Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My recent outdoor shots

I thought once that I wasn't really into taking outdoor shots, especially the time that I had my own photo studio. So basically I spent day and night taking studio shots of whatever. Pins, pots and pans, fruits, whatever I can get my hands on. It's really helpful especially during the winter months when it's around -10 degrees outside. Then I get to a point when I basically run out of idea, like a well during summer months. And that's when I thought that I needed a break and need to shoot something different. Something that I don't need to setup lights for.

Then me and my fiancée decided to get mountain bikes...and that's when the fun started.

I started biking again. I haven't had a bike in about 15 years...a very long time and I decided that I'm getting one this year and boy that was a very good thing.

I started biking around our neighborhood, exploring every bike trail close to us. I was amazed on how many photo opportunities I was missing every time I see something new. So I decided to take my camera with me. I usually pack up a wide angle, and a telephoto...nothing in between, so it's usually an extreme wide and extreme long combination. Though I suggest that if you are doing this to make sure that you pack your bag very carefully. Also there's always a risk of falling from your bike so be very cautious when riding with your camera equipment in your back.

So far I have been very delighted with my shots. A lot of them were shot in HDR, so I usually pack up a tripod too.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Giottos MH-1302 Pro Series II Ballhead

Couple of months ago I bought a ballhead for my tripod. It was the HorrusBennu LX-2T. I've used it in the studio and outdoors and never really had a problem with it, except for the usual slippage when I'm using a heavy lens. All in all I got my moneys worth for it.

Till I bought a heavier Manfrotto tripod a couple of weeks ago and installed it, I accidentally tightened the ballhead a bit more than what its supposed to be with the panning lock in the lock position...basically stripping off an internal part in my ballhead. I guess it was a sign that I basically needed a ballhead that has more stability in it and better built. So I went online to look for the best ballhead I can find for my money.

I came across, Manfrottos, Benros, Sliks, and the cheaper Vanguards, and Smith Victors. I was looking for a while till I found the Giottos ballheads which caught my attention. It came down to choosing between the Benro and the Giottos. The Benros are cheaper between 80-150 dollar price range, but I have to wait at least 2 weeks till I get it. So the Giottos was basically the best choice.

Giottos ballheads are created to be hollow inside to cut down on weight, which makes me interested in actually getting one and trying it out myself. So I decided to get it from BH photo online and it came in 3 days later.

The ballhead came in a very nice packaging. With a bag and an Arca Swiss compatible mounting plate. The ballhead had a very impressive feel to it. The ballhead has 3 controls...the ball lock, and the friction knob on the other side of the lock, and a panning knob at the bottom.

So I decided to try it out. Mounted the plate into my camera and off I went.

My positive impressions were:

The ballhead felt very well constructed. Very professional feel to it. Pretty light.
The knobs are really responsive. the locking knob bites really good to prevent slippage.
The panning is really smooth.
Includes bubble levels on the locking knob on the locking plate, on top of the locking plate itself.
The friction knob does what it's supposed to do. So you can make minor adjustments without loosening the locking knob all the way.
Holds a big 70-200 2.8 lens in place. No slippage.
The lock on the locking plate and mounting plate prevents the camera from slipping out of the mount when it is not tightened all the way.

The only thing I didn't like about it was the last thing that I mentioned. It's good if you have Giottos made plates for this ballhead. If not...the locking mechanism becomes an obstruction as it will not lock if you are using a generic mounting plate. I have 3 generic plates and one Giottos made, so the choice for me was easy...I removed the locking mechanism with an allen wrench.

Compared to cheap Chinese made ballheads, this is way better for like double the price. The panning lock seems to be tougher than those in cheaper models. I'd easily spend more money to get a higher quality ballhead. Plus you'd save yourself the headache when photographing macro, when the slightest slippage will cost you a shot.

Basically, if you can't spend money on some high end Manfrottos or Gitzos ballheads, the Giottos is a cheaper alternative that will save you a lot of money and frustration.

Get it here!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Manfrotto 190XPROB Pro Aluminum Tripod

After a couple of times of bringing with me my tripod on hikes and to a lot of places, I recently noticed that my travel tripod basically works excellent in my studio but not really that good outdoors. My old tripods' design was really simple without anything special to it and it was really light. I was on a Photoshop seminar last year and the speaker Scott Kelby said that there are basically two types of that is portable and one that actually works. Remembering what he said, I realized that my travel tripod is the portable one. The thing that is missing from my old tripod is the stability, and also the speed in changing the configuration of it, from standard to shooting macro.

