Tag Archives: photography

Gorillapod SLR Zoom Review

gorillapod-slr-zoom-2When you had a little compact camera you might have had a little tiny tripod that you used on occasions but have never found anything strong enough when you got an SLR except for a full tripod. Well you can now as Joby has created a couple new Gorillapod models for your SLR.

Gorillapod SLR

The Gorillapd SLR is for use with a consumer SLR such as a Canon 350D to 500D (Rebel) or Nikon D60. Its capable of holding up a camera and lens combination of up to 800g. It has the ability to rotate the camera back to level if its attached to a lap post that you can’t do with the Gorillapod SLR. Its only 165g (5.8oz) itself, so not to heavy and should be able to find a home in a corner of your camera bag. But some have complained that it wilts for some SLRs and this is where the SLR Zoom comes in.

Gorillapod SLR Zoom

The Gorillapod SLR Zoom is a whole different kettle of fish for the SLR user compared to its younger smaller brother. The first thing to note is that its rated to a much higher weight 3000g (6.5lb) which should be enough for most SLR’s including professional models. Its main users are most likely to be Pro-sumer users like myself with a Canon 40D or 50D or a Nikon D90 or similar, essentially the magnesium bodied cameras. With that 3Kg weight limit it can also hold a pretty big lens such as a 70-200 F2.8 but probably not that much more.

In use its very easy to manipulate and does exactly what you would hope for, it provides a stable platform for your SLR camera to sit. In the picture below its fixed onto a garden heater, a task that took about 15 seconds and it didn’t slip a inch whilst it was attached. Here in the shot below its holding a Canon 40d and 17-85lens which is about 50% of the weight the Gorillapod SLR Zoom should be able to cope with.

Gorillapod SLR Zoom

Gorillapod SLR Zoom

The rubber around each articulating joint and the feet help secure it to any object and I’ve not had any issues with play causing it to sag. Of course you don’t have to use it with your Camera it can be used with a Camcorder or with a compact if thats what you want the screw head can also be used with Pro level kit as well.

It is very useful when doing some work with a Macro lens and you don’t have the space to setup a full tripod, it really does have a lot of uses and is very quick to set up.

Its not perfect though

For starters unlike the other models in the Gorillapod range it doesn’t have a ball joint a the end; so as you can see in the shot above it can’t rotate to be level, for this you are going to need a small head to allow it to rotate. I’ve used it with my Manfrotto 488 RC2 without problem although this does add to the weight that it has to cope with, but it does manage with the head taking the rotational strain.

Also when you use it you need to ensure that you tighten it up to the base well as if you don’t it will sag downwards if you haven’t meaning you have undo it from what ever it was attached, before retrying, not the end of the world but its best avoided.

Gorillapod Focus – New model

So not even the Gorillapod SLR Zoom is enough for you then, you need more? Well how about the Gorillapod Focus. Its rated to an even higher load of 5Kg and its not made out of plastic its constructed with Anodized gunmetal finished aluminium, I have a feeling this one isn’t going to sag much at all if ever. But its not exactly light either as its almost twice the weight of the SLR Zoom at 500g, thats as much as some of the entry level SLR’s. But its meant for the Pro that needs or wants a Gorillipod and is prepared to carry the extra weight and has that 300mm f2.8 we all want. But its more than three times the price than the SLR Zoom, I think the focus name points more to its Movie requirements than people with an SLR, thoughts anyone?

Gorillapod Focus

Gorillapod Focus

Conclusion  – 8/10 Gorillapod SLR Zoom

Overall these are a great little device and well worth adding into your kit back, its uses are endless and who wants to carry a big tripod around if they can avoid it hey. But as mentioned its not perfect either which is why I’ve not given it full marks. But it is strong enough and up to the job even after repeated use which is the main thing. I just need a lighter head to go with it and I’m away. The shot below was taken by attaching the camera to some railings whilst being moored off Kowloon looking onto Kong Kong island, see it works.

Need a camera to replace a Fuji F30, or do I?

We all like to keep up with current trends and as an amateur photographer I wanted to update my now ageing Fuji F30. Now when it was launched it had more plaudits that any other Compact Camera before or since really. It had a 6Mpix sensor and a fairly average lens at 36mm to 108mm (35mm equivalent) but that wasn’t the clever bit, it was its low light performance, that everyone was staggered at.

At the time in some forums people were talking it up to almost SLR levels of noise reduction. Now I’ve got a Canon 40D and it can’t come close , but as a second camera it does an incredible job when you consider the size and weight difference. But having joined Alamy up scaling 6meg images from a compact that takes pictures straight to JPEG is tough to say the least, even the very best 100iso images have small artefacts especially when they are scaled up to the resolution Alamy wants.

But Which New Camera To Get?

I had a quick look around and the list below got short-listed. Some are Enthusiast models that can even capture RAW others Premium more lifestyle models. What was I looking for? Minimum 10Mpix, Wide angle Lens 28/24mm, good screen, not too big (I’ve got an SLR for that) and last but maybe most important, excellent high ISO performance.

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So to the list and a few reasons why the initial ones didn’t make it.

