Archive for the Landscapes, Nature & Wildlife Category

Super Wide: Cambo’s WRE-CA Adapter for Canon Lenses

Posted in General, Landscapes, Nature & Wildlife with tags , , , , , , , , on March 17, 2017 by kendoophotography
1 Queens Bath

Queen’s Bath, Kauai, Hawaii. Cambo WRS 1600, Phase IQ3 100, Cambo WRE-CA, Canon 17mm TS-E

The Phase One XF mated to the IQ3 100MP digital back is an incredible camera system. But when traveling or photographing landscapes, I much prefer using a technical camera. The Cambo WRS 1600 simply provides me with more photographic enjoyment and satisfaction. The Cambo allows full movements with tilt, swing, shift, rise and fall. The new WRS 1600 allows the user to select landscape or portrait orientation without removing the digital back.  It is also lighter and smaller than a Phase XF, which makes using a technical camera much easier for traveling and hiking.

A week before traveling to Hawaii to meet up with Don Libby of Iron Creek Photography, Cambo asked me if I would be interested in trying the then soon to be released Cambo WRE-CA lens adapter with a Canon 17mm TS-E on my Cambo WRS 1600 and Phase One IQ3 100 medium format digital back.  Absolutely, I replied!

2 Cambo 1600 with WRE-CA

Cambo WRS 1600 fitted with WRE-CA lens adapter with Canon 17mm TS-E

Cambo’s new WRE-CA adapter allows the Cambo technical cameras to use Canon EF lenses, and of particular note, the Canon 17mm TS-E. The “W” in the Cambo WRS series stands for “wide.” But when using the WRE-CA adapter with Canon’s 17mm TS-E, wide now becomes “super wide.” And I emphasize super wide. The Canon 17mm TS-E has a 62mm image circle, which just covers the large, full-frame medium format sensor of the Phase One IQ3 100. Available movements are minimal, but with a field of view this wide, there is usually plenty of room for cropping any vignetting resulting from using slight movements. Did I mention super wide angle?

2A WRE-CA composite

Cambo WRE-CA. A small lithium battery power bank with micro-USB cord is used to recharge the battery inside of the adapter. I added a Canon body cap to protect the electronic contacts on the adapter during travel.

3

Top view of the WRE-CA adapter.

The Cambo WRE-CA attaches to the Cambo technical camera, allowing Canon EF mount lenses to be used. The real limitation is the image circle of the lens used, and of interest, is using lenses that provide a unique perspective. The Canon 17mm TS-E shines in this regard.  The adapter is easy to use as can be expected. Once turned on, adjusting the dial on the right side sets the desired aperture on the lens, which is displayed on a small screen. If the screen were to provide any functions beyond displaying the aperture and focal length of the lens, I would want a bigger and/or brighter screen. Of minor note, I would also prefer if the adapter when turned on would default to the last f/stop setting used.

The Cambo WRE-CA was designed specifically to be used with the electronic shutter available only at this time on the Phase One IQ3 series 100 megapixel digital back.  I do hope that Phase One sees fit to extend the electronic shutter feature set by firmware update to its IQ1 series 100 megapixel digital backs as well.  The electronic shutter avoids vibrations but does require familiarization, particularly with regard to moving objects in the scene. Moving water does not seem to be an issue, but other moving objects, depending on their prominence in the scene, can become skewed by the electronic shutter. Setting a faster shutter speed can help, but sometimes not as much as is expected.

4 setting up bts

Setting up the Cambo WRS 1500, WRE-CA, and Canon 17mm TSE

5 Albizia Tree crop

Albizia Invasion. Kauai, HI. A “crop” of the Albizia tree to make it a little more prominent in the frame.

There is nothing quite like the angle of view provided by the Canon 17mm TS-E on a full frame medium format digital sensor. It is incredibly wide.  Any issues that I had in Hawaii with this ultra-wide system were relatively minor and can be simply attributed to user-error and familiarizing myself with the Canon 17mm TS-E.  It may have been this particular lens that I was using but the infinity marker on the lens barrel was definitely “inaccurate” and not to be trusted. Fortunately, live view on the Phase One IQ3 100 made it extremely easy to manually focus. Lens flare can be an issue and is something to be aware of when photographing landscapes. Simply replacing the lens cap made taking a dark frame relatively easy, except when using filters.

