prior to heading to Alaska last May I had a chance opportunity to photograph a couple of warblers (including the male Blackpoll Warbler at the top of this post), and a Spot-breasted Oriole in my yard. Being later in the afternoon I also grabbed my flash and better beamer for some fill, only to go 5 frames and have my flash start taking 30-second or longer to recycle—not good.

For as long as I’ve been using flashes, I’ve been a big fan of low self-discharge NiMH batteries, specifically Sanyo’s Eneloops. The deck is really stacked in their favor.

To start with they last and last. I have 24 first generation Eneloops, all of which are 5 years old or older. I can’t even begin to count the number of recharges they’ve gone through, but it’s certainly more than the 7–10 needed to break even on costs compared to alkalines. Moreover, NiMH batteries work better in flashes than alkaline anyway; thanks to the chemistry, you get more flashes and faster recycle times. Finally, the low self discharge type insure that if I go for a couple of months without needing my flashes, my batteries won’t have self-discharged into unrecoverable death. Compounding the last point, my first generation Enloops are rated to keep 75% of their change a year after charging. That means not only will they not be dead after a couple of months of disuse, but I probably won’t have to charge before I use them either.

All told, seeing those kinds of recycle times on batteries that I knew were recharged in the last 60 days or so I was concerned I’d have dead batteries when I needed them in Alaska.

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The EOS M3: Sadly Not destined for America ledeImage: Canon UK

I’m one of the few people in the US that bought an EOS M.

Objectively it wasn’t the best mirrorless camera on the market. It’s AF was slow, it’s image quality was middling at best, and it was quirky and a bit undersized to be really comfortable–especially with a big EF lens on it. Faults and all, though, I still like the camera.

Unfortunately for me, the rest of the US market, who are notoriously not into mirrorless cameras anyway, were even less enthusiastic about the EOS M and sales apparently were below awful. Or at least that’s the story that seems to make most sense. In the US, we got the initial model, a firmware update, and that was it.

Part of the problem with the M in the US was likely that it was a mirrorless and there still seems to be a very strong preference for DLSRs here. The other problem was probably that it was initially very expensive for what it offered. I certainly didn’t buy one when they were released, and almost certainly wouldn’t have had the price not been cut as much as it was. Functionally, Canon was asking entry-level DSLR pricing for what really was a high-end compact camera that just happened to have interchangeable lenses and a big sensor.

The M2 update wasn’t especially interesting from my point of view, even if it had been released in the US. It added wireless and improved the AF performance, but didn’t really change the fundamentals of the camera’s ergonomics and usability.

That brings us to now. Right on the heels of the EOS 5DS series announcements, at least everywhere else in the world but the US, Canon also announced the successor to the EOS M line the EOS M3. Since it won’t be marketed in the US, it’s unlikely we’ll see a tremendous amount of information about it. Even DPReview’s hands on preview is extremely limited at this point.

That said, even just looking through the product literature from Canon UK, it’s hard not to see where Canon has made huge improvements to the camera.

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Mixed Feelings on the Announced 5DS and 5DS R ledeImage: CanonUSA

I’m a Canon shooter, and new Canon cameras are always an interesting time for me. On one hand, I’m always somewhat excited about the prospect of cool new hardware. On the other hand, there’s always the grudging feeling that whatever they release, it isn’t going to release something that is as good as it could or should be.

I should note, I don’t have a advanced/prerelese copy of the 5DS or 5DS R, these ramblings are my impressions about the UI and design based on the material that Canon has made publicly available to the press, as well as through interviews with sites like DPReview. My speculation and analysis here may prove to be completely incorrect in many ways.

Canon has now announced their new generation of high resolution cameras, the 5DS and 5DS R. The aim, so far as I can tell, is to plug the hole in Canon’s lineup for a high resolution body left by the discontinuation of the 1Ds mark III and the 5D mark III being only 23MP.

At 50.6 MP the 5DS series pose to provide medium format levels of pixels. Lots of pixels are nice, but what really remains to be seen is whether they can deliver quality, let alone medium format quality, in any of the other areas.

Let me get right to the while elephant in the room, dynamic range.

