Review

Eye-Fi Pro X2 now with Direct Mode

Rainy Day Diptic: Shot with LX-5, Direct Transfered to iPhone to process in DipTic and Instagram and share on various social networks.

I've been shooting with an EyeFi ProX2 card the past few weeks in my LX5 and I've been impatiently waiting for the latest revision to the firmware. Why? Because EyeFi added a direct mode feature that lets you connect your camera to a SmartPhone (iPhone/android), iPad or PC without needing to be connected to a WiFi network. This means you can be shooting "on location" and you can port those files from your regular camera (that accepts SD) direct to your portable devices.

I've loved sharing photos via Instagram on twitter and facebook. My biggest problem is that I have an iPhone 3G and the camera lacks a LOT of feature that I rely on, like aperture or shutter control, flash, off-camera hot-shoe, better resolution and focus (the list goes on).  Now I'm able to use my LX-5 and process with my iPhone and share with my social network anywhere, anytime. It's pretty cool.

My initial feelings with the EyeFi card was mixed. I have a buggy WiFi connection at home. I'm not sure if it's interference from neighbors or my router or the radio towers on the hill I live on, but I frequently get dropped connections with all my WiFi devices. This instantly lets me be less then impressed with most WiFi tech.

I'm going to chock up a lot of my initial setup hiccups with the EyeFi card to this connection issue I have. I also started out trying to use my EyeFi card with my netbook as an AdHoc network that I could sync try to use ShutterSnitch to suck images from my card to my iPhone using this, but it was a hassle. So I was a little frustrated using an EyeFi card at first. Then again, using it this way isn't exactly standard procedure (although the ProX2 does support AdHoc networking... I found it a hassle and I didn't have the patience to sort it out. Especially since I knew that direct mode was right around the corner and that was REALLY what I wanted to use anyway.)

The EyeFi iOS apps are still currently awaiting approval to be able to use the Direct Mode function, but the app ShutterSnitch is one that currently supports it. I could write an entire review on this app. It looks great on the iPad... iPhone... well, not so much. But I blame that on the size of the interface and I'm assuming it was developed as an iPad app primarily. But it does do the job.

I have selective transfer mode turned on for my EyeFi card so when I want to send a photo to my iPhone, I "protect" the phone I want transferred and this activates the WiFi on the card (battery savings? I don't know...) then select that network on the iPhone and boot up ShutterSnitch and it goes and grabs the files and brings them in. Currently, it's grabbing RAW and JPEG because I'm shooting RAW+JPEG, but I'm trying to resolve that issue. I have the ShutterSnitch settings to "accept JPEGS only" but I'm guessing that the selective transfer is forcing both file types. I just delete the RAW file when it gets to my phone.

Two other key issues that I have. As I said, I have an iPhone 3G running iOS 4 so it's a little sluggish to begin with. And all my apps, crash with a 9mp JPEG photo. So, I had switched my camera to shooting in 4:3 ratio at 2mp files (I believe this is only the JPEG, but need to confirm that. I believe that the RAW is RAW.) I have also found a setting for ShutterSnitch that saves a "small" version of the photo in your photo ablumn when I export it from ShutterSnitch to be able to use it in another iPhone Photo App. I plan to do more testing with these features to see how small a file it is and what's the best option for using more of the more robust features of ShutterSnitch aside from just using it for Direct Mode Transfer

FTC Disclosure: EyeFi card provided as a demo unit. There we no terms to using this demo, only to use it and share my experiences with it. ShutterSnitch and other iPhone apps mentioned in this blog post were personally purchased from the iPhone store and were not provided.

Pondering The Upgrade

I’ve been posting about the new camera I’ve been using at work, the Nikon D7000 and how impressed I am with it. The SB-900 came yesterday for it and I was doing some testing with it before Thursday’s portrait shoots at work. Yes, they were pretty straight forward simple shots that might not even need flash, but as any good photographer should… you need to understand your tools. And I have a learning curve ahead of me. Not only do I have to adjust to a different system with controls in places I’m not used to, but I’m also adjusting to about 5 years of technology too… let me explain.

If you watched my interview on AdoramaTV, you’ll see when Mark asked me about my gear, that I tend to get the most mileage out of my equipment. My speedlite (yes, the Canon spelling) was the one I bought for use with the Canon G2 (they are on G12 now). My lenses I bought were mostly third party lenses that I purchased to use on my Canon 10D, when I was making “only a few dollars” from my images. Now those lenses are better suited to crop factor cameras and don’t deliver the “wow” factor that a lens 2-3x the cost produces. That just means I have to work a little harder in Lightroom to pull the “wow” out of the photos, which I can do ok. And with producing more video at work, I’d love to explore the world of DSLR video production for my personal and stock projects (FlipVideo is nice and convenient, but it just doesn’t excite the senses.

So where does that leave me?

I’d love to get a new body to shoot video this year, but I’m realistically looking at a pro-grade lens and modern flash unit that shoots reliably in E-TTL (or i-TTL) mode. For years, I’ve advocated that people invest in a system and build on that and expand your kit and replace pieces here and there. But what happens when you are faced with replacing many pieces of your kit.