6 Waimea Valley

WonderPana filter system on the Canon 17mm TS-E. 2-stop graduated filter.

7 Waimea Valley

Waimea Canyon, Kauai, Hawaii.  Cambo WRS 1600, WRE-CA adapter, Canon 17mm TS-E, WonderPana filter system with two-stop filter.

7A Cambo with WonderPana Filters

Behind the Scenes with the Cambo WRS 1600, WRE-CA Adapter, Canon 17mm TS-E with WonderPana filter system

8 WonderPana

Fotodiox WonderPana 66 FreeArc filter system for the Canon 17mm TS-E.

I chose to use the WonderPana 66 FreeArc filter system for the Canon 17mm TS-E. The filter system uses 145mm screw-in neutral density filters and 6.6” x 8.5” graduated filters. These filters are big. For Hawaii, my kit included a 4-stop and 10 stop ND filter and a 2-stop soft grad. My back pack was full of filters as I also carried along the new Wine Country Camera filter system for my Rodenstock HR40 and HR70 lenses.  To take a dark frame when using filters on the Canon 17mm TS-E, I found it easiest to simply remove the entire WonderPana filter assembly and attach the Canon lens cap.

9

Turtle Bay Edamame. Focus on the Canon 17mm TS-E was set about one-foot away from the Edamame.

10

The field of view on the Canon 17mm TSE on the Cambo and IQ3 100 is incredibly wide.  I took several images with the Cambo WRS 1600 in the same locked position, changing only between the Canon 17mm TSE and the Rodenstock HR40mm.

11

Turtle Bay. Original capture. Cambo WRS 1600 WRE-CA and Canon 17mm TS-E

12 B&W Crop

Turtle Bay. B&W crop. Cambo WRS 1600, Cambo WRE-CA and Canon 17mm TS-E

13

Old Episcopal Church, Oahu, Hawaii. Cambo WRS 1600, Cambo WRE-CA and Canon 17mm TS-E

13A Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes

14

Japanese Temple. Oahu, Hawaii. Cambo WRS 1600, Cambo WRE-CA, Canon 17mm TS-E, Phase One IQ3 100

The cost of the Cambo WRE-CA lens adapter is approximately $1449 and can be purchased from Capture Integration in Atlanta, GA.  A Canon 17mm TS-E is approximately $2,150. This super wide-angle option is about $6,000 less than a Rodenstock HR32 with center filter, which is a much larger and fragile lens.

15 Carmel Mission bts

Behind the scenes at the Carmel Mission Basilica

16 Carmel Mission Basilica Field of View

Comparing the field of view with the Canon 17mm TS-E and the Rodenstock HR40mm.

18 Carmel Mission Kitchen bts

Behind the scenes. The Carmel Mission kitchen illustrates a really tight image space.

17 Carmel Mission kitchen

Cambo WRS 1600, Cambo WRE-CA, Canon 17mm TS-E, Phase One IQ3 100

The advantage of using the Cambo WRE-CA is that it allows the use of Canon EF mount lenses, bringing distinct views or unusual qualities to the Cambo line of technical cameras.  Photographer and www.GetDPI.com family member, Jawad Malik (see, www.untroubledland.com), has already adapted a Leica R 180mm f/2.8 APO lens to Canon EF mount for use with the Cambo WRE-CA. Jawad reports that the performance of the Leica R 180mm f/2.8 APO is excellent.  Jawad also tried the Leica 280mm f/4 on the Cambo with the Cambo WRE-CA, but the image circle of the lens is slightly too small to cover a full frame medium format sensor, but would probably be excellent on smaller medium format sensor cameras using Cambo’s other lens adapters.  Again, the image circle of the chosen lens is the limitation.  The Canon 17mm TS-E provides a very distinct wide angle of view. Objectionable distortion appears to be easily addressed by programs such as IMADIO fisheye lens plug-in for Photoshop.  Adding the Canon 17mm TS-E to the lens profiles in Capture One Pro 10 would also be a welcome addition.