Canon G9/G10 – G9 didn’t go wide enough really but it is quite cheap at the moment, G10 went to 24mm but they are both too big and heavy and fairly expensive for the little extra benefit overall when you pixel peep. Have a look over to Ken Rockwell to see his comparison with the IXUS 870 / SD880.

Panasonic LX3 – A great little camera, zoom lens sticks out though so not as small as it seem and the lens cover could be a fair hassle for a quick P&S. But the lens is good (Big barrel distortion issues get fixed in software LR or Silkpix) 24mm is F2 and 60mm is F2.8 so a fast lens but not long at 60mm. But they are had to come buy and I wasn’t sold with the sticky out lens to go in a jeans pocket and its quite pricey but then it will also capture RAW. This is the current hit camera for 2008 and I can see why. But its a no from me.

Fuji F100fd – The spiritual successor to the F30d or at least in the same bloodline. Its not the best looking camera to say the least but it just about every other way it ticks all the boxes. High ISO performance is good but not great though. Plus at only £165 from Amazon a bargain really and a recent winner of dpreview.com Premium Cameras in the run up to Christmas. This is a Maybe

Canon IXUS 870 IS / SD880 – Now this could be the one. Its small, has a 28mm lens and its not too expensive (I’m married so budget is important 😉 ) Its got a good zoom lens an 10mpix sensor and good ISO performance. At approx £200 its not too expensive either and it looks great. It will also get the CHDK ad on at some point, this will enable extra features and even the ability to capture RAW files.

And the winner is…?

If I am going to get a camera at the moment it will be the Canon IXUS 870 IS, reviewing goodness knows how many reviews its the winner. Some even say why get a G10 when this does the same or better in many situations and with CHDK will be able to capture RAW.

BUT……… what about the F30?

Well I went back and look at some F30 reviews and got a shock. The noise on high ISO images for ALL of the cameras above is worse the higher they go. Sample them at 400iso and you can already see the difference. Have a look at the two images in the links below and see what you think. Yes one is 10mpix the Canon IXUS 870 the other 6m on the Fuji F30 but surely in the last 2 and a bit years it could be beaten even with a higher ISO. But it appears not, even shrinking the picture on some models and running it through Noise Ninja won’t get it as good as the Fuji original.

It begs the question if it wasn’t for the Mpix needed to get into Alamy is it actually better to stay with the F30, I’m still undecided.

Canon IXUS 870 IS IS400

Fuji F30 ISO400

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Alamy go slow and first rejection

artHow long is it talking to process images on alamy at the moment? Answer very long, over Christmas is understandable but its still very slow. It says you should expect 37hrs for the processing of images but its more like 48hrs and even then you have to wait for the QC. Come on Alamy you are taking a bigger slice of the photographers royalty the least you can do is speed things up a bit.

And its also bad news on those images that did manage to get to the QC stage. Yes my first rejection, but I can understand why. Without realising it I uploaded 4 images taken from my Fuji F30, a great camera but not good enough to cope with the requirements of Alamy unfortunately.

Fingers crossed the rest will be ok, but when I hear they have been accepted is anyones guess. Yours waiting. unspool reminiscences lace

Crumpler Muffin Top 5500 Review

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So a bag is a bag is it, erm no, especially when they have names like Muffin Top and Pretty Boy they aren’t. We all have our own preferences on what makes a good camera bag and lets face it if you are into photography you will have almost as many as your other half, come on you know its true.

So this is the latest addition to my collection, the Muffin Top 5500. Its larger than my first Crumpler bag by quite a margin but some how it doesn’t look or feel to big which is great. My first Crumpler was a Pretty Boy Large (3000) which was good to carry around just my SLR (40D) but not much more really.

Crumpler Muffin top 5500 and Pretty boy (L) side by side

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This is a whole different story, I can now carry the Canon 40D (Which is a fair bit bigger than a 350/450D or Rebel) with the 17-85kit lens attached, a 30mm f1.4 Sigma and maybe 1 or 2 other lenses as you can see from the picture below. It looks like the tardis in comparison to the Pretty boy (L) that struggle to carry anything other than the body and the kit lens.

Its very well made with the same fabric as before and the expandable compartment at the front that you can fit a few memory cards in and other bits and bobs like some filters. I think you could even put something like a Canon 70-200 f/4 L standing vertically in the bag without too much trouble and still have room for another lens on top of the kit lens.

Crumpler Muffin top 5500 with 40D+2 Lenses inside

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All in all if you want a bag to carry around a larger SLR like the 40D and a few lenses then this is all you will ever need. It doesn’t feel heavy with the padded shoulder strap and has plenty of room in it without it feeling big, it doesn’t feel much bigger than the Pretty Boy to be honest and an important point for me it doesn’t ‘look’ like a camera bag. This last bit alone made it a top choice for me, I don’t really want to look like a target walking around the streets of foreign countries if I don’t have to and with this bag you don’t.

So for me I’d give it 10/10, a great bag at a very reasonable price.

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Backup using Homeserver and Carbonite

So you have loads of photos and data on your PC that you can’t afford to lose and need a method to ensure that both your PC and your images are backup up correctly. But you also need to know that you have a copy of the data off-site.

