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Photography

Binging on camera accessories

I’m a person who spends money when it counts, but I’m also a cheap bastard when it doesn’t count.  So after getting my new Canon 60D and several new lenses (Zeiss ZE 35 mm f/1.4, Zeiss ZE 50 mm f/1.4, and Sigma 10mm f/2.8 fisheye), I went on a camera accessory binge.

Camera Clip

My latest arrival is the Peak Design camera clip.  Several months ago, I ran across a kickstarter campaign to fund this new company.  For a $50 contribution to help get this company started, you would receive a free capture clip, which would retail for $80 once launched.  It arrived last week, and I couldn’t be happier.  It has a high build quality, solidly attaches the camera to my belt even with the 2 lb 35mm Zeiss lens attached, and has a redundant locking system.

Focusing Screen

With two new manual focus lenses, I was looking to improve my focusing success rate.  Prior to autofocus lens mounts, SLR cameras used to have prismatic viewfinders with two semicircles (for a split image) and a microprism ring where the image would pop when in focus.  As it turns out there are several companies out there that make aftermarket focusing screens for a variety of DSLRs.  Researching on the internet, I ran into several issues with aftermarket screens:

  1. At high f-stop numbers, your eye has to be centered in the viewfinder or you see nothing.  At higher stops the problem gets worse until you can’t see anything at all.
  2. Less light is transmitted through the aftermarket screens compared to the OEM screens.  This could lead to focusing difficulties in dim light or high stops.
  3. Internal metering may be affected at high stops or with slow lenses.  You may have to push your EV values up or down by a bit.
  4. The AF point indicators will not function with some cameras when you replace the focusing screen.  This is not a problem with the 60D.

Canon only makes prismatic screens for the 1D and 5D.

Haoda ($72) has very little information on their website and no optional grid lines; all you can do is order one and cross your fingers.  How it deals with the above problems is unknown.

FocusingScreen.com has a large variety of styles ranging in price from $86 to $93, but no optional grid lines.  Some screens for some camera models can be as low as $45.  How it deals with the above problems is unknown.

Katz Eye Optics has lots of detailed information on their website with lots of options, but has the highest prices.  The “Plus” option deals with (1) but is automatically included with the 60D screen at the base price of $105.  The “OptiBrite” treatment fixes (2) but costs an additional $55.  There are also a wide variety of optional grid lines you can get for $40.  And there is detailed EV compensation information on their website.  I got one with OptiBrite and no extra gridlines, and it was an additional $25 to ship to Canada and $29 more for customs and duty.  So after $215 for a little piece of plastic and a bit of surgery on my camera, I can do manual focusing much better and quicker than before.  It seems to work well under all conditions and I am very happy with the purchase.  With issue (1) I only notice that at high stops (tested at f/22) one of the semicircles will black out at the extreme edge of the viewfinder, not a problem in the slightest.  With problem (2), I do notice that even with OptiBrite, it is still a bit dimmer then normal at high stops (f/22), but not adversely so and I wouldn’t be stopping down that much under dim conditions anyways.

Intervalometer

Next up, an intervalometer.  This plugs into the camera trigger port and provides 3 important functions: a remote trigger, time lapse, and long exposures (longer than 30 seconds).  A remote trigger lets you mount the camera on a tripod and trigger it without hand shake.  You can also do time lapse by hooking up a computer to the camera via the USB port, but if you want to do a time lapse out in the field, laptop batteries don’t last that long and it’s more weight to carry around.  Canon cameras do not allow exposures longer than 30 seconds unless you are in bulb mode (when the shutter is open as long as you hold your finger on the button).

A quick search shows a Canon TC-80N3 at Vistek for $260, or at Amazon.ca for $140.  However, compatible intervalometers can be had at Amazon.ca for $20 to $35 (I got mine for $24 + $5 shipping).  So I ordered a RS-60E3 (different cameras have different trigger connectors, so make sure it works with your camera before you buy) expecting a cheap piece of plastic, but to my surprise it had very reasonable quality.  There is no on/off switch, but the batteries last for months and there is a low battery indicator.  You can set delay, exposure (in bulb mode), or interval from 1 second to 99 hours 59 minutes and 59 seconds, its got a backlight, and you can set number of frames from 1 to 399 or infinity.

Batteries

Can’t get a new camera without getting a spare battery.  Retail price of an original LP-E6 Canon battery is $120.  Chinese battery: $10.  The Chinese batteries do not have the computer chip in them so you can’t tell the charge when in the camera, and the Canon charger won’t charge it, but I’m willing to overlook a lot at 1/12 the price.  Extra in-wall battery charger with car charger that doesn’t check for the computer chip: $10.  Oh look, you can get both together on Amazon.ca for $18.