Kudos to Cambo for their ingenuity and craftsmanship in adding both flexibility and features to their technical cameras. Fit and finish of the adapter is excellent. The technology of the WRE-CA has been extended to other camera systems such as the Cambo Actus and even the newly released medium format Fuji GFX camera. The Cambo WRE-CA lens adapter is on my shopping list. I am told that we should have the Cambo WRE-CA at the Capture Integration (Pigs) workshop (aka Don & Ken’s Anti-Workshop) in Bluff, Utah this April 2017.  See you there!

Ken Doo, March 2017

You can see some of my landscape photography at www.houseoflandscapes.com

My fine art printing website is www.carmelfineartprinting.com

Specializing in Wall Portraiture at www.kendoophotography.com

 

ADDENDUM:  April 2017 marked our 8th CI/Pigs medium format digital workshop—which was held in Bluff, Utah. The Cambo WRE-CA lens adapter was there, including its cousin for the Cambo Actus DB and the version for the newly released Fuji GFX camera. The angle of view provided by the Cambo WRE-CA with the Canon TS-E is incredible. I am amazed every time I use it!CF002439

House on Fire, outside Blanding, Utah. Phase One IQ3 100, Cambo WRS 1600, Cambo WRE-CA with Canon 17mm TS-E. About 5mm fall and cropped in.  The Cambo WRE-CA lens adapters (and other Cambo adapters) can be purchased from www.captureintegration.com

Ken Doo

May 2017

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New Year New Approaches

Posted in Events, General, Landscapes, Nature & Wildlife, Portraiture, Weddings and Bridal with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2016 by kendoophotography
Me and my boys with  Grandma in studio.

Me and my boys with Grandma in studio. Phase XF, IQ180, Schneider 40-80mm LS.

The New Year holiday is often a time of introspection and promises of resolutions for the near future. When in reality it is something that everyone should be doing throughout the year. I am constantly gauging for myself what works and what may be improved. 2015 was a very busy and good year, but also one filled with the stresses of how to handle and protect a loved one afflicted with dementia. It hasn’t been easy. But we’ve also been very fortunate to have the resources and discipline to do what is both best and necessary. We have moved my mom from the Bay area to Monterey, making it much easier to spend time with her. It was definitely the right decision and just in time for the new year. There won’t be broken commitments to the latest fad diet or unused gym memberships–that’s never been a problem for our family! 2016 will be a reaffirmation of family and the things that are important to me in life. Professionally, I have decided to remain focused on fine portraiture, commercial photography, and fine art printing for artists and photographers. I will no longer do corporate event work. I will limit the studio to one wedding per year (yup, only one).  And yes, that means taking more time to travel for landscape photography.  2016 is going to be a great year.  kmd.

Tethering with the Surface Pro: An Evolution of Clamping Choices!

Posted in General, Landscapes, Nature & Wildlife with tags , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2015 by kendoophotography
Some of the clamping options used while tethering with the Surface Pro through the generations.

Some of the clamping options used while tethering with the Surface Pro through the generations. ©2015 Ken Doo Photography

Over a year I ago, I first wrote a blog article concluding that the Microsoft’s Surface Pro with touch screen interface and USB3 capability was a game changer for those tethering with Phase One IQ series and Leaf Credo medium format digital backs. Now with the Surface Pro 3 and soon to be released Surface Pro 4, that still remains true today. The power of a laptop in a tablet form, the Surface Pro using a full version of Phase One’s Capture One Pro to view full resolution RAW files far surpasses anything offered by viewing via WiFi or puny JPEG files. Even for DSLRs, tethering with a Surface Pro offers great tethering functionality for those who seek a portable tethering option.  Originally I used and recommended the Arkon Clamp to hold the SP2, which can be seen at the rear of the above photo. Since that time, the search for the perfect clamp has ensued, all offering improvements over the first generation Arkon Clamp, but also with known limitations or compromises. The Wolf Clamp (pictured in the above photo on the left) added a pano rail with end clamp and RRS FAS clamp to hold the tripod head and camera. While the Wolf Clamp added increased capability, it is also very stout and bulky making it extremely difficult to pack into a camera bag. It is not inexpensive either. The Pig Clamp (pictured above, right) with its flat stature is perfect for hiking, but its light weight also meant not being as stout as the others. The Pig Clamp also uses the same pano rail and FAS clamp as the Wolf Clamp. The Pig Clamp is inexpensive, and I still have a few available on the shelf.  While some choose simply to handhold the Surface Pro, others have opted for a tripod stone bag, such as Vanguard’s tripod stone bag.  But I wanted something better.  So my search continued, resulting in what I feel is the best possible clamping solution(s) for tethering with the Surface Pro on location.  Don Libby of Iron Creek Photography and I call this the Capture Location Integrated Tethering System. There are actually three versions, but as you will see below, I greatly favor one over the others.