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Frustrations with Syncing Lightroom between Computers lede

Please excuse me while I rant for a moment. For almost the entire time I’ve been a photographer I haven’t owned a laptop worth talking about. I have a very distinct memory of sitting in Louis Armstrong Airport outside of New Orleans trying to do some basic editing on some images I had shot while I was there. Before I made it through a single image, I had already given up and turned off the even at that time ancient laptop.

In short, until just recently, I haven’t had any reason to care about getting images between computers in Lightroom. That’s not to say I wasn’t sensitive to the problems, I have friends that run into Lightroom’s piss poor support for multiple computers, it’s just never been something that’s struck home enough to really get my feathers ruffled.

Consider my feathers ruffled.

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Some Thoughts on the Canon Pixma Pro 100 lede

I had the opportunity to spend a bit of time helping a friend setup and test his new Canon Pixma Pro 100. I’ve been printing my own A3+ (13×19 inch) prints for almost 4 years on a Pixma Pro 9000 mark II, so I was interested to see if the Pro 100 was a worth while upgrade to my Pro 9000 mark II; especially given that the printer gets deep rebates quite frequently.

While my primary purpose was to help my friend get settled in with his first pro level photo inkjet, I had my own questions. My big question was whether the Pixma Pro 100 would be enough of an upgrade from my Pro 9000 mark II that I should consider getting one while the rebates are running. Beyond that I really wanted to know how the two grays would preform when printing black and whites compared to the single black in my printer.

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Cameras and their batteries have long been a point of annoyance for me. I’ve complained about the lack of compatibility options for Canon’s pro batteries and battery grips. However, that’s a complaint to rehash another time, I want to talk today about the other battery we have to deal with, AAs for flashes.

It didn’t take long to discover that NiMH batteries are the way to go for flashes. Their chemistry proves more current which lowers recycle times, and they generally seem to get more pops than alkaline batteries do. Moreover, since they can be recharged 100s times, they’re considerably cheaper than alkalines, not to mention the environmental benefits of reduced waste.

With some of my ’loops coming up on 5 years old, it’s starting be time to think about replacing them as their capacities start to diminish due to age and use. While doing some research on the current state of the art in low self-dischage NiMHs, I cam across the discussion thread that was the catalyst for this idea. It seems, that Sanyo, the makers of Eneloops, was bought by Panasonic and the current ’loops are ’loops in name but not necessarily performance[1].

That got me thinking about the fundamental premise of powering flashes.

Why do we still use AAs in our flashes?

Why instead, haven’t the flashes switched over to Li-Ion packs? Perhaps even the same ones that are used to power our high end DSLRs.

From a technical perspective, the idea at least passes the sniff test. Four NiMH AAs typically will provide between 9.6 and 13Wh of energy. Comparatively Canon’s LP-E6s or Nikon’s En-EL15s also provide 13Wh of energy plus or minus a bit. At least at first glance, you should get as many pops from the camera batteries as you do from the NiMHs and probably more.

Recycle time is harder to speculate about without a lot more information I don’t have; both on the batteries and the flashes. There are Li-Ion and Li-Polymer packs that can sustain current draws far in excess of anything NiMH batteries can do, but it’s doubtful that Canon or Nikon’s camera batteries are designed for that. On the other hand, if the flash is already limiting the current to what’s reasonable for NiMHs, then there very well could be no different or an improvement in recycle ties with a Li-Ion based solution.

As far as size goes, a LP-E6 pack is longer than an AA cell, but not so much that it’s wider than a Canon 600Ex-RT already is. Likewise, the overall volume and height of a LP-E6 pack is smaller than the quartet of AAs used currently.

Technical points aside, the point that I like the most is the simple elegance of having fewer batteries and type of batteries to worry about. Well at least for users with high end DSLRs.

Okay, I admit this part is entirely personally motivated by my own aesthetic sense of how systems like this should be design. I have a very strong attraction to interoperability for the sake of redundancy and eliminating the necessary extras that come with having to support more parts.