My experience with Chinese batteries in the past is that they don’t quite hold as much charge as OEM batteries, and they don’t last as long (2 years vs 3 years), but so what I’ll buy more as I need them.  In an actual time lapse test with both batteries fully charged, I was able to capture 96% of the number of images as the Canon battery before completely draining.  However, buy the batteries that you need, because lithium batteries will degrade over time even if you don’t use them.

Shoulder mount

$35 for a shoulder mount stabilizer at Amazon.ca.  Nice fitting and solidly built.  Haven’t got a chance to really try it out though.  Much cheaper than the $475 Zacuto.

Microphone

I already had a XLR shotgun mic and a balanced XLR adapter, and I was looking for mic holder or suspension that would fit on the top shoe mount.  I was going to get this Azden for $33, when I saw this mic on a cold shoe for $32.  It was around the same price as the mount and suspension alone, and also avoided the nest of wires and XLR adapter.  It’s directional and the quality is a bit better than the built in mic, but it’s a bit cheaply made.  In retrospect I should have gotten the Azden holder, which would have gotten me better audio quality with better mics, and vibration protection with the suspension.  However the Azden would have posed other problems; touching the wires, and there would be more wires, causes audio noise just as surely as vibrations would.

Filters

Damn these lenses with different sized filter threads.  Good thing step up adapters are cheap.  Get filters at the size of your largest lens and use step ups to fit them on the others.  I found the cheapest place to get filters was either Amazon.ca or DinoDirect.com.  Chinese filters are usually less than 1/10th the price of brand name filters, and they aren’t always of the same quality, but at that price I’m willing to give them a try.

Got a complete set of ND filters.  I prefer the fixed ND rather than the variable because I like to know how much to multiply my exposure time by.  I tried some very long exposures at night with an ND8, and discovered that the sensor in the 60D is somewhat sensitive to infrared, which the ND’s do not block out.  I’d love to get a IR cutoff filter, but they are around $170 and the Chinese don’t make them yet.  Under normal use (not these crazy 2 hour exposures), pictures will appear slightly “warmer” because of this IR effect.

Linear polarizer, not circular.  Although circular polarizers work better with internal metering, I can easily make the EV adjustments manually.  I prefer the LPL’s because they are better at eliminating reflections, that’s something you can’t compensate for with a CPL.  Note that many Chinese LPL’s are listed and marked as CPL’s.  If it rotates or if it’s really cheap, it’s really a LPL.  Order one and test it when it arrives; in the worst case if it actually is a CPL, then think of the really great deal you got since CPL’s are usually quite a bit more expensive than LPL’s.

Got a nearly complete set of star filters, 4, 6, and 8 point.  Just missing a 2 point filter.  These are fun at night with lots of point sources, or catching sunlight reflections off of water.

Also picked up a bunch of filter cases.  Other styles are available, but I like the folding style.

Lens Cases

Here I was with a bunch of lenses and hardly any lens cases.  I was looking for belt mounted cases so I could carry them around in field as well as the added protection.  Lowepro’s are a good option for $30, but I wanted to check out the quality and size of the Safrotto‘s for $11, so I ordered the E15.   High quality, lots of padding, and fits 3 of my lenses: Zeiss 35 mm (with lens hood on and reversed), Tamron 90 mm (with lens hood on and reversed), and Canon 17-85mm.  It also fits my Sigma 10mm, but that lens already came with its own case.  So I’ll be ordering another two E15’s, and perhaps an E14 for my 50 mm.

Other stuff

ACK-E6 AC adapter.  Can’t do long time lapses indoors with the threat of a battery running out.  I briefly thought about getting a battery grip for longer battery life outdoors, but decided that carrying a stack of batteries would be sufficient.  The Canon AC adapter is $140, this one is $16.

Lens pen.  A 1st AC turned me onto these.  Very conveniently pocket sized, no more rummaging around for a blower and cloth.

43″ 5 in 1 reflector, $120 at Vistek or $24 at Amazon.ca or $15 at Amazon.com

Screen protector.  They make me buy 5 of these at a time.  Anyone with a 60D who wants one of my extras?

Didn’t get extra flash memory because I have enough for the time being.  Waiting is always better because it only gets cheaper over time.  I do notice though that Canada Computers has Patriot 32 GB class 10 SDHC’s for $45 right now.

Still considering getting a fluid head and new tripod.  I’ve heard good things about the Weifeng 717.

Anyone know of a reasonable quality and cheap rail system and follow focus kit?

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Discussion

One thought on “Binging on camera accessories

  1. Great Post !

    Posted by Emad | August 25, 2011, 11:28 pm

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