Capture Location Integrated Tethering Systems for the Surface Pro.

Capture Location Integrated Tethering Systems for the Surface Pro. Version 1 on the left; Version 2 on the right. Not shown here is Version 3—see below.

There are three variations of this latest generation clamping system, with two using the same RRS MPR-CL II pano rail (or similar), RRS FAS clamp, an Arca Swiss compatible plate, and all using a Giottos Professional Mini-Ball head, as pictured above. Using the RRS Duo Package rail may give slightly more vertical adjustment.  Stay tuned here to the blog as I may be updating the shopping list to include other recommended rails that may give slightly more vertical adjustment, attaching the ballhead directly to a 200mm multi-purpose rail as opposed to used a permanent quick release attachment point.  My preferred system is the magnetic CLIT Clamp on the shown above on the left, but quickly I am liking the last magnetic CLIT Clamp tripod variation best. It also uses a small metal cheeseplate, metal mounting plates, rare earth magnets, and a Urban Armor Gear (UAG) protective case for the Surface Pro.  Don’t worry—a shopping list of all the necessary items is at the bottom of this blog article.  The CLIT Clamp version 1, as illustrated above, thin metal mounting plates (with 3M self adhesive) are adhered to the metal cheeseplate. The metal plates give more surface area for the adhesive to grab onto.  You will need to cut a metal plate into two pieces using metal sheers or heavy duty scissors. Use a hammer to gently tap the cut edges flat and smooth before using the self-adhesive to apply the plates to the cheeseplate.  Two Nite Ize rare earth magnets are then glued onto the cheeseplate using the included 3M VHB tape. (note: don’t skimp on the magnets—get the ones from Nite Ize). A thin metal mounting plate is then fastened with the adhesive onto the back of the UAG case, at the top of the leg, making sure to leave just enough space so that the leg can fully extend without obstruction. There will be a slight overhang by the metal plate on the leg, but it will not interfere with use of the leg of closing the leg into the UAG case.  Make sure to use rubbing alcohol or lens wipes to clean all surfaces before applying adhesives.  You must use the UAG case. I tried to use the Surface Pro with the metal plates directly on the back of the Surface Pro with only limited success. The strength of the magnets will interfere with some functions of C1Pro (such as the loupe) on parts of the touch screen directly opposite the magnets. For those wishing additional magnetic shielding, a thin piece of MuMetal or any sheet will further increase magnetic shielding permeation and saturation levels. In my testing, the UAG case is more than sufficient and works beautifully.

 

UAG case with thin metal plate attached to the leg. The leg remains full functional and the metal plate is barely noticeable.

UAG case with thin metal plate attached to the leg. The leg remains fully functional and the metal plate is barely noticeable. Can be used on all CLITS Clamp versions, but is required on versions 1 and 3.

Magnetic Capture Location Integrated Tethering System shown alone and with Surface Pro attached.

Magnetic Capture Location Integrated Tethering System (Ver 1) shown alone and with Surface Pro attached. Cambo technical camera on Arca Swiss Cube, attached to RRS FAS clamp and MPR CLII rail. Giottos mini ballhead is attached with a AS quick release plate.

The rare earth magnet CLITS Clamp is stable and easy to use. It is fast and easily adjustable. And it packs well. I believe that this latest Surface Pro clamping system, versions 1, 2, and 3, offers the best in both capability, ease of use, and portability.  As you can see in the video below, the use of the rare earth magnets makes attaching the Surface Pro an easy and fast proposition.  

