Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Eye-fi Pro X2 Wireless SD card

Since getting the Ipad2 for my photography, I was wondering how can I transfer files into it with minimal hassle. I saw the Ipad camera connection kit but I was wondering if there was a better way to do it. I've heard a lot of horror stories about the camera connection kit that I decided to go on a different route (that is before I bought the ipad camera connection kit). I was looking at the 5d MK2 Wireless file transmitter from Canon but I cannot afford to spend almost $700 for it...that's almost the price of a new Imac that I wanted, a couple of hundreds more expensive. So I scrapped that idea.

Browsing around online, I found a link for the popular Eye-fi cards. I've heard of the Eye-fi cards ever since they were released but I was kinda skeptical about them. I thought maybe this is another one of those new gadget gimmicks that is circulating on the web. So I decided to do research on them online, and I found a couple.

I was blown away when I saw videos of people taking shots in their cameras and the images get uploaded to their Ipads wirelessly. Further research also says that the Eye-fi cards can actually do a direct transfer from the camera to the Ipad or Iphone even on a non wifi area. So I decided to try it the expense of a hundred bucks.

Older dslrs such as the 5d Mk2, 50d, and older rebels don't use sd cards, which basically what eye-fi cards are. Unfortunately, all my camera bodies use CF cards. So the smartest runaround to this is getting an sd to cf card adapter with it. I decided to get the pro x2 version...which I suppose gives you a faster transfer time than the non pro versions. Good thing BH photo has a combo that has them both. You can get it here.

So I got it within 2 days. I opened the box and the Eye-fi card came in with an sd to usb enable users to plug this card into their computers for the wireless setup in their home pc's. I set it up, I downloaded the software, and then downloaded the app for it for my Ipad. Setup was fairly easy, though the window that was supposed to setup my firewall gave me a bit of a problem. It crashed my machine once. I restarted and everything was good.

The eye-fi card comes with a usb adapter for plugging into your machine.

I then slapped the card into the adapter, then into my camera and started doing test shots. I set it up first to upload images to my mac. It was pretty easy setting things up to upload in your computer. It even shows a preview of what's being uploaded in real time. Pretty neat. Then I decided to try it out in my Ipad...and that's when it all went downhill...

It fits snugly into an sd to cf card adapter for use with dslrs that only take cf cards.

So I set up the direct mode transfer to my Ipad. The direct mode is the mode where the Eye-fi card directly uploads images into your device without a need for an existing wifi connection. This is really useful when you are outdoors shooting with an Ipad in your backpack and you have no existing wifi connection. This is the main reason why I bought the eye-fi card in the first place. I set my 5d to shoot in large format jpgs at first. The transfer seems to be working...around 7 seconds per image. Kinda in the slow side but not bad. Then I tried switching to RAW...

The RAW files took forever to transfer! It was just took an average of around 25-30 seconds per image...most of the time it was slower than that. It was like waiting for all your images to transfer to your desktop via a card reader...and I mean this is just one image! I then took about 3-5 shots simultaneously...of course, that made it slower than before. It basically uploads your first image and waits for the next one till the previous image is done uploading. So I was waiting for around 5 shots to be uploaded in around 2.5 to 3 minutes. Now imagine photographing birds using a fast burst mode in your camera.

Now I am using a 5d's a 21 mp camera. That is one reason why the upload times are not that good. It might be better with a smaller mp digital camera. Although nowadays, dslrs are in the 12-18 megapixels...sure you can change the options for it to shoot in a smaller megapixel count, but some of us really wanted to use the full resolutions of our cameras. I do a lot of stock photography, and a smaller file size doesn't do me any good. Switching to jpeg formats also isn't an option for me as I love to shoot in RAW for greater flexibility.

So what's my verdict? The eye-fi cards seems promising. Honestly, the way I shoot, it does not work for me. Even the top of the line pro x2 card is pretty slow for RAW format file transfers. If I shoot casually using jpeg format I might consider it...but I rarely do that. Fashion and nature photographers won't be happy with the transfer times either. If you are a casual photographer using a digital point and shoot camera, or if you use jpg as your main image format, this might work for you. I will wait for the next generation of eye-fi cards. Hopefully the upcoming ones will give you better upload times for bigger files.

