Flash fires but photo way too dark or bright?

Here are a couple of popular camera-settings related mishaps when using pop-up or studio flashes. The result is always the same: the flash visibly fires but the image is either way too dark or too bright.

Pop-up flash fires but photo way too dark/underexposed?

For this post I’m assuming you already know the limits of a pop-up flash (e.g. you probably can’t properly light a subject 20 feet away with a small flash). Here’s list of camera settings to go through. I’m using a Nikon DSLR body with a built-in pop-up flash, so the settings’ names may be different on your camera. Continue reading

How to merge/combine/join multiple .mp4 videos on the Mac

I have a whole bunch of photography tutorials I converted from Flash video format (.flv) to .mp4 so I can watch them on my iPad. Since those tutorials are broken down into a myriad of .mp4 episodes it makes it much harder to watch them in the right order. I needed to find a way to merge several episodes into large movies. This is where Squared 5’s MPEG StreamClip for Mac comes in handy. While this free video conversion tool allows you to convert alls sorts of video formats to .mp4, it also allows you to merge multiple .mp4 videos. Here’s how to do it. Continue reading

How to convert .flv Flash video to .mp4 on the Mac

I have a bunch of photography tutorials in the Flash video .flv format which I want to watch on my iPad. As you may be aware, everything with the name Flash in it doesn’t play too well on Apple’s iOS devices. VLC Media Player for iOS is able to play the .flv format but Apple doesn’t allow 3rd party software devs to use the built-in H.264 hardware acceleration for video playback. As as result, .flv videos usually don’t play very well on iOS devices. Besides, I prefer to manage my video collection in iTunes instead of dragging every clip onto an app icon.

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Shooting tethered, vertically, using an L-bracket on a ball head

Have you ever tried to mount your DSLR camera vertically on a ball head, using an L-bracket and using the USB port for tethered shooting, all at the same time? Some time ago, I was watching an episode of D-Town TV where they were using an L-bracket on a tripod in the studio and I instantly knew that I wanted an L-bracket too. On that episode they were shooting horizontally so tethering the USB cable to the computer wasn’t an issue. However, things look different once you try to shoot vertically, let’s say for a portrait. Well, I don’t know about Canon but at least on quite a few Nikon bodies, this is simply impossible. Here’s why. Because there’s not enough space between the USB port and the ball head to plug in a Mini USB cable. I’ve found a perfect solution to this problem and it’s quite a cheap shot.

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64-bit USB to UART drivers available now

Just in case you missed it: Silicon Labs (SiLabs) now offers a 64-bit driver version for its CP210x USB to UART bridge virtual COM port. These chips are found in quite a few GPS loggers, e.g. the Holux M-241. The latest version also contains a few fixes:

Corrected Kernel Panic in Snow Leopard which would randomly occur after
Modified DTR pin to toggle on open and close instead of on insertion
Modified driver to load without showing the Network Connection Dialog
Modified driver to allow toggling of RTS and DTR pins
Added 64 bit support for Snow Leopard

So if you’re running Snow Leopard in 64-bit kernel mode, head over to SiLabs website and download the new driver.

Design/personalize your own custom credit card

Did you know that more and more credit card companies let you design your own credit card? Obviously you can’t change the text and general layout of the card but you can use your own background image on it. Depending on the company, they enforce some more or less strict rules about the content of your image. You could always try but don’t expect them to accept that nice Apple logo or your favorite Playmate’s boobs on the credit card you designed. Continue reading

Review: Geotagging with Easytag GPS module (Nikon GP-1 compatible)

If you’re an avid geotagger and own a Nikon GP-1 (or compatible) on-camera GPS receiver, you may have found yourself in a situation where you had to take a photo even though your GPS unit wasn’t ready, thus leading to inaccurate or even missing latitude/longitude coordinates in your photo. A GPS receiver usually needs at least 30 to 40 seconds to acquire an accurate position fix in the open once you turn the camera on. Depending on your subject, that can be quite some time. An on-camera GPS unit like the Nikon GP-1 also puts quite a strain on your camera’s battery life.

On the other hand, if you’re using an off-camera geotagger like the Holux M-241 there’s always some sort of more or less complex post-processing workflow involved to store the GPS readings in your photo’s metadata header. I sometimes forget to switch my Holux M-241 on when I’m outside with the camera or even worse: I usually forget to take it with me at all. Doh!

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a GPS unit that sits on the camera (so I don’t forget it at home), runs on its own power but still is able to immediately store GPS readings in your photos whenever you take them? Running on it’s own power has the advantage that when you’re outside with your camera, you can simply forget about hot/warm/cold startup times or draining your camera’s battery and just concentrate on the non-GPS-side of photography.
This is where the Easytag GPS module (a.k.a. Easytagger) comes into play. The Easytagger is a hybrid between an off-camera and an on-camera GPS logger. Judging from the product description, this thing seems to be the jack of all trades:

  • Stores GPS info directly to a photo’s metadata header (no matter if NEF or JPEG)
  • Data logger mode: Ability to log a trail (a series of GPS readings) to a microSD card using the popular NMEA format
  • 2-axis magnetic sensor to record heading
  • Barometric altimeter
  • Built-in rechargeable 500mAh Li-Ion battery, and in case it’s emtpy, draws power from the camera
  • Unique design to allow mounting on flash accessory shoe and the built-in flash to be used at the same time
  • Multi-model compatibility: simply use the appropriate data cable. 10-pin: Nikon D200, D300, D300s, D700, D3/D3s/D3x, D2/D2x/D2xs/D2Hs. 8-pin: Nikon D90, D5000
  • No setup required, just plug and play!