For those not wishing to use a UAG case, the CLITS Clamp version 2 can be adapted using the same pano rail, FAS clamp, and Giottos Professional Mini-ballhead with Desmond top clamp with lever quick release.  Using 3M VHB tape, a quick release plate is attached to the back of the Surface Pro, taking care not to obstruct use of the leg hinge.  Alternatively, a quick release plate could also be attached to the UAG case using 3M VHB tape.  Apply rubbing alcohol or a lens wipe to clean the area prior to applying the adhesive tape and quick release plate to the Surface Pro. A small Desmond lever quick release is then attached to the Giottos Professional Mini-ballhead.  The Desmond top clamp comes with a 3/8″ bushing reducer, which you should apply blue loctite before installing. The 3M VHB tape adhesive is very strong. If you need to remove the adhesive, apply rubbing alcohol with a cotton swab to loosen the bond and use either fishing line or dental floss to cut through the adhesive. Apply more rubbing alcohol to rub off the remaining adhesive.

Generic AS Compatible plate on the back of a Surface Pro for illustration.

Generic AS Compatible plate on the back of a Surface Pro for illustration of the CLITS Clamp version 2. Using a KPS Slim Plate provides a much lower profile. Attachment of a quick release plate on the UAG case is a preferred option too.

Using the KPS Slim Plate (SU7) would provide a much lower profile than a AS compatible plate

Using the KPS Slim Plate (SU7) would provide about a 50% lower profile than a AS compatible plate

For those who wish to have the absolute best, lowest profile solution for this version 2 of the CLITS Clamp, I highly recommend instead using the KPS Slim Plate system (SU7) and a either a compatible KPS top clamp on the Giottos Professional Mini-ballhead or a KPS mini ballhead. This is a more expensive quick release plate solution, but it is also has a much lower profile. The KPS Slim Plate is approximately 50% thinner than a standard AS plate.  See, www.legioaerium.com  The KPS ballhead also has a much higher rated capacity. KPS has agreed to send me their mini-ballhead to compare. For those seeking to use KPS Slim Plate compatible components, I advise contacting the US KPS distributor directly for best pricing and to order the correct parts.

CLITS Clamp version 3 features magnetic mounting but on the tripod leg

CLITS Clamp Version 3 features magnetic mounting but on the tripod leg. This version does not use the RRS FAS clamp or pano rail, yet still has good adjustment capabilities using the Giottos mini ball head. The compact CLITS Clamp Version 3 is my preferred clamp version.

The last version, the CLITS Clamp version 3, was put together after brainstorming with fellow professional photographer Paul Caldwell. This last clamp version is quickly becoming my favorite. This final version uses a Manfrotto Nano clamp. This small clamp has both 1/4″ and 3/8″ receiving screw holes. A one-inch headless 1/4″ bolt is screwed into the Nano clamp. The Giottos mini ballhead is then attached to the bolt. For a more capable mini ballhead, opt for the RRS BH-25PF instead. I actually recommend this RRS BH-25PF ballhead option instead. The same cheeseplate with the magnets in Version 1 is then attached to the ballhead.  This version allows attachment directly onto the tripod leg. In the photo above, the Nano clamp is able to attach to a RRS TVC 3 series tripod leg. Be careful not to over tighten and damage the tripod leg. A small strip of gaffers tape can be used if desired to protect the tripod leg.

Small, light, fast and easy to use. This version of the CLITS Clamp attaches to the tripod leg and is easily packed for on location tethering with the Surface Pro.

Small, light, fast and easy to use. This version of the CLITS Clamp attaches to the tripod leg and is easily packed for on location tethering with the Surface Pro.

This version of the CLITS Clamp is small, yet allows abundant movement of the Surface Pro tablet. The Surface Pro can be easily held or placed onto the clamp. Version 3 of the clamp is barely five inches in length and well under a pound in weight, making it easy to take along in a backpack pocket. I recommend storing the magnetic surface of the clamp away from the Surface Pro or other sensitive electronics.  What is great about the CLITS Clamp system is that it is modular and integrated, using many of the same parts, allowing users to easily modify the clamp from one version to the other.  Version 3 is my preferred tethering clamp and I will probably upgrade my Giottos ballhead with the RRS BH-25PF ballhead in the near future.

