The Arca-style tripod heads and plates are one of my favorites. I use them now for over 4 years, and I guess I'll be using them for a long time. Especially the so-called L-plates are awesome.
The L-plates are plates which enables you to put the camera in portrait orientation on the tripod head, without putting the top of the head in an awkward vertical position, which lowers the effective height of your camera on the tripod.
For my former Nikon D300 I had a L-plate by Really Right Stuff, and now that I upgraded to a Fujifilm X-T1, I needed one for that model. This time they (Really Right Stuff - RSS) created a modular L-plate. The former D300 version was made out of one piece, but the this one allows you to remove the L-part of the plate, making the camera lighter. So you need to add that part if you intend to shoot in the portrait orientation. The good thing is that you can order the parts separately. So you can start with the base plate and get the L-part when you need it. I just got them both at the same time.
The entire kit comes with the appropriate hex wrenches and a small screw which can be used on the bottom plate as a stop, so the camera won't accidentally slide out of the ball head. Unfortunately, there's only one stop screw available on the bottom, so the camera can still slide to the other side.
The connection of the two parts is rock solid. No movement what so ever. I just hope that it doesn't wear over time.
While the L-plate is attached to the camera, you can still access all the important parts of the camera.
There is one downside to the L-plate. You cannot use the Fuji wired shutter remote when you have the l-part attached to the bottom plate. But you can always use the Fuji smartphone app to remotely control your camera via a wireless connection.
A couple of years ago I bought the Arca-Swiss Z1 Monoball (with flip-lock) to support my Nikon D300 with several lenses. An excellent ballhead which would last you a life time (that's what I said at the time). And that statement is still valid, IF I was still shooting with (large) DSLR's. In the mean time I sold my DSLR and went for something a bit more compact with the Fujifilm X-T1.
Scaling down on the camera part means that I can also scale down the accessories. A smaller and lighter camera doesn't need a beast like the Arca-Swiss Z1 Monoball for tripod support. Something smaller and lighter (and cheaper) would also suffice.
It's relatively small (compared to the Arca), and about 200grams lighter, while it's still capable of bearing a 20kg load. Not that my current gear comes even near that weight.
It also has the main features of the Arca-Swiss Monoball. Nice bog knobs, with variable friction setting. It also comes with a all-round camera plate (PU60), and a nice bubble-level. The latter is kinda small, so I don't know if it's very usable in the field.
I use the included PU60 plate on my Nikon P7000 P&S camera if necessary. The Wimberley P-5 is my preferred plate under my M9. The Fuji X-T1 is using a Really Right Stuff L-Plate (BXT1). I tested the PU60 on my M9, but even with the rubbery pads on the plate, I could still easily rotate the plate under the camera. This doesn't happen when I use the Wimberley P-5 plate.
This shouldn't be a problem in everyday use, but when you want to do some long-exposures, you don't want the camera to move around the plate itself.
The following photos might give you some idea of the ball head with the included PU60 plate.
The tension on the ball is adjustable (by the 'wheel' in the large knob. It allows you to maintain movement of the ball head, but when you let go of the camera, it stays in the position when you let go. The adjustment can be done with the tip of your finger. If that is hard, you can also use a small coin (or screwdriver) to adjust the friction setting.
It also features a locking mechanism that makes sure that you don't accidentally 'loose' the camera when moving around. This might happen when you loosen the plate. One condition is that the plate attached to the camera has 'stop screws' on the bottom. If these are present, you need to pull and turn the release knob. After that you can safely remove the camera from the ball head.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to Park Hoge-Veluwe for a photo/gear meet. The meet was organised by the (or at least one of the) biggest geek/tech fora in the Netherlands. Here are some photos of that day.
Amazon patented the practice of photographing objects against a white background... Huh? What the F*ck?
Well, that's exactly what Stephen Colbert thought;
I guess that I'm not the only one violating that patent.
When shooting macro, you need a lot of light. Normally you would use one or more (off-camera) flashes to facilitate this. The downside of a flash is that you only get the light when you press the shutter button. This can be challenging a relative low-light environment.
