Manfrotto Adopts Arca Swiss Quick Release Standard with Q6 Top Lock System, Main Reason Not to Buy Their Heads Still Unsolved*


I was browsing and this was one of the headlines. Those who have shot for long enough know that Manfrotto a) makes some great tripods, b) has a myriad selection of quick release plates that are all inferior to the Arca Swiss platform, and c) cannot make a ballhead to save their lives.  Well, they have addressed point b) with the new Q6 “Top Lock” quick release system, which comes as an adaptor on its own, or as an option on their ballheads. Not too much fanfare too – there was no news on the Manfrotto website, and the option has been available for a couple of months now. Talk about a silent launch. A quick look at B&H shows it going for US$100. Now, how about some proper ballheads?

*With apologies to a friend for stealing the long headline.

(Image Credit: Manfrotto website)

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5 Stones Photo Relaunched With New Design

5 Stones Photo Blog
5 Stones Photo Blog

YS and CK have kindly consented to me posting this shameless self plug, so here goes – my own photography blog 5 Stones Photo, a personal blog where I post pictures and anecdotes about the photographic life, has been relaunched with a new site design and look – basically a wider design with more breathing space and more room for 800 pixel wide images to be posted.

Sunset at Shibuya. From Tokyo Dreaming
Sunset at Shibuya. From Tokyo Dreaming

More importantly, this coincides with my dive into full time photography and also the launch of a new series of articles on my personal trips to Japan – Tokyo Dreaming, a long term project looking at life on the streets of Tokyo and the visual documentation of this mega-city. Part 1 and Part 2 has so far been posted this week.

Do visit and support my blog!

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Stealth Upgrade: Sandisk Extreme SD Cards (80 MB/s Version)

Sandisk Extreme SD Card

I saw this over the weekend in the stores and in a small event the local Sandisk distributor was holding in one of the local shopping centres: Apparently Sandisk has released a new version of the Extreme line, and in a slightly disappointing fashion, have taken to reporting the faster read speed of 80 MB/s all over the front packaging and on the card itself. The write speed is 60 MB/s, which makes it on par with the Lexar equivalent. A quick look at this point of writing on Amazon shows it to be somewhat overpriced though – it should be priced only slightly more than the current 45 MB/s versions. I got a 32GB one, in line with The Switch (more on that in the near future).

Unfortunately since I currently (emphasis on currently) don’t have a USB 3.0-equipped system, I am not able to perform any proper benchmarks. It pretty much maxes out on a USB 2.0 Lexar Dual Card Reader with read and write speeds of 20MB/s in ATTO Benchmark. CK, however, does. See what he says after the break! Continue reading Stealth Upgrade: Sandisk Extreme SD Cards (80 MB/s Version)

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Dead Horse: Hasselblad Stellar

Hasselblad Stellar

Sigh. I was going to make more jokes, but even though this is the second tarted-up, ostentatious and pretentious offering from Hasselblad, I can already see it being tiresome. This time, the Stellar is a Sony RX100 (and not even the newer RX100 II) with a ghastly looking wooden grip sold at three to six times the price. Available in a number of different woods, I just cannot imagine why you would want to…

Get wood for your pocket shooter.

I’ll get my coat.

CK: As if releasing the Lunar-tic isn’t enough, Hasselblad now releases a camera based on a compact? I am sure the price will be Stellar as well. Looks like the luxury camera market is a very lucrative one indeed.

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A Quick Guide to the Use of the Manual Exposure Mode

Mode Dial, Nikon F80The manual exposure mode on a camera was of course, the only way to set exposure on a camera then. With smart metering systems coupled with the auto exposure modes available nowadays, what does one do with the M mode? Well, here are some pointers.

When to use the manual exposure mode:

  • Keeping the exposure constant in varying light conditions – especially useful when stitching or doing time lapse videos.
  • Preventing improperly exposed photos in conditions that are giving the camera’s exposure meter fits.
  • Balance the ratio between ambient and flash light in flash photography, especially when indoors.

