Archive for the ‘ REVIEWS ’ Category

Keeping cool with a Litepanels 1×1

The UK isn’t well known for it’s fabulous weather and scorching summers but we’ve been fairly lucky over the last couple of weeks and had some absolutely gorgeous weather. As nice as this heat is when working outside or chilling at the beach though it can also cause a lot of headaches (quite literally) when shooting indoors and trying to work in rising temperatures.

I’ve been shooting some corporate web videos for a company that sells conservatory accessories and window blinds over the last few months so I’ve had to light to match the natural light coming through glass roofs and windows as the fitters went about demonstrating how to install their products. These videos have been shot on a minimum budget so I’ve been using my standard tungsten-halogen light kit and using various density blue gels to match the colour of the natural light.

The most recent shoot took place two days ago in the smallest space I think I’ve had to work in, the room was no more than 10ft x 5 ft and the windows and door had to be closed to enable the fitter to work and also to block external noise. To say it was hot and uncomfortable in there would be a huge understatement! If I’d fired up my Rifa 55 soft box in there I think we’d all have passed out within 20 minutes!

Luckily however I had a Litepanels 1×1 Bi-Color light with me which I had on loan from B&H so I decided to give that a go instead of the rifa. The great thing about LED lights is that they don’t get hot so even though the light did a great job of illuminating the shot it didn’t add to the already uncomfortable heat levels in the room. The other great thing about this light is that you can dial in the colour temperature to match anything from incandescent room lights through to full daylight meaning that a quick tweak of the colour dial perfectly matched the natural sunlight coming through the window without the need to mess around with blue gels and gaffers tape.

The 1×1 is also dim-able so setting the light intensity was also easy, my rifa softbox is either on or off so any adjustments to light levels on the subject are done by either moving the lights or adding some kind of diffusion material. With the 1×1 I just switched it on and dialled it in. If you’re lucky enough to have a few 1×1’s to work with you can also link them up to each other and control them all at the same time from a single unit.

LED lights are a great choice if you’re looking for something you can travel with, they’re a lot less fragile than bulb based lights and often weigh less too which can be a factor when checking in baggage. The light I’ve been using runs on both 120 and 240v mains supply so could be used in the US or Europe. You can also power it using rechargeable V-Mount batteries by adding Litepanels LP1x1-BAPV adapter plate.

The litepanels 1×1 was a great light to work with and didn’t add additional heat to an already uncomfortable situation. As with most LitePanels products though you have a pay a premium for the LED goodness, at a whopping $2,545 the LitePanels 1×1 Bi-Color is quite an investment, especially compared to a more traditional light like the Lowel Rifa 55 soft box which retails for around $440. I’ve also seen cheaper LED lights from other manufacturers appearing on the market but I’ve not been able to compare those to the Litepanels as yet so it’s difficult to say how they stack up in terms of functionality and quality. I can certainly report that the Litepanels 1×1 is a very solid unit and feels like a very professional bit of kit.

In use the 1×1 performed flawlessly, it provided a solid spread of light with no perceived flicker or unwanted changes to brightness or colour. All of the controls feel like they use high quality components, especially the two huge control wheels for brightness and colour which remind me of the kind of volume knobs you’d expect to find on a high end Hi-Fi system.

Not having to mess around with gels and diffusion was fantastic and I loved that after shooting for 4 hours I simply switched the light off and packed it away. That might sound a bit strange, but if you’ve used something like a riffa softbox before you’ll know that you really can’t touch them for at least 20 – 30 minutes after switching them off because they remain blisteringly hot for so long.

I’d love to work with a set of four of these lights and plan on investing in more of them in the future. In the meantime I’m going to be talking to B&H about hanging on to this one for now!

B&H Photo Video sell the LitePanels 1×1 Bi-Color variable LED light for $2,545 and also the whole LitePanels 1×1 range which include floods, spots, multi light kits and a range of accessories including barn doors and egg crates for controlling light spread.

Canon EF 24-105mm F4 IS USM Lens for video

I’ve just posted my thoughts on using the Canon EF 24-105mm F4 IS USM Lens for video.

Canon EF 24-105mm F4 IS USM Lens for video

Do I really need another lens?

Canon EF 24-105mm f4 L IS USM Lens

When it comes to lenses for my DSLR’s I’ve invested in some lovely primes, my Canon 50mm 1.2, 24mm 1.4 & 35mm 1.4 L series lenses are all low light wonders and produce gorgeous looking footage from the 5D and 7D. When I was purchasing these lenses I did consider going for a medium zoom and owned a Canon 24 – 70 2.8 for while but decided to return that in favour of the primes simply because in low light those extra few stops do make a huge difference.

