Photo365 – 2 Mar 2011

Star Trails

Star Trails

Todays image is a composite of 12 individual 4 minute exposures that was processed using the StarTrails software.

This has been processed without using any dark frames, and hot pixels have been cloned out in the Gimp.

Given that this image was taken in my parents back garden on the edge of the New Forest, I was surprised by how much light pollution there was.  Most of the colour cast has been removed in DPP, but there was almost as much light pollution here as there was when I took a similar image from the northern part of Weymouth earlier this year.

Next attempt will be in the middle of the New Forest somewhere.

Cheap Alternative to the Honl Speed Strap

I’ve been considering buying a Honl Speed Strap to attach a Gel Clip that I was given to my flashgun, but think that £8.99 is a bit much for a length of stretchy velcro with a Honl label on it.

Yesterday, I was in Halfords, of all places, and I found some Velcro Stretch Straps (priced at £4.79 for 2 straps), so I picked up a packet and took them home, as I thought that they might make a cheap alternative to the Speed Strap.

First impression is that these straps are much too long (68 cm) for what I intended, and will definitely need to be cut down to be useful on a flashgun.

The plus side is that each strap should make at least 2 straps for flashgun use, so thats 4x straps for about half the price of a single Honl Speed Strap.

However, whilst they are stretchy, these straps are NOT rubberised, and so will not be as secure as the genuine Honl Speed Strap.

Testing the un-butchered straps on my Speedlite 550EX revealed that they are reasonably secure and can be pulled very tight.  However, unless some non-slip matting (that you use to stop things sliding around a vehicle dashboard) is also wrapped around the flash head, then the usefulness of these straps to secure large flashgun modifiers is probably fairly limited, although I haven’t yet put it to the test.

My main requirements were:

  1. To secure a plastic Gel Clip to my flash head without using permanent sticky velcro; and
  2. To secure bare flash gels to another flash head without using sticky velcro.

When shortened to the correct length, these straps perform these functions very well indeed.  I Haven’t yet got around to building a large softbox for my flashguns, so I can’t comment on how well these straps will secure a large’ish modifier, but I hope to complete the softbox in the next month or so.

Photo365 – 1 Mar 2011

Maidenhair

Maidenhair Growth

Todays image was taken using the Canon MP-E65 macro lens set at approximately 2x magnification.  The image was lit using the Speedlite MT-24EX flash heads set to approximately 11 o’clock and 2 o’clock (approximately 90 degrees apart) as recommended by Dalantech over at NoCroppingZone.

I’m still waiting for my eBay Puffer Diffuser clones to arrive, so the light from the MT-24EX was undiffused, and a bit harsh.

Exposure details are: EOS40D, MP-E65, 1/250, f/16, ISO 400, EC -2EV, FEC 0.

Canon TC-80N3 Remote Release – eBay copy – Review

The Canon TC-80N3 is an advanced remote release that features a built-in timer that performs the following functions in addition to being a simple remote shutter release:

1) Self Timer – programmable in 1 sec intervals up to 99 hrs 59 mins and 59 secs

2) Long Exposure Timer – programmable in 1 sec intervals up to 99 hrs 59 mins and 59 secs

3) Interval Timer – programmable in 1 sec intervals up to 99 hrs 59 mins and 59 secs

4) Exposure Counter – up to 99 frames

This Canon unit is however rather expensive, retailing for around £120 in the UK.

For quite some time now, I have been wanting to experiment with taking photographs of star trails and found a tutorial that explained the best way to achieve this was to take a number of relatively short exposures (~4 mins) with an interval of 1 second between exposures (to prevent gaps in the star trails when the images are merged).

Using the TC-80N3 this process can be automated, therefore removing the need to be standing next to the camera for the entire duration.

Due to the prohibitive cost of the original, I headed to eBay and located a clone of the TC-80N3 for a fraction of the cost of the Canon unit.

The unit is identical in appearance to the Canon TC-80N3, with the exception that it is branded as “Pickit” and lacks the locking metal collar on the plug that attaches to the cameras remote release socket.  The plug is however a snug fit, and so far, I have had no problems with the switch coming loose.

The remote cable is approximately 80cm long.

The unit was supplied with a user manual that explains (in pidgin english) how to combine the various modes offered by the remote release, and a CR2032 lithium watch battery was supplied as well.

Construction is very good and the unit feels solid, the only potentially weak point is a rather flimsy battery tray, so care needs to be taken when inserting/replacing the battery.

I have tested most of the available functions to date, and can confirm that the unit works as advertised with my EOS 40D.

As I do not own the original Canon TC-80N3, I am unable to compare the build quality, but given the price of this unit (approx £20), I would thoroughly recommend it if you are looking for a timer remote shutter release unit without spending big money.