When NOT to use the manual exposure mode:

  • When you are trying to feel like a photographer but all you are doing is matching the exposure settings to the exposure readout given by the camera, thereby achieving the same result as setting the camera on an auto-exposure mode, but taking longer to do so.
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Canon Announces the EOS 70D, Finally Uses New Sensor

Canon EOS 70D with EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 STM lens

This is it people, Canon has finally released a new camera that doesn’t use that 18 megapixel sensor from 2008’s EOS 7D. The EOS 70D uses an all new “Dual Pixel AF” 20 megapixel that uses a new photodiode thingamajig that splits the light at each photosite. This allows each photosite to act as a phase detect sensor. Theoretical benefits include faster AF and phase detect AF capability across almost the entire sensor while in live view.

That exciting news aside, the rest of the EOS 70D is mostly like a Nikon D7100 in execution: Place a new exciting sensor, use as much of the existing camera as possible, and borrow a bits from the upper tier camera. The latter in this case, is the EOS 7D’s 19 point AF module which uses all cross sensors. The EOS 70D also has a 16 raw file buffer, which makes it actually useful, unlike the 6 image buffer in the D7100, and built-in WiFi. The rest of the camera is mostly like a EOS 60D, including that very handy 3″ articulating VGA LCD screen, which is now a touchscreen as well. The viewfinder is a 98% affair, and the camera does 1080p videos at 30, 25 and 24 FPS. Another nice feature is the 1/250th second flash sync speed. Will Canon finally start to reclaim the hearts and minds of the Internet peanut gallery? We shall see.

CK: After seeing that same old 18 megapixel sensor being used on several Canon cameras like the EOS 7D, 60D, 550D, 600D, 650D and even the EOS M, I am glad Canon has finally decided that it has enough mileage off it and used a new sensor on the 70D. About time.

Poor AF performance in live view has always been the bug bear of HDSLRs, so I am glad Canon has moved a step towards improving this. If the claimed improvements are true, this will be a very big improvement over the competition in this area. What remains to be seen will be whether this camera can AF in video mode as quickly as the likes of the Panasonic Lumix GH3, Nikon 1 V1 or even the good old handycams.

David: This is yet another iteration in a long line of iterations that Canon needs to do to make sure the store shelves are filled with new things to buy. Frankly speaking, this update does nothing for the traditional stills photographer – the updated sensor with the fancy Dual Pixel CMOS sensor with phase detect technology on every pixel is an attempt to boost AF in live view, pandering to the burgeoning DSLR-as-video crowd, the market Canon first created en masse with the 5D Mark 2. To me, the most exciting feature is actually the built in WiFi mode – this can be genuinely useful for wire and press photographers who can transmit and share images wirelessly to laptops or cell phones or back to the agency.

Perhaps this might sound a little harsh, as I’m sure we all agree DSLRs have kind of reached the pinnacle of what it can offer to stills photographer – what else can Canon do that will be genuinely new? The EOS 70D is the latest in an extremely long lineage of cameras starting from the venerable EOS D30 (which I owned as my first DSLR), and every subsequent iteration is starting to get a little old.

However, I contend that there are still things that can be improved, or innovate, like, how about interchangeable sensor modules, ala the Ricoh GXR M mount module? Imagine a EOS 80D with a detachable sensor module you could upgrade – after all, the body controls have remained essentially the same. Or making a true bayer-less sensor ala the Foveon one? (Actually I believe Canon patented something like that recently, so we may really see it in a new EOS camera soon…) While we’re dwelling at the sensor level, let’s remove the AA filter as well, so that there’s no artificial blurring and we can all have crisp images like those from the Nikon D7100 or the Ricoh GR. But I’m deviating. For an enthusiast-level camera, the EOS 70D does tick all the right boxes.


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