Sunday, July 29, 2012


  Many of us use the Apple iPhone.  With the advent of the iPhone 4S, the phone's built-in camera is much better than most phones - it has a 8 megapixel sensor and an f/2.4 aperture.  In the video mode it's capable of full 1080p HD video.

   Your phone is something you have with you virtually all the time so it can be your camera of "last resort" if you can't carry one of your more upscale photo or video cameras with you.  If you're like me holding a phone steady for shooting pictures or video can be a problem.

  Also, the phone's field-of-view (FOV) can be limiting in some situations.

  Well, the nice people at Schneider Optics have introduced an set of optional lenses and an associated case and handle for significantly improving your iPhone shooting.  This kit is known as the iPro Lens System.
   As you can see from the image at the left, the iPro kit adds a case for the iPhone that enables optional lenses to be added and the use of a handle for steadier shooting.

  I have one of these kits and it really makes hold the iPhone steady for shooting much easier.  

  The kit comes with two add-on lenses - a wideangle and a fisheye lens.  The components of the kit I purchased are shown below right.

    The neat thing about the set is that the two lenses are stored within the handle.  Additionally, the handle has a 1/4"x20 socket on its bottom for mounting the assembly on a tripod. 

  I don't keep the case and handle mounted on the camera at all times but rather carry them in my briefcase for quick installation when needed.

  The iPro system really comes in handy when you need a camera and the only thing available is your iPhone.

  Here's a manufacturer's descriptive video of the system.

  Since the introduction of the iPro, Schneider has developed a 2X teleconverter lens (shown at right) that can be used with the iPhone case like to two original lenses.  Unfortunately, this lens won't store neatly away in the handle like the wide-angle and fisheye lenses do.  I haven't acquired this particular lens so I can't comment on it.  You can see the pricing on the telephoto attachment at Amazon.

  The iPro is available at both Amazon and B&H.  Should you decide to purchase the kit via one of these links I will receive a small consideration.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


[Note:  this is the first of a series of postings that were originally hosted by Apple but went away when Apple cancelled]

    Have you ever forgotten a camera setting or did you forget to bring a critical piece of gear for an important shoot?  To help me remember things as our cameras seem to become more and more complex with numerous settings possible, I use “checklists” to help me remember.  They are actually a holdover from my USAF days when we had checklists for everything.

  Shown above in the left image are examples for one of my cameras, the Sony EX1.  The three shown have three different purposes.  The first is a “pre-deployment” list that I use to setup settings that I know before I travel to the shoot site - camera modes, etc - plus a listing of the key things I should do before I leave - clean lenses, charge batteries, etc.  The second is one for use at the actual shoot site.  Finally, I have one for specific “picture profiles” that can be set in the EX1.

   I make up the checklists on a word processor on my computer, print them and take them to Fedex/Kinkos and laminate them in clear plastic.  After trimming to shape I punch a corner hole for stringing them on a loop that will keep them together. I then can hang that loop on my tripod for ready access.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


  My Sony DSC-RX100 finally arrived!  Earlier than expected.  It had been originally scheduled to arrive the second week in August, then the date was moved up to next Monday - July 23rd.  But then it came yesterday.

  I don't ever recall as much anticipation throughout the internet for the US arrival of a camera.  I was released first in Japan about a month ago and in Europe a week ago.  Samples from it started flooding YouTube from overseas soon after Sony announced the camera and started providing evaluation units to various websites.

  I reported on it soon after it was announced and said I was pre-ordering one.  It is now here and I've just started using it.

  An amazing thing about this camera that has a large sensor (1" CMOS) and large   aperture (f1.8) lens is its small size.  I have previously written about the Sony DSC-HX9 as being a great "point and shoot" camera with outstanding capabilities.  Cassie Tips List member Peter Jestadt posted a glowing YouTube review of the HX9.  (The HX9 has been replaced by the HX10 which is basically the same camera with a few more megapixels in its sensor.)
   The RX100 is evem smaller than the HX9/10 in every physical di-mension except one - thickness.  Shown at right are dimension com-parisons for the two cameras (courtesy  The RX100 even weighs a little less than the HX9.

  A lot of Sony's camera manufacturing for the consumer cameras is now outsourced from Japan to places like Thailand.  The RX100 is actually built in Japan indicating the importance of its manufacturing.

  The RX100 is going to replace my much-loved HX9(10) as my portable camera of choice.  Why?
  • Its controls are more "professional"
  • Its larger sensor
  • Its wider-aperture lens
  • Its RAW plus jpeg imaging capability
  The mode control wheel on the top of the camera is more like that of a dSLR than a point and shoot.  You can set aperture or shutter priority in addition to the usual automatic modes.  You can even set those modes for video shooting.  The HX9 doesn't allow this.

  There is a control ring around the lens that can be used to control a variety of things depending on the mode setting or as modified by user settings.  For example, in its default setting, the control ring will control aperture or shutter speed when the mode wheel is set to Aperture or Shutter priority, respectively.  To do this on most point and shoots requires delving into the menus.

  Like most Sony pro and prosumer camcorders, the RX100 includes focus "peaking" option which portrays in-focus objects with a colored (selectable color) edge for assisting manual focus.

  Speaking of menus, the RX100 has a menu setting that assures it returns to the last menu function used.  This is very handy for a frequently used menu function.

  The RX100's sensor is about four times the area of the HX9/10's sensor.  See the size comparison in the image at the left (courtesy  This means more light gathering capacity which will significantly enhance its low-light capability.