I picked the LP-E6 and EN-EL15 largely because they’re what’s used by the cameras I suspect would be owned by the majority of people interested in a higher end flash. For Canon that includes the 60D, 70D, 7D (mark I and II), and 5D (mark II and III); for Nikon it’s the V1, D7000, D7100, D600, D610, D750, D800, and D810. The really high end users, those with 1Des and D4es, wouldn’t see the reduction in battery types, but they also wouldn’t be any worse off than they are now in that respect either.

All that said, I can see some sticking points. The big one is cost, AA are dirt cheap, even the good rechargeable ones. A single LP-E6 costs more than a 16 pack of good NiMHs. There’s also the fact that you can’t really scrounge the Li-Ion batts like you can AAs. People aren’t going to be keen on lending you a $60–70 battery they might not get back, where they might not care about $5 in AAs. Plus you can’t walk into any number of convenience stores anywhere in the civilized world, and buy a LP-E6; you can do that with AAs.

On the other hand, I’m not sure the disadvantages outweigh the ability to shed AAs and their chargers, or the potential for increased redundancy in spare battery capacity and compatibility that comes from having everything run from one type of battery.

I think this is a good idea, but I’d love to here what you think. If you see some flaw that I missed or think it’s a neat idea too, leave a comment below.

  1. As I understand it, when Panasonic bought Sanyo, due to anti-trust concerns, they got the brand name, but not the manufacturing facilities where the eneloops were made. Instead Panasonic appears to be transitioning the Eneloop brand to their production facilities in China. According to at least one user test these batteries don’t preform like the eneloops of just last year.  ↩

Angry Sky

A building thunderstorm in the late afternoon light.
A building thunderstorm in the late afternoon light.

September Lighting

Three images of lighting, the best from last night’s storm, and on some level some of the best I think I’ve ever shot.

September Lighting 1

September Lighting 2

September Lighting 3

Gear Bits

I’m currently neck deep in writing a review for Canon’s 5D mark III–yes I know, I’m a bit late to the party, especially since I’ve had one for more than 2 years now–but in the meantime there were a couple of nifty bits of gear I wanted to talk about and get the word out on.

The first up is Peak Design’s Anchor Links. Camera straps are a pretty big frustration for me. I vacillate between needing a strap and not wanting one, and I do this often enough that quick release systems are the name of my game. The problem with most quick release straps is that the tend to leave big bulky ends on fairly long tails attached to the camera.

For the past 2 years or so, I’ve been using Optech’s Mini QD Loops, which I reviewed. It’s nice, it’s small, the only problem I have with it is that it feels incredibly flimsy, even though it has a 50-pound break strength (and I’ve tested mine to close to that).

Last fall I was involved with a discussion on line that led me to Peak Design’s camera straps, but more importantly their QR strap system. It was everything I wanted in a strap QR system. It’s small; but more importantly, the reinforced cables are rated for at least 200 pounds.

I had contacted them at the time to see if they were offering just the quick release bits instead of having to buy their whole strap. Sadly last year they weren’t. Now, that’s changing. Currently they are offering the strap anchors through a Kickstarter campaign (ends August 15th), then they’ll be going on sale through their website in general.

I’ve preordered 2 sets, which according to Peak Design’s Kickstarter page, I should get sometime in late October. I really hope these are all that I imagine them to be, as they really do look like the solution to my camera strap frustrations.

The second item I want to note is 3D Printed Idea’s updated bayonet adapter for Lee filter holders. I reviewed the first version they did, which I generally approved of, but it turns out after I had published my results, they discovered some issues with the all 3D printed construction, and subsequently pulled them from production.

In the meantime, they designed an all-new adapter, this time for Lee’s holder design, which I consider to be much better than Cokin’s anyway. The new design utilizes an aluminum outer bit with a 3D printed mount adapter.

I’ll be writing up a more detailed review and test of the 3DP Idea’s adapter in near future, but suffice to say I’m even more impressed with this design than I was with the previous one. So much so, in fact, that I’m shelving the 3D printed holder slots I was working on since this adapter provides the same capabilities (3 slots on a 16mm full frame lens, without vignetting or having to remove a protective/UV or thin polarizer filter) for about the same cost in a significantly more robust way.

3D Printed Idea’s Bayonet Adapter for Lee Holders

Peak Design’s Strap Anchors

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