So after a day of trying it out, I went to the store and got me the Ipad camera connection kit. It is a slight of a hassle to install, but the transfer times from a camera to the Ipad is excellent, even using RAW files.

After a week of testing it out I read in an article that sd cards really don't work with cf card adapters because the camera basically cuts power off to the adapter after files are written...which cuts off the power while the eye-fi card transfers the file wirelessly. It also causes files to be corrupted. So far the file corruption happened to me twice in like 4 days of testing. In my opinion that is bad if you are photographing a wedding or some kind of a special occasion.

Still...after watching online how slow it was transferring files to a mobile device, even while using an sd dslr, it still is too slow for me.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Ipad for photography

When the Ipad came out last year people wondered what it can do for all of us...or at least find a use for it...hahaha. I personally told myself that I'd rather get a laptop than a tablet. Went to a trip last year during summer and we had to bring along a laptop and an external hard drive...the laptop that we had had limited space in it so I had to bring along an old 20gb hard drive with us. Of course, setup was clunky. I had to plug the laptop into the wall, plug the hard drive into the laptop, plug the card reader into the laptop, then copy the files into the external hard drive. Setup was really a hassle.

Then the Ipad 2 got released this year. It's got dual processors, it's lighter and the exterior got an overhaul. So I considered getting one. Though I'm still not really impressed with the entry level storage for it. 16gb is like a single 16gb card for my slr...which holds around 500 images in raw file format. I needed something bigger than the 16. So I decided on the 32gb. Not bad for almost 2 16gb cards when were out away from home...of course you'll never really get to have the full capacity of the storage to yourself as you have to put into consideration the amount of space the operating system takes up...and of course, Angry birds.

So I got the 32gb Ipad and I was happy with it. Then IOS 5 came out...which made it even better. Wireless syncing, and wireless photo sharing with all my IOS 5 devices.

My very own Ipad2...Can't get my hands off of it.

Question is the Ipad useful for photographers?

The Ipad is really small and thin. It's the same thickness and size of a magazine. Just put it in your camera bag and you are set. You don't even feel it's in there. 10 times better than a laptop sizewise. Setup is a no brainer, get the Apple camera connection kit and your Ipad instantly has a usb port and an SD card reader. I use cf cards for my cameras and the camera connection kit doesn't have a cf card reader, though the usb port allows me to attach my dslr to my Ipad to copy files into it. There are a lot on misconceptions about the usb adapter though. The usb adapter does give the Ipad a usb port, though it is not a usb port for everything. I've heard that you can actually plug in keyboards and other devices into it, I personally haven't tried this myself. I use the usb port just to plug in the camera and it works...and that's all I need it for.

Does the Ipad read RAW files? Of course it does. Does it resize it to be a file compatible to the Ipad? It does create a file for previewing but your RAW file stays untouched. How do you extract the files from your Ipad? Simple...plug it in your computer, open up Lightroom and Lightroom sees it as an external storage space. Grab files from there and save. It's really simple. The awesome thing about it is that, from camera to the Ipad, a 21mp dslr RAW file takes about 2.5 seconds to copy. That's even faster than my card on a card reader in my mac. If you're a casual photographer just taking snapshots in jpg format, you'll love the Ipad more as it can store more jpg files as this file format is considerably smaller than a RAW file.

The Ipad2 with my Canon 50d attached via the Apple camera connection kit. Still the best way to transfer files from camera to Ipad.

The preview in the Ipad is unbelievable. It's basically viewing it from your 27 inch Imac scaled down. And basically you can bring it anywhere, without the hassle of a laptop.

The 64gb one is the best one to get if you're a photographer. I got the 32gb and so far it works for me. Maybe my next one will be a 64.

The limitations of the Ipad against a laptop for me is negligible. Of course I cannot do full edits on it as opposed to a laptop...personally, I like doing my photos on a desktop...with a huge screen. Also the storage space is limited, but how much space do you really need?

What are the apps I use for it? I personally love PS express and Photogene. Two of the best mobile photo editing apps around. Wanna bring your online portfolio with you all the time? If you have a Smugmug account, download the Smugmug app for the Ipad. It is excellent!

