TWiP #174 – Photography Tech Talk

On this episode of TWiP, a quick round-up of PhotoPlus Expo announcements, tech talk on HDR and medium format, and new host Tyler Ginter joins the show.

Hosts: Frederick Van Johnson, Alex Lindsay, Tyler Ginter


This week, long time friend of the show Tyler Ginter joins us on the show. Tyler is a member of 55th Combat Camera which is the only active combat camera group in the United States and is essentially the stock photo agency for the US Military. The photos and videos that this group creates are available to the public at Frederick, Tyler, and Alex discuss the move towards a dual role of shooting still photography and video. A big component when shooting video is capturing great audio. Most of the military are using the Zoom H4N devices in the field along with a program called PluralEyes to sync the audio and video in post-production.

PhotoPlus Expo Wrap-Up
Tyler attended PhotoPlus Expo and shares his thoughts on the show. He attended a workshop with Steve Simon and had a chance to get his hands on new gear. There was a lot of video content at the show including Vimeo who was exhibiting at the show for the first time. There was also some buzz around medium format cameras which leads to a discussion on the role of medium format cameras. To read more about medium format sensors, check out Tyler's post on the subject on his blog. The panel also discusses the differences between CCD sensors and CMOS sensors.

Other news coming out PhotoPlus included PocketWizard finally releasing the MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 for the Nikon cameras and several announcements of HDR software programs from a variety of manufacturers including Nik, DxO, and Unified Color.

Panasonic Unveils Lumix GF2 Micro 4/3rds Camera
Panasonic has released a new camera with inter-changeable lenses and a touch-screen interface. Frederick wonders when we'll start to see touch-screens appear on DSLRs. Alex thinks that the interfaces that have come along so far haven't been that great and wonders when someone will just release one that allows you to control the camera with your iPhone or Android device.


Every week our producers scour the TWiP forums to find the best questions for us to answer on the show. Here are this week's questions:

Question #1: Wayback writes: I'm what you call a low-budget photographer. One reason I've kept the investment low, just in case, is that I have a tremor in my right hand, which makes hand-held shooting very problematical. Very. But as a practical matter, tripods are just a real pain in many situations. So, I think I need to look at a monopod – a low-cost monopod. The one thing I'm sure I need is some method of switching between portrait and landscape mode fairly easily. I guess that would be a ball head of some kind. But I wonder if there's anything else to look for that I may not have thought of. I see monopods on Ebay and Amazon for $30 or less. Of course these aren't carbon fiber and all, but, you know, it's basically a stick, isn't it? With a ball head. Anybody have an inexpensive monopod they really like? Or one they tried that they really hated?

Tyler: We used to shoot with them more but now we use Gorilla pods. However, if you're looking for a great monopod solution, for just over $100, you can pick up a Manfrotto 685B Neotec Monopod. It has a squeeze grip handle that quickly lets you extend or shorten the monopod. Check out this video on how to put together a great monopod rig. Monopods help you get some tack sharp images at lower shutter speeds. You can also pair that with a Manfrotto 498RC2 Ball Head with quick release plate.

Question #2: Hawaiibob from Honululu writes: I have been happily shooting with a kit lens that came with my D300 (AF-S 18-70) but now want to upgrade, with a limit of $900. Any suggestions?

Tyler & Alex: Invest in a fast 50mm lens. If you're going to spend your money on anything, invest in good glass as it will last you for years. Camera bodies come and go over time but good glass will last for a long time. Both Canon and Nikon make great 50mm f1.4 lenses.

Question #3: TimA from Toronto, Ontario writes: I have my first photography contract. This is very exciting. I've watched other photographers work, so I'm pretty clear on some basic best practices (such as asking the client which shots they absolutely want). My biggest concern is the business side of things. What sort of agreement should I use between myself and my client to ensure that my images are used appropriately and everything is on the level? Are there freely available document templates, or is this the kind of thing you have to spend thousands to get lawyers to draft?I appreciate any help. The show has been absolutely essential in helping me progress, and I'm hoping someone out there in the forums could assist with this bit of business.

Alex: There are a lot of tools out there. A quick Google search should turn up some boilerplate templates. If you really don't feel you can trust someone your working with to use the photographs appropriately, chances are that the contract needed will be expensive and difficult to adjudicate.

Tyler: As long as you have the basic legal stuff worked out then there shouldn't be any issues.



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  1. Great show, you guys rock.

    When I tried to register on the military image site my browser said:
    “The site’s security certificate is not trusted!”

  2. Great show with Tyler on…very interesting to learn about the 55th Combat Camera. Couple of things specific to this show:

    @Frederick – Did not know you did your training in Denver on the 16th St. mall! Talk about a cool place to use a nifty fifty! (I live in Denver…)

    Another webcast one that we’ve been looking at is Fuze. Not sure how much comparison shopping you’ve done but we’re happy with them.

    @Tyler – While the general idea of a tripod for shooting slow shutters is good, I actually have my own story of my Manfrotto ball head actually needing service after it sat in a canoe for a grand total of 3 hours. The upshot point is that they can break, and are not as rock solid as one would hope. If you want the full story, let me know and I’ll link you to the whole deal on the blog.

    @Alex I’ve not caught up in my shows, so this may be covered later in Epside #175, but another good site for Photo Books is Nations Photo Lab. ROES seems to be the method of choice for most 3rd party labs to build out, but that’s the only weak point imho. I’ve also found that going into Photoshop and doing some prep work for sizing and perhaps a few overlays add a nice extra punch to the photo book experience. But it does take more planning than just a drag-n-drop.

    Good show all around – always fun to listen in! Keep on keepin’ on!

    P.S. @Alex – How’s the Pixels/Punished t-shirt holding up? 🙂


  3. Forgot to ask – what about the Canon CHDSK program for Canon gear – seen and tried scripts that can run intervalometer stuff on P&S cameras but would be interested to see if it would work on the SLR bodies. Is that possible or would it brick the camera (40D)?

  4. I have a follow up question to Hawaiibobs, not sure if this is the best place to get an answer but thought I would give it a try.

    I am also getting my first non-kit lens and have been convinced from TWIP and other research that getting a prime lens is the way to go. Now I just need to decide which one … I have a D5000 and am torn between the 35mm and 50mm.

    Many recommend the 50mm in general but some say that with the D5000 crop factor it is better to go with the 35mm because it is similar to a 50mm on a full frame. Any thoughts?

  5. CBJason:

    There’s nothing quite like CHDK for the Canon DSLRs, but there has been some hacking of specific older models, particularly the XT and XTi. My XT now has spot metering, ISO 3200, the release count, and time lapse. And there are a number of other add-ons available. There is one byte in firmware that has to be changed (which is reversible), but everything else just loads in when you power up. Pretty nifty.

    There is also some interesting work taking place on the T2i and 5Dmk2 – google Magic Lantern.

  6. Canuck, for what it’s worth, I also have a crop-sensor camera, and I find the 50mm to be too long for most indoor shooting, unless you have really big rooms. But the thing to do is fix your kit zoom to 50mm, and then 35mm, and see which you like best. On balance, I wish I had bought a 35, or maybe a 28, for indoors.

    The one big advantage of the 50mm 1.8 is the price. It won’t cost you much to have one.

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