Well here is a simple guide on how I do it and what you need

Firstly this guide is only useful for Windows PC’s on the whole sorry, I know plenty of people use mac’s but currently I don’t but I’m sure you might be able to use elements of this guide.

Windows Homeserver

What is it and why do you need it? Windows Home Server is a piece of software that Microsoft have created specifically for the home. It’s based on Windows 2003 Server edition but with many of the features simplified for the home.  It can be installed on most older PC’s, I’m running it on an old Dell P4 desktop with 1Gb of memory and that’s more than enough.

However if I was buying something dedicated to Home Server (WHS) I’d have a look at one of these Tranquil Homeserver . It costs about £430 and consumes less than 40w of energy ideal for something you are going to want have switched on all the time.

Tranquil

So now you have your Home Server, you have bought it off the shelf or installed it on something you have already got and you are ready to go.

Install WHS connector software on your PC – PC Backup

To get the next feature that you will need you have to install the WHS connector software, this can be found on an additional CD that you should have got or connect to your WHS and go to the Software share and you will find the Homeserver connect Software there. Install this on each PC in your house.

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The WHS Connect software will do several things but the purpose of this guide the main thing is that its the conduate to backup each PC to your home server. Its extremely efficient at storing this data, if it backs up three Vista 32bit machines all with the same patch levels it will only hold one copy of the OS data and just reference it for each machine.

You can log onto the WHS via the connector and configure the backup’s to be done each day, week, month etc. and it will nag you if you miss the backup window by showing the server as ‘Critical’ its not but hey you got to love Microsoft sometimes.

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Important – Don’t use WHS to Backup Photos / music

One point to note, I don’t use the WHS software to backup my images in fact I specifically exclude them from the process. Why? Well speed of the backup for one and control being the other. I use a syncing tool to backup all my images, music and data directly to the home server so it can be viewed by other clients. If you only let the WHS do the backup itself it sits in a special file on the WHS that none of the clients can get access to other than via WHS. Don’t forget using WHS Media Connect software which is DLNA compliant you will be able to view the photos or listen to music via a compatible media player if you sync to the WHS not use the WHS Connector to do the backup.

Syncing Photos, Music to your WHS

To transfer your images and music to the WHS I suggest using something like MS SyncToy V2 you can configure this to your hearts content. Get to sync from the PC to the WHS only or both directions or just detect changes on one end. You can also set up multiple transfers.

I configure my Photos on one sync and Music on another to the corresponding directory on the WHS, I set it off once a week or so when I have carried out any major changes. Then after the sync is complete all the other clients and see the new files and can use them if they need to, he presto you have a media server.

Off-Site backup of your data via Carbonite

So you have constructed and configured your Windows Home Server, added files to it by syncing them from a PC and now you need to take another copy just in case the worst happened, Hard disk failure, fire, theft you name it, do you really want to take lots of lovely photos or rip all your CD’s to lose the lot…… no I thought not.

So you need Carbonite or a similar service. I use carbonite for several reasons, it works on WHS, it allows for unlimited (within reason) backup space and its not expensive. At $49 a year or $89 for 2 and now $135 for 3 years its extremely competitive especially when you consider the storage you can use. Currently I have a none to small 140Gb of space used up and its still growing fast. The data transfer is quick and the restore’s I’ve tried also seem to be ok.

Carbonite WHS Issues

Its not perfect, with WHS there seems to be a small bug when you allow WHS to span data across multiple disks itself, for some reason WHS won’t back them up. Carbonite sees them as if they are on other drives and they stay in a wait state, its a shame but it can be solved. If you store the data on one disk or use RAID so the OS doesn’t know where it is all is fine, so its not a big thing but worth mentioning. You can also start and stop the backup if you need to and even tell it to work on a lower priority so it doesn’t swamp your connection.

If you want to backup video files you will also need to select them individually, a hassle but at least you can do it. I think they are trying to limit the space people will use but if you have a compact camera that makes videos you are going to have to make sure you go through each directory to ensure they are all being backed up.

Backup times for me have been fine but remember that a typical UK broadband upload limit is only 256k not the 6-8Mb (6-8000k) download you enjoy when surfing the net and downloading things. If you can go to one of the newer services from someone like Be Unlimited they offer a service that gives up to 1.5Mb upload speeds very useful when you are using an off-site backup service such as this.

Conclusion

So there you go, you have a triple resilient solution that will have your data living in three places. Your PC, the Home Server and off site. This should be more than good enough for just about anyone. The only other thing that I’d advise to make things very secure is take a backup yourself to another hard drive and take it off site yourself, give it to another family member. This would only be needed if there was an issue with Carbonite of some sort and as anything is possible I might as well mention it.

So you need a Windows Home server, a couple of PC clients, a media player, an internet connection, router, and last but by no means least some great photos or music or other data to take advantage of this easy peasy full backup solution.

Useful Links

We Got Served
Windows Home Server – We Got Served – Widgets
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If anyone has any questions I’d be happy to answer them post away in the comments section.

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