But does the Easytagger really live up to its expectations? I’m going to have a close look at the Easytag GPS module from a Nikon D700 and a Mac user’s perspective. Continue reading

Apple adds support for Panasonic LX-3 & Leica D-Lux 4 raw RW2 format

Apple finally introduced support for the RW2 format from the Panasonic LX-3 and the Leica D-Lux 4 compact digital cameras in the Digital Raw Camera Compatibility 3.0 update. You may have been wondering why it has taken so long to add support for these models. The reason is that the LX-3 and the D-Lux 4 use a lens with high (up to 2.9%) lens distortion at short focal lengths. Apparently, this is the price that has to paid in order to have a 24mm (equivalent) wide angle zoom lens in a compact camera. The built-in raw conversion engine in the camera corrects for this distortion and also applies other corrections for de-vignetting, chromatic aberration and sharpness when the photo is saved as a JPEG. To compensate for the distortion, the photo has to be cropped quite a bit. See here for more details. Technically, the shortest focal length is more like 21mm (equivalent). While Adobe Lightroom users were enjoying RW2 raw photos from the LX-3 and D-Lux 4 for quite some time, Apple’s digital camera raw engine didn’t have support for lens distortion correction until version 3, which was released at the 9th of this month. It supports both, Aperture 3 and iPhoto ’09. Unfortunately, you’re SOL if you’re still using Aperture 2. Continue reading

Apple Aperture 3 flickr upload lacks GPS data… not!

Ever since the release of Aperture, Apple only half-heartedly supported metadata in exported photo’s. I don’t know why but Apple decided not to export extremely useful metadata information like lens model and many others as well. Unfortunately, this is still the case with Aperture 3 :( Lens type is still not included in any exported JPEGs or when directly uploading a photo to flickr. When I tried to upload a photo to flickr using the new flickr button in Aperture 3, even location data from “Places” wasn’t included. Commenter Connor had the solution: I needed to check that checkbox in Aperture’s preferences web tab (see screenshot below). Continue reading

Apple adds GPS Geotagging support in Aperture 3

The new Geotagging features in Aperture 3 are pretty cool – and very simple to use too. Just like in iPhoto, Apple doesn’t use the term Geotagging but calls it “Places” instead. There’s support for the popular NMEA format which I’m able to export from my Holux M-241 GPS logger using BT747. Aperture Places is also able to read the latitude/longitude data embedded in a photo’s metadata and displays the location on map. Places is able to show the track log if you want to see the route as well. It’s so nice to finally have Geotagging support within Aperture. This simplifies the Geotagging workflow when using a GPS logger a lot. It’s even easier if you use an on-camera GPS unitContinue reading

Geotagging with YongNuo GPS receiver for Nikon D700 (GP-1 compatible)

I’ve always fancied the Nikon GP-1 GPS on-camera receiver for its ability to directly write geotagging information to a photo, including the Nikon .NEF RAW format, thus greatly reducing the complexity of the post-processing workflow involved when using an off-camera GPS logger like the Holux-M241. The Nikon GP-1 still costs around USD 200 which IMHO is a bit overpriced. Continue reading

Preventing the built-in flash from firing when using a Nikon SB-900 flash

When using the Nikon SB-900 (and the SB-600 and SB-800 as well btw.) as a remote flash and the camera as the commander, the built-in flash always fires as well even if it is explicitly disabled in the e3 menu. Even though those timing flashes are of lower intensity, they can be seen clearly if you’re photographing an object with a reflecting surface, including eyes, especially when using a macro lens. At times, this is a very unpleasant effect. Is there a way to prevent the built-in camera flash from firing when using a Nikon CLS remote flash? Continue reading

Thread issue with Nikon Nikkor 70-200 2.8 VR II

My shiny, new Nikon Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8 VR II lens seems to have a damaged thread inside. The thread coating seems to be flaking (click photo below to enlarge). I’m worried that the flaking parts are going to damage the lens over time. You need to zoom to 200mm and then check the area indicated in the photo below if your lens has a damaged thread too. The problem seems to be pretty widespread, I’ve already seen dozens of users reporting the same problem after checking their 70-200 VR II.

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D700 firmware v1.02 introduces new GPS related options for Nikon GP-1 GPS receiver

In the just released firmware version 1.02 for the D700, Nikon added an option to sync the GPS time to the camera time and a new option to allow the camera more time to acquire GPS data. I’ll be doing a review on a Nikon GP-1 compatible on-camera GPS receiver for the Nikon D700 (and the Nikon D3, D3X, D90, D200, D300, D900 as well) later this month, so keep watching this space if you think the original Nikon GP-1 is a tad too expensive for what it delivers. Continue reading

Nikon Nikkor 70-200 VR II f/2.8 vs. VR I – design flaws?

There has been a lot of controversy lately about the brand new Nikon Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8 VR II lens. Some folks claimed the lens is utterly unusable for wedding photography because of the changes to EFL (effective focal length) compared to the older VR I lens. As usual with expensive gadgets, the noise to fact ratio skyrocked in the ensuing (sometimes emotional) discussion in several photography related forums. Interestingly, the EFL issue went unnoticed in all the raving pre-release reviews of the new VR II lens.

I just want to point to a thread on dpreview.com which IMHO is the most accurate comparison between the VR I and VR II lens to date:


The first three posts from user em_dee_aitch sum it up very nicely.