I was again looking online for the best tripod for the price. Now I was ready to go into spending more on a professional or a semi pro tripod. One that will give me the stability that I need without me breaking the bank. I found some huge ones that I wouldn't question the stability features on it, but they weren't that portable to bring around anywhere. So I went to the friendly vendors outside the country to look at what they had to offer. I was once again looking at the HorusBennu tripods form Korea. They had some good ones for the price but I cannot afford to wait another 2 or 3 weeks as I needed a tripod really soon.

So I once went again to the BH photo website, and I found the Manfrotto 190XPROB Pro Aluminum Tripod Legs. At first it looked like any other tripod without anything special to them, until I saw a review in youtube. The review was pretty sweet as it showed the tripod transforming from the usual position to the macro position in like 4 seconds, without even removing the center column. So I decided to get one.

A usual, BH photo is excellent so I got my tripod in 3 days! Here are my impressions:

The tripod is heavier than the travel tripods...a plus for me for stability.
It is constructed with aluminum...feels really sturdy.
The 3 section legs are longer than my old 4 section tripod which makes the folded length longer, but it makes the tripod faster to setup.
The leg locks are really snappy and they just feel awesome.
Repositioning the legs at a different angle is easier due to the button release instead of pulling the locks on top of each leg.
The bag hook works great for hooking up weights to make the tripod more stable.
The tripod head base is me the feeling of better stability.
A couple of inches longer than my travel tripod, but still is pretty portable.

And the most impressive feature of course is the patented center column feature which enables you to position the center column horizontally or vertically without disassembling the center piece. That was the feature that made me decide to buy this!

I tried it out with a gripped 50d with a 70-200 2.8 lens installed and it felt really solid.

For almost the same price as a Chinese made carbon fiber tripod, I'd choose this one still. The features for the price is really unbeatable. The best thing is that, it is made of course by Manfrotto.

Instead of getting a cheap travel sized tripod for like $50 less, I suggest you spend more on this one. You'll never regret it.

Get it here!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The HorusBennu LX-2T ballhead

I was looking for an upgrade for my existing ballhead online that has better capacity than the one I had before. Something that can handle more than 4 pounds which is my older ballheads capacity. I found this in ebay and became curious about the HorusBennu name.

HorusBennu from what I've read is a Korean based company that makes tripods and support systems for cameras. They even have cases and lenses of their own. Basically it's a Korean company but the products are still made in China. I know that whenever some people hear made in China that they stay away from it due to quality issues. So I decided to go on youtube to watch some product reviews of HorusBennu products. I was surprised that actually a lot of people liked their products...especially their tripod systems. Heck they even have carbon fiber tripods for like half the price of the well known brands.

So I decided to order this from a Korean seller in ebay. We actually went back and forth haggling for the price until the guy decided to sell it to me for $50.00 shipped to the USA. Then the long wait began.

Ordering overseas is so much cheaper, although you'd have to wait for like 2 weeks till you get your loot. Honestly, if someone sells it here for $20.00 more I'd still buy it. Although the HorusBennu name I think was so new that it wasn't being sold here yet. 2 weeks later and my ballhead was finally here!

My first impressions were that, the ballhead was pretty well made. Pretty sturdy, and it had that high quality feel that was better than other sub $40.00 models from China. The specs said that it actually can hold up to 18kg...which I highly doubt. Ballheads usually have specs that are way too exaggerated that what they really are. Though this one seemed to hold better than the lighter cheaper ballheads. It comes with one Arca swiss compatible mounting plate...which actually locks in place to avoid the camera falling out of the ballhead when the locking screw is loose...which I think is a very good feature.

I installed it into my tripod and tried it out. I was impressed. The only gripes I had about it was the ball somehow slips a little when you hold it in a position, so you had to compensate a little bit. This usually is non existent in higher quality ballheads. Also, be careful when tightening the ballhead into the tripod. I managed to strip my panning lock when I tightened mine. In my opinion, it shouldn't strip that easily especially when you are installing it into the tripod. It still holds but not as good when it was brand new.

For the price, you really can't beat this good value. Although if you have more money to spend on a ballhead, go get yourself a higher end one.