So is it really worth getting it if you are a photographer? If you know it's limitations and it's runarounds you'd love it. I personally love it myself and I can't put it down.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Using the telephoto for flower shots

Using the telephoto lens for shooting flowers is an excellent idea if you are kinda tired of shooting close ups or macro. We all get that feeling of running out ideas when we shoot and it often happens to me. Actually it happens to all of us. Whenever I see flowers I get that urge to get really close and start shooting macro. Though in a lot of cases, the flower as a whole is a subject that sometimes gets overlooked.

The telephoto is an excellent lens for flower shots. It's not only used for shooting animals or subjects from a distance but it is also used for portraits as it gives you a washed out background because of its long focal length. This excellent feature is why it is a good choice for photographing flowers. You basically choose a subject...shoot...and the telephoto gives you that creamy, out of focus background. The 70-200 IS USM that I use gives me the perfect bokeh, or out of focus areas all the time.

Using a shallow aperture gives you a better bokeh. I usually use an f2.8-f4 for really out of focus backgrounds. This is where a long telephoto with a wide aperture excels...that's why they cost a lot. Also some lenses give you better bokeh than others. A good bokeh is something that looks creamy...not busy.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Photos from a storm

I was lucky to be home one afternoon when a very brief storm hit. I was relaxing watching tv one late afternoon from work when the urge to go out and take a sunset shot hit me. It has been crazy cloudy and stormy the past few weeks and the clouds were almost perfect everyday. Though the thought of going out with my equipment in rain really didn't get me that excited, I was so fortunate that lazy afternoon that I just grabbed my camera and went out to take a few I did and this was the site that I saw:

A beautiful rainbow just in front of me.

The weather was insane...there was a wind blowing, around maybe like 40-50mph, and the rain was crazy. It is really not that obvious with the pictures but it was nuts. So I just stayed for a while in the patio to wait the rain out. I then went out again to take another shot. This time, the light has changed dramatically within minutes. I took a couple of shots and I got one that was so much different than the last shot I did.

The rainbow was still there though the lighting drastically changed.

The rainbow shots were all done hand held. No time to go back inside the house to grab a tripod. Although it would have been nicer as I could have used a narrower aperture for a sharper shot, but I'd rather get the shot right there instead of messing around with my equipment. That was why the 17-40L is a very wise decision for that on the spot scenic shot.

I guess I was in that crazy time zone in the afternoon where light dramatically changes. Which is also the perfect time to snap a couple of shots. I was so lucky to capture the rainbow right in front of me, it was the perfect timing for everything.

The storm finally stopped and it left a very nice cloud formation west of where I was standing. So I took shots of the clouds with the silhouettes of trees bordering the image.

The clouds have been so dramatic the past few days. This time I had my camera ready.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Early morning shooting

Saturday of last week I woke up really early to catch a glimpse of the sunrise. Even though it was kinda hard, I managed to grab my camera bag and take my bike to a nearby park to take shots on a beautiful morning. I packed my 17-40L and my 70-200 2.8L together with my 5d, and a sturdy tripod as well.

As soon as I got out and the sun was just peeking out of the horizon, I realized that it was raining...though the clouds were still beautiful to look at, so I continued on to my journey. It was a saturday so I didn't really care if I got drenched in the rain as I can just head home and change. No work that day so everything was good.

The first thing I did was find a shed so I can go under it and shield myself from the rain. I grabbed my tripod and then mounted my camera into it with the 17-40L installed. I then waited for a beautiful cloud formation and color. As soon as I saw the cloud formation looked pretty I took a shot.

The shot from under the shed. You can see how wet the wood is from the rain.

I got out of the shed and I then repositioned myself to take shots of the horizon from different angles. I also then adjusted my white balance to get different color effects in my images straight from the camera.

I moved closer to the wooden rail, to take an alternative shot.

The rain was getting worse and I don't have a rain cover for my equipment. Good thing the 17-40L and the 5d is weather resistant, though I'm not taking my chances. So I got back in the shed and waited the rain out.

On my way back I passed along this patch of flowers along the trail. I snapped a graduated neutral density filter into my lens as the sky was getting brighter, and I started shooting.

I should have used a faster shutter speed and a narrower aperture on this shot but I was too lazy to grab my tripod again. Not bad though.

I took another shot further away from the flowers so I can have them border my shot.

The ultra wide angle lens did an excellent job in showing the field of flowers. That's why I don't go out without carrying one as you'll never know what you will see along your path.

Now that I had a good experience with this, I think I am going to do this more often!