Package Contents

TC-80N3 RemoteRemote Detail

Canon Tripod Ring B (B) – YongNuo Copy – Review

I have wanted a tripod mounting ring for my Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 macro lens for a long while, but thought that the £163 charge for the Original Canon Tripod Mount Ring B (B) was more than a little over the top.  There are those who say that this ring is unnecessary with the 100mm macro, as it fits very close to the camera body, and therefore does little to improve balance/stability.  This is true, but it does make changing from landscape to portrait orientation a whole lot easier, as the focus point does not change.  Which is not the case when you flip a tripod head from landscape to portrait, then have to completely recompose your shot, and this is the main reason that I wanted this accessory.

Now, I’m not a label snob, but I have tended to be wary of third party products, as I have had my fingers burned in the past, not spectacularly, but burned nonetheless.

However, given that a tripod mount ring is essentially a metallic/plastic ring that goes around the lens barrel and tightens enough to hold the lens securely, I figured that there really wasn’t anything much that could go wrong with this product, so I ordered one off of the hkyongnuophotoequipment eBay store.

  1. Firstly, this is not a faithful clone of the Canon Tripod Mount Ring B (B), which is compatible with both the EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro lens AND the MP-E65 f/2.8 1-5x Macro Lens.  This ring is not truly compatible with the MP-E65 and YongNuo’s eBay store clearly states that it is only compatible with the EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro lens.
  2. The original Canon ring is supplied with a sleeve, and has notches cut into the ring that correspond to the 4 raised screws on the outside of the barrel of the MP-E65 lens

In terms of a review, there really isn’t all that much that I can say about this ring.

It’s a metallic split ring that attaches around the barrel of the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM macro lens, and the interior of the ring is covered with adhesive velour type material to prevent scratching of the lens barrel.

However, this ring is marginally too large for the barrel of my EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro lens, meaning that the lens wasn’t held securely and the ring kept sliding off the back of the lens.

However, this was easily remedied by cutting a length of black felt and wrapping it around the lens barrel before attaching the mounting ring around the felt.  This takes up any slack, and the lens is now held securely.

I’ve been using this ring for about a month now, and it really does take the hassle out of switching the camera fromlandscape to portrait orientation, as the focus point does not change.

I will admit that the construction of this item is not going to be anywhere near as good as the genuine article, but first impressions are that it will be good enough for my purposes, and the fact that it cost £6 (approx 1/27) the cost of the original Canon item means that this is a complete no-brainer, unless of course you have plenty of money to burn to get the Canon badged item.

Vapextech VTE-2000 1hr Smart Battery Charger Review

After my faithful Uniross Sprint 30 battery charger finally gave up the ghost in a puff of smoke just after Christmas, I had an urgent need for a replacement fast charger.

I have been using VapexTech high capacity NiMh batteries for a number of years, and have always been pleased with the runtimes that they have given for my high-drain devices, so I decided to purchase their VTE-2000 charger.

VapexTech VTE-2000 Charger

The unit works well, and the charging time quoted on the VapexTech website seems accurate, with my high capacity 2700mAh batteries taking slightly longer than the charge time quoted for 2500 mAh batteries of 4.5 hours.

This is an intelligent charger, with the charging state of each battery being individually monitored.  Essentially this means that the charger stops charging each battery when it is fully charged, unlike other intelligent chargers on the market, which only monitor a pair of batteries, and will keep pumping the full charge into the pair, even if one of the batteries is fully charged.

This basically means that this charger should look after your batteries and extend their usable life.

When the batteries are inserted and the charger turned on, the charger briefly tests for faulty batteries/reversed polarity and determines the charge state of the inserted cells.  Once this has been achieved, the display shows a simple graphic of the cells inserted with a 4 segment charge state indicator for each cell.

Faulty cells are indicated by a flashing fully charged icon for the relevant cell.  I have found that this is sometimes caused by dirty terminals causing a poor connection, and so it is worth checking this before binning the battery.

When charging is complete, the battery icons show the full icon, which is static on the screen.

The unit has been put into regular usage since it arrived, and has worked perfectly.

It did however identify a number of my batteries as being faulty.  This was rather annoying, as it meant that I needed to buy new cells, but in retrospect is no real surprise, as I’m sure that there have been times that I have run a device until the batteries have been completely discharged.

As no two batteries discharge identically, you get charge reversal when the voltage of a single cell drops to a very low level (where current flowing into the cell with the lowest charge, in the reverse direction) which over time destroys the cell.

This can be avoided by charging regularly and not running the device until it dies completely.

At £14.55 including delivery, this is a smart charger that will not cook your batteries, and I think that it represents very good value for money.