I also own a Canon 70 – 200 2.8 IS lens which is fantastic, quite often I’ll prefer the results from that over my primes it really depends on what it is I’m shooting and the type of result I’m looking for. The Image Stabiliser on that lens is excellent and even though it makes lot of noise it makes handholding such a long lens quite easy.

One time when primes become a bit of a pain though is for event work. I took my 5D along with the 50 and 24 to my recent shoot for Harley-Davidson in St Tropez and although both lenses produced nice results, it seemed that the moment I swapped the lenses a shot would present itself where I felt like I wanted to swap them again. I really don’t like swapping lenses more than I have to in the field as it’s way too easy for grit, dust and other nasties to get inside the cameras.

So, for my next event for Harley which takes place in Barcelona next weekend I’ve decided to try out the Canon EF 24-105mm f4 L IS USM Zoom. Now at F4 this is by no means a fast lens, it’s not going to be on my 5D when I head out in the evenings but for daytime use I think it’s going to be a lovely lens giving me a nice range to work with without swapping lenses. It’s also not going to deliver the extremely shallow depth of field that my primes can, but again that’s not something I really need for handheld work at events.

When choosing this lens I considered another 24 – 70 2.8, but the 24-105 has some advantages over the 24-70 which are very important for event work. Firstly, and most importantly it has IS (Image Stabilisation) which works wonders for handheld video use. Dealing with camera shake is one of the hardest things about working with DSLR’s so having IS helps a lot. When I get back from Barcelona I’ll post some examples of how much it helps.

The other advantage the 24-105 has over the 24-70 is that it’s quite a lot lighter, for event work carrying the 5D around as well as my EX1 weight can be tricky, the less weight I have to carry the better.

The 24-70 at f2.8 is obviously a few stops faster than the 24-105 and if you need a wide zoom to work in lower light situations as well then it would be a better choice. Even f2.8 can be a bit limiting in low light though so I’ll stick to my 50mm f1.2 and 24mm f1.4 for that.

The lens has literally just turned up this morning so I haven’t had much time with it yet, but from my first impressions it looks like it’ll work a treat, the IS makes a huge difference and I can get shots which don’t look like handheld shots at all. As with all of Canon’s L Series lenses it appears to be built well and ready for the challenge ahead.

Although a lot quieter than the 70-200 the noise from IS on this lens would probably still be noticeable if using an on camera mic but for most of my usage that’s not a big issue as I generally use an external recorder for anything where I’m going to need the sound.

I’ll post more when I return from Barcelona and let you know how it worked out.

The Canon EF-24-105 F4 IS can be purchased in the USA from B&H for $1,059

In the UK Warehouse Express sell it for £929.99

Delkin dual universal battery charger review

I’ve been using a pair of Delkin dual universal battery chargers to charge my Canon LP-E6 DSLR batteries for a while now and they are so useful I thought it was about time I shared my thoughts…

Click here to read the review and comment.

Hoya Lens Hood with Fader ND filters

I’ve been using a couple of Fader ND filters with my prime lenses for a while now, the Fader ND’s are useful because they allow you to adjust for bigger lens apertures in daylight conditions without the need to keep swapping filters.

One thing that is a bit annoying when using Fader ND’s though is that it’s no longer possible to attach the Canon sun hoods that are supplied with the lenses.

While I was out shooting some external pickup shots yesterday I experimented with using a Hoya Screw in Rubber lens Hood on my 50mm 1.2 and 35mm 1.4 lenses. It’s quite strange using these on the fader ND because to adjust the level of ND you end up rotating the entire lens hood, it works well though!

Hoya hood on 35mm (Canon 5D mk2)

The Hoya hoods are able to be set in two positions allowing you to use them with a range of lenses from medium wides out to zooms.

Unfortunately the Hoya hoods only go up to 77mm which means they can only be used on lenses up to 72mm in diameter because the Fader ND’s step up a size. Both my 35mm 1.4 and 50mm 1.2 have a 72mm thread so the 77mm Hoya Hood work well on those. On the 35mm the hood needed to be in it’s closed down setting so that it didn’t appear in the shot on my 5D mark2.

Hoya hood on 35mm (Canon 5D mk2)

My 24mm 1.4 and 70 – 200 2.8 are 77mm so with a 77mm fader ND fitted the hoods won’t work on those as the required diameter is then 82mm. The 24mm would likely be too wide for the sun hood anyway, plus the Fader ND’s are not recommended on long zooms so you probably wouldn’t want to use the hoods on either of those lenses anyway.

By far the best feature of the Hoya hoods has to be the red line on the end – full on L series looks for just a few $! ;)

Buying in the US: B&H sell the Hoya hoods for around $25.

Buying in the UK: Warehouse express sell the Hoya hoods priced from £12 – £40 depending on size.

If you’re looking for Fader ND filters they can be purchased from B&H for $62 – £139 depending on the lens diameter you need.