  The HX9/10's widest aperture is f3.3 versus the f1.8 of the RX100, an almost two stop difference.  This also can mean a lot in low light situations.  This wider aperture, in conjunction with the larger sensor size also leads to a smaller depth of field capability for photo composition.

  With my Nikon D90 dSLR I have become very accustomed to using the RAW recording format.  Recording in this format enables much more flexibility for post-processing the images.  The RX100 lets you choose recording of either only RAW, only jpeg, or both.


  The RX100 is not perfect.  

  For example its zoom ratio is only 3.6X compared to the 16X of the HX9/10.  The maximum zoom on the RX100 is equivalent to a 100 mm lens on a 35 mm camera.

  It has the same video recording time limit of 29 minutes that the HX9/10 has.  I've heard that this limit is to not incur an extra European tax for being considered as a video camera.  I haven't definitely confirmed this but it seems a reasonable reason for the limitation.

  There's no accessory shoe for external attachments like an external optical viewfinder.  Some of the compact cameras of this type that don't have a built-in optical viewfinder have an accessory shoe that enables one to attach an external optical viewfinder.


  Here's a YouTube video posted in the past couple of days comparing the HX9 and RX100 video side-by-side.

  Recent photos taken with the RX100 are being continually uploaded to  If you go here you can view them.  I think you'll agree that the image quality is quite good.

  The camera is now available from both Amazon and B&H.  (If you purchase via these links I will receive a small compensation.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


  Setting up a professional video tripod with a fluid head can be a challenge.  Many of them don't come with setup instructions.  Of course, if you don't have a don't have a tripod that requires balancing, you can ignore this tutorial.  

  Here's a nice tutorial video from AbelCine that does a nice job of describing the process.

Monday, July 16, 2012


  When I started this blog I was using the Apple application iWeb to create the blog and Apple's hosting service to host it.  Unfortunately, Apple decided to do away with not long ago.  When I heard that this was going to happen I changed my blog authoring and hosting functions to Google.  

  Since I converted the blog to Google well before ended, the postings that I had made using it were still available for viewing.  Unfortunately, with the complete closing of, all those great postings I had made there are not longer available.

  Because there was a finite amount of traffic visiting the old iWeb blog site there does seem to be some interest in those older postings.  Therefore, I thought I'd start converting some of the more popular ones to the current Google format.  That will happen over the next few weeks or months, depending on my productivity.

  If you had a particular favorite among them or want to see a particular one recalled, let me know.

Friday, July 6, 2012


  I've always been impressed by smooth, moving shots.  In the early days of movies and video movement generally required a dolly or cart of some kind, usually quite large, heavy, and expensive.

  Thanks to the inventive genius, Garrett Brown, a new form of moving a camera fluidly and smoothly came into being - the Steadicam.  However, when these devices were first introduced they too were both heavy and expensive.

  Then, in 1976, a new consumer-level model was introduced - the SteadicamJR.  This model could carry consumer video cameras of the day.  As can be seen from the picture at the right it no longer used a vest on the human operator and a spring-loaded arm to hold the camera and balance mount.  It used the human operator's arm for that function.  It had a small LCD display for displaying the output of the camera (before the days of built-in camera LCD displays.  The batteries for the display did double duty as counterweights for the unit and were mounted at the bottom of the bottom arm.  It even came with an "Obie" light for mounting on the camera.

  As soon as I started shooting with video cameras small enough to use on a JR I had to have one.  It served me well.  I even took it to Africa on a photo safari.  It was great in steadying shots from the back of a Land Rover moving over rough terrain.  In it's folded postion the JR could operate as a shoulder mount for the camera.  The JR finally went out of production several years ago.

  The venerable JR was replaced by the Steadicam Merlin, a much-improve version of a handheld stabilizer.  Unlike the flexible plastic construction of the JR, the Merlin is all metal.  It has much more flexibility in set up from small "palmcorders" all the way up to five-pound-class cameras such as the Sony ZR1, or even the Sony EX1.  When folded, the Merlin is small enough to fit in a small bag.  Because all modern camcorders have flip out monitor displays, the Merlin dropped the built-in display of the JR.

  When the Merlin came out I had to have one.  I soon sold the JR on eBay.  The Merlin is not simple to set up but it came with extensive video instructions and there are a host of tutorial videos on the web.  I have used my Merlin with my Sony ZR1, Sony A1U, and now my Sony MC50.  The MC50 is an ideal camera for the Merlin because of its light weight.

  Some time after the Merlin was introduced, a classic-style Steadicam arm and vest for it was introduced to make the Merlin even more like its big brothers.  I haven't had the opportunity to try one of the vests and arms but if one is shooting with a 5-6 pound class camera such a set up would be in order because, with a heavy camera, you arm gets tired pretty fast.

  Recently, a newer model of the Merlin was introduced - the Merlin 2.  I don't see any major changes with the new model other than a more form-fitting handle.  There are probably other subtle changes not visible from the pictures of it.  I do note that a vest and spring arm are no longer listed among the Merlin accessories so that add-on must have not been very popular.

  The Merlin is not inexpensive but is very high quality.  The range of cameras it can be adapted for is, I think, unmatched.  The fact that it can be folded for storage or use as shoulder mount just adds to its versatility.

  If you need smooth moving shots in your productions I highly recommend the Merlin, based on personal experience.

  Here's a short video reviewing the new Merlin 2 model:

  You can find the Merlin 2 at both Amazon and B&H.  Should opt to purchase one of the units via these links I will receive a small consideration.