A solution for this is continuous lighting.
The traditional continuous lighting setups would get really hot. A couple of hundred Watts of power was nothing, and, in a small workspace, things could get hot (literally).
Thankfully, we have LED lights nowadays. Small (battery powered) devices with a lot of bright LED's, which are very affordable.
I bought a set of video lights on Amazon with 160 LED's (NanGuang CN-160) each. The devices are battery powered and give a lot of light. The video lights have a dimmer, so you can control the amount of light.
They take several types of batteries. Including 6 AA-type rechargeable batteries. The problem with the AA batteries is that they drain relatively fast, so I got a set of supported batteries, which normally go into a Sony camcorder (NP-F750F). Not the originals, but a cheaper knock-off. Another advantage of the larger batteries over the AA-types is that the amount of light produced is significant higher, and lasts for a longer period of time.
The lights itself are relatively light, but with the batteries they tend to weigh around half a kilo each. So this is not a practical setup for handheld macro photography in the field.
To give you an idea of how much light they produce: The following photo was made in a dark room with one of the video lights on full power with the included diffuser. The camera (handheld) / lens settings were:
- Camera: Fujifilm X-T1
- Lens: Sigma 105mm F/2.8 Macro DG (F-mount with a X-adapter)
- Shutter: 1/600
- Aperture: F/8
- ISO: 400
All I need right now is to create some sort of a flexible (portable) workspace with a way of positioning the lights independently around the subject.
UPDATE: I received my cheap flexible tripods and (even cheaper) ballheads by mail today. This should make the lighting for my macro photography a bit easier.
The total cost of this setup is around €150 (depending on the currency exchange rate).
- 2 * CN-160 LED Lights: €52
- 2 * Falcon batteries (SONY compatible NP-F750-F incl. charger): €75
- 2 * 10-inch Flexible Desktop Digital Camera Tripod: €18
- 2 * POPLAR Octopus 1/4 Monopod / Tripod Ball Head: €9
Note: The setup is sufficient for the (cheap) LED-lights, but I wouldn't trust them with my Leica or Fuji camera.
During the time with my Nikon D300 I always used regular (thread) filters (circular polarizers, and ND filters). Since the release of the Fujifilm X-T1 I wondered if a Lee filter system might be better / more flexible (not cheaper!!!!).
The Seven5 series is cheaper since it uses smaller filters (75mm versus 100mm), and since my Fujifilm X-T1 uses relatively small lenses this could be a winner (the kit lens has a 58mm filter thread). Until I found out that the new ultra wide angle Fujinon XF 10-24mm F/4 R OIS has a 72mm filter thread. And as you might guess, I'm really interested in that lens.
Fortunately, Lee has a 75-to-72mm adapter, so technically the Seven5 system can be used with that lens.
Adaptor ring thread sizes:
The holder attaches to the lens via a screw-in adaptor ring. The adaptor ring is available in the following thread sizes: 37, 37.5, 39, 40, 40.5, 43, 46, 49, 52, 55, 58, 60, 62, 67 and 72mm.
But 72mm versus 75mm doesn't leave much room on the vignetting side of it. Chances are that you get serious vignetting on the ultra wide end of the focal range (10-14mm), because of the filter holder attached to the lens.
Just to make sure, I dropped Lee an e-mail, and this is what I got in return:
So, there yo got it; Accept additional vignetting on the ultra wide side, or invest in the more expensive 100mm filter system. But before I even invest in a filter system I need to see some independent reviews of that new lens. I might even get the Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 R. That lens is available at the moment and is highly recommended by several sites  / reviewers / users.
Choices, choices, choices
UPDATE: After much deliberation I bought the Lee 100mm kit with two adapter rings. One for the Fuji 18-55mm (58mm filter thread) and one for the Samyang / Rokinon 12mm f/2 (67mm filter thread). I also added the Big Stopper (10 stops ND) and the Little Stopper (6 stops ND) to my cart.
So in the event I decide to switch camera brand/systems with different lenses (filter threads) I can still use this filter system. I only have to get new/other lens adapters.