Do you jump ship and switch systems or do you remain loyal to the brand you’ve worked with for years?

I think my biggest hang up is that Canon has to be ready to replace the camera that I’d really want at some point this year. The 5DMkII has had a long lifecycle and it’s due to be replaced. So I wouldn’t want to invest that kind of money into that and then be out of date very quickly. I could replace lenses and flashes and then later replace the body (not a bad plan… and it spreads the investment out.)

Or I can switch systems, get something like a D7000, great lens and a few speedlights (Note Nikon spelling… lol.) and be about the body price of a 5DMKII.

Why would I consider switching?

I’ve always been impressed with the speedlight technology of the Nikon system. The CLS ability to control a flash direct from the camera body is impressive. Since I’m almost always “lighting” my shots, that’s a pretty compelling reason to move. This has always been my biggest gripe with Canon. Sure, you can do all the CLS functions with a Canon, if you buy a bunch of different accessories. Nikon’s works right out of the box.

HDR is the other reason. I’ve explored a little with HDR and like what I’m able to do. Canon seems to only allow for a 3 shot bracket (least the ones I have and have looked at). Yes, I know I can manually do a 5 shot bracket… but it’s so much simpler to change a setting and press/hold down the button for 5 shots. In addition, Nikon has an incredible self-timer feature built-in (Canon requires an attachment (that I have)) that handles repeat timers and interval timers…etc.

So, where does that leave me? Wait for an updated Canon and update my accessories/lenses or select Nikon that has everything on the market now. I don’t know, but it’s a lot to ponder.

Follow up to my D7000 testing

This is a follow up to the post yesterday about the Nikon D7000. I did a quick test with a hot-shoe mounted external microphone. I'm very impressed. It isolated all the focus motor noise and it did a really decent job of picking up the speakers voice. I do need to work with different settings to get to know what gain levels work for different situations.

But in the meantime, here's a sample clip.

Coworker about a coworker (d7000 test video) from Ed Hidden on Vimeo.

Quick silly interview with a coworker while testing the D7000 and the boom mic. I really like this setup. Makes me want to upgrade my old 5D to something with Video now. Wish a 5D Mkiii would be announced soon but who knows. Might have to go T3I till the big boy comes out.

 

Radio Poppers JrX Studio Review and Samples [success]

I've debated for a while now on what solution I've wanted to do for "wireless flash triggering". I have always put off the cost of Pocket Wizards because the cost was always too steep and quite frankly, I never took a shot that I COULDN'T take with my sync cord. I seriously debated about the new Pocket Wizards, but my Strobist-style speedlight (that sees little use) is a 550EX and doesn't support E-TTL. To take full advantage of these, I'd need to really upgrade my flash and possible add additional speedlights as well as additional PWs. After my eyes glazed over at the dollar signs, I really took a hard look at the Radio Poppers JrX Studio units.

Why I chose Radio Poppers?
I mostly shoot with Alien Bees, and these little guys pop right into the data jack and provide remote power control. Bonus! Even better, future accessories promise this functionality will work with speedlights too (think manual mode power adjustment though, but I'm OK with that!) Throw in that the price of a set of Radio Poppers JrX Studios are less then cost of a single Pocket Wizard, I was sold.

Performance so far is great. Build quality doesn't feel QUITE as finished as the more expensive PWs, but it also doesn't feel cheap and flimsy either. Other cheaper units I had worked with had lots of misfires, but I have not had a single failed flash fire.

On Location
On a recent shoot (below and above) I gave them a shot out in the wild. A friend is having a retro space themed birthday party (after all, it is close to Halloween) and asked if I could take a picture of them in their costumes for a cake. I'm not sure they were quite aware what they were getting themselves into. I think they were thinking of just a photo with a good camera, all in focus and reasonably lit. In the day I had to think about it, the idea engine kicked in. When they showed up, I loaded them up in my car and took them to a house in our neighborhood under construction and with a large hill still being excavated. After telling them my plan, they got dressed up in costume and we hauled my Alien Bees (appropriately named for a space theme shoot) and battery up the hill. We setup the scene on top and I went down to the bottom of the ledge and directed from below.

 

The Radio Poppers performed flawlessly and at one point while chimping, I noticed my exposure was too hot. Instinctively, I headed up the hill, and then thought about how to direct the model up on top to adjust the light dial and then I remembered... I had control of my light output on top of my camera now. Very convenient and easy! I was really pleased with how simple it was and wondered how I had dealt with something as trivial as walking over to the light to adjust the output. Then it really hit me, it was always because I shot in a small space and the lights were pretty accessible. However, had I not bought the poppers, I'd never have been able to make this shot, at least not without heavy contingency planning. My sync cable would not have reached the location I was shooting from.

Conclusion
I'm looking forward to trying them with speedlights now and doing portable setups. It's amazing how a little gadget can juice up your creativity! Radio Poppers are “out of this world”.

 

Strobist Info for the above shots.
Two Alien Bees, one for the "bank" and one for the models. Each had a 7in reflector. (in the diagram below, the bricks are for the "edge" of the bank they were standing on. I was below them and about 20ft away.