New toys for new projects!

It has been a pretty fun few weeks. I have a gig I am working on which I felt required a bit of an overhaul of the studio and my equipment.  I figured i would spend a little bit of time going over the new additions and give you my thoughts on the equipment so far.

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New Cameras!

Sony A7.

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I picked up a pair of these from Amazon, they have them for under 1000 now. I know the A7S, A7ii, A7Sii, and other models have come out since the original A7, but honestly none of them really offer anything of value over the A7 for my needs.

These are pretty good cameras. being open box specials you never know what you will get. The first one I received had a bad LCD screen, but amazon took care of that. The second A7 had a memory card in it complete with vacation photos. I put a post on facebook and it is being shared around. With any luck maybe it will reach the prior owner and i can ship them their memory card back.

The cameras both came in excellent condition, and i used the THIS tool to determine the shutter count. Camera 1 came in with 3700 actuations, and Camera 2 showed 7. So for all intents and purposes, both cameras were virtually brand new.

I am not a huge fan of the ergonomics. Considering the cost, I am somewhat surprised that Sony did not spend a little bit more time on this. For example, the image review buttons are far from intuitive on their placement. I also prefer dedicated dials, and better access to the drive modes. The fit and finish is fantastic, image quality is fantastic which is what you should expect. I am really excited to have these in my inventory.

I tried hacking a battery by cutting it open and sticking a voltage regulator in it so I could avoid swapping batteries, however it did not seem to like it and said I had to use a compatible battery. I ended up ordering some cheap AC Adapters from Amazon, and I am not too thrilled with them. For some reason at first the batteries show 100%, after a while the cameras claim the batteries are dead and they go into some sort of a power saving mode and refuse to transmit images from the Eye-Fi cards that I am using.  I think there may be a slow voltage drop from the AC adapters, and i am considering modifying them so instead of running off AC they can run off my new 12v DC power center which I will discuss more later. I think if i can keep the voltage a little bit higher that they will continue to show 100% battery.

 

Panasonic GH4

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Wow, this one really impresses me. I actually like it more than the Sony A7’s.  It is extremely well built, very comfortable to hold, and very fast and intuitive to use.  I also have the 12-35 f/2.8 lens, and this is not the first time i have owned that lens. I used to have it with my Olympus OMD Em-5 and loved it, but when i sold the Olympus i did not expect to get back into M43.

There are two primary reasons why I picked this camera up.  First off, i wanted 4k video capability. Second, it would make a great camera for macro timelapse because of its puny little m43 sensor (which in reality is only slightly smaller than a standard crop sensor) gives an extended DOF (depth of field), this is the depth of area in focus, larger sensor cameras have a narrower depth of field. When shooting macro the DOF gets extremely thin,  so any added amount helps, this should have about twice the DOF as the Sony A7’s.

Image quality is spectacular. Hacking a  battery proved to be no problem, and even though Panasonic wants to be the special snowflake and use a shutter release system that reads resistance rather than doing the standard open/close that other manufacturers use, I was still able to put together a working shutter cable.

 Studio Equipment

Ceiling Rack system

 

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WOW. All I can say is this Sky Rail Pantograph system is killer.  It was only $300, very easy to install. The larger longer rail you see that the Pantographs hang from is actually just 2 of the shorted ones linked together. The carriages allow you to rotate the longer bottom support, which really gives you the ability to put both lights almost anywhere you could possibly need them. They are more than adequate for the task of holding the LED lights. The set comes with enough cable clips to keep things neat and organized above and out of the way.

I am extremely pleased with this system. I can sit my two lights wherever I want. No cables or Light stands to get in the way. That is one thing that always drove me nuts, way too many light stands and cables. This setup was worth every stinking penny.

New LED light (x2)

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I was pleasantly surprised with this light. I picked it up from Amazon, the build is nice, it is not too heavy, and it features the 4 banks of LEDS along with a dimmer. This gives quite a bit of control over the output. Generally I shoot with my studio lighting as low as possible to get longer exposures. Shutting all but a single bank of lights off then dimming them to the lowest power really allows for some dim output. I like this one so much, I just ordered another one.

UPS power backup system.

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I have wanted one of these for a while now. My neighborhood seems to be on a pretty good power grid, and we do not see a lot of power outages, but I really do not want to have to worry about power outages screwing up a month long shot. With 2 grow lights, 2 studio lights, and 3 cameras I can keep shooting through a 16 minute power outage without any worries. Without the grow lights it can last through about 45 minutes.  With the new BCM I am planning to give it two power inputs. One for the critical components such as the the cameras, motion gear, and studio lighting which will be backed by the UPS while the grow lights, humidifier, heater, etc will not. Even if i lose the grow lights, heater, and humidifier for an hour or two it will not cause any issues with the shoot. It is really the cameras/studio/moco that needs to be protected. 16 min of backup for all of it is not bad, but i would like to get that to at least 30 minutes so ill have to work on that a little bit.

Power Center

I found this power center on amazon. I am pretty jazzed up about this. I added some 2.1mm barrel connectors with pigtails to it and now i have a pretty solid power center for the cameras and moco gear.  It gives me ten 2.1mm outlets with 2 amps of draw on each one. More than enough for my needs. In the past i was using these crappy little AC/DC adapters which needed their own ac outlet. Those pieces of junk would bomb out on me from time to time so a proper power center is clutch.

Other various stuff

I have added several new lenses, another 60mm macro, an 85 1.8, and a 50 1.8 along with a Fuji macro lens and the Panny 12-35.

3 compact tripods, a video tripod, another grow light with a smaller ceiling rail system that i hang them from.  I added another 16gb of ram to the computer, added eye-fi cards, an Iwata airbrush set for painting sets (yes i do know how to airbrush), adapters, cables, plugs, an extra chromakey screen, and a few other things to help make the studio a bit easier to work in.

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Here is the arduino powered splitter I am using. I am sort of glad at this point i used a micro controller in this, the panasonic camera always wants to go into stupid sleep mode. No matter what i do. The good thing is I can always alter the code for a couple of the outputs to give them a little bit of a bump to wake the camera then trigger again.  I also gave it a test button so i can trigger all the cameras at once for test shots.

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Another larger shot, you can see the new shelf i added for extra storage space (i hate clutter). You can also see the pair of grow lights hanging between the pantographs.

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I am currently doing some testing with the A7’s, added a fuji for good measure. 🙂

And that is about it for now. Sorry no time lapse today. I hope to have some cool stuff to show soon.

For a comparison, here is a “Before” shot.

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