For further tips on tethering with the Surface Pro, there are a couple of threads on the forums at www.GetDPI.com and www.Luminous-Landscape.com. Or, feel free to drop me a note at my boutique portrait studio in Carmel or visit my fine art printing site, Carmel Fine Art Printing & Reproduction.  You can see my landscape work at www.houseoflandscapes.com  Ken Doo

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Capture Landscape Integrated Tethering System (magnetic clamp)

  1. RRS MPR-CL II (or similar), RRS Duo Package or Sunwayfoto pano rail; or Neewer 200mm multipurpose rail –the last option still requires a RRS FAS clamp or similar and the Giottos ball head attaches directly to the bar without quick release; no end clamp knob means more vertical adjustment for folks like Graham Welland who demand it.
  2. RRS FAS clamp
  3. Generic AS compatible quick release
  4. Giottos Professional Mini-ballhead
  5. Smallrig cheeseplate
  6. (2) Nite Ize rare earth magnets (for tablets)
  7. (2-4) Metal plates
  8. UAG case for Surface Pro 2 or Surface Pro 3

Capture Landscape Integrated Tethering System (QR plate)

Same RRS (or similar) pano rail components noted above and:

  1. Giottos Professional Mini-ballhead
  2. (2) generic quick release plate
  3. Desmond lever release top clamp
  4. 3M VHB tape

KPS Slim Plate low profile system:

  1. KPS SU7 slim plate
  2. 3M VHB tape
  3. KPS lever release top clamp
  4. KPS mini/compact ballhead with slim plate lever release
  5. generic AS release plate (for bottom of KPS ballhead)

Capture Landscape Integrated Tethering System (Tripod)

  1. Giottos Professional Mini Ball head
  2. Smallrig cheeseplate
  3. one inch long headless 1/4″ threaded bolt
  4. (2) Nite Ize rare earth magnets (for tablets)
  5. (2-4) metal plates
  6. Manfrotto Nano Clamp

For those wishing to use a higher capacity mini-ballhead, I suggest the RRS BH-25PF ballhead.   ken

The KPS T5 Geared Ballhead: In Search of the Elusive White Unicorn

Posted in General, Landscapes, Nature & Wildlife, Portraiture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 15, 2015 by kendoophotography
Carmel Sunset

Carmel Sunset. ©2015 Ken Doo. Cambo WRS, Phase One IQ180, Rodenstock HR40 t/s, RRS TVC-33 with KPS T5-DV geared ballhead.

Background.

Photographers and camera bags are a lot like women and shoes. The endless search for the perfect camera bag is as evasive as the perfect pair of heels.  Finding the right tripod head is not much better. And if you are looking for a geared tripod head with an eye towards using it outside of the studio, the choices are slim indeed.

In 2009, Jack Flesher, wrote a review for the Luminous-Landscape on the Arca Swiss Cube, a really remarkable geared tripod head, which arguably set the standard for quality and precision in a geared tripod head. But the Cube also came at an incredible cost: approximately $1,700 for the Cube in a corrugated box version to $1,900 for a Cube packaged in a luxurious “Coach” leather bag that no one has quite figured out what the hell to do with once they have removed its precious cargo. Pure insanity, I thought when I first read Jack’s review. No tripod head is worth nearly two thousand dollars! But then I tried the Cube, and then I understood. The silent enabler, responsible for probably the most Cube sales to date, was right. Simply stated, the Arca Swiss Cube provides precision geared movements making leveling a camera platform child’s play, all on an extremely stable and secure platform.  When photographing in the shivering cold, a geared head makes leveling the camera much easier than with a traditional ballhead. Similarly, making fine adjustments in studio is also easier with a geared tripod head.

The Cube was a worthwhile investment to me. But the Cube is far from perfect. High price aside, the Cube is heavy, weighing approximately 2.25 pounds. Its profile is relatively stout and markedly larger than its non-geared heavy duty ballhead cousins. While the Cube promises precise geared adjustments, it also sacrifices the speed of a traditional ballhead. As good as the Cube was (and still is) mounted on a Really Right Stuff TVC 3 series carbon fiber tripod, I found that the Cube was top-heavy on my lighter RRS TVC-24 tripod which I use for hiking and travel. I wanted the quality and capabilities of the Cube, but in a smaller and lighter package. And so the search began for a geared tripod head alternative.

Before discussing the merits and shortcomings of the KPS T5 geared ballhead, I think it is necessary for me to first disclose the parameters for what I consider to be an acceptable tripod head. The tripod head must be capable of providing a secure and stable platform for a moderately heavy camera system, primarily a Cambo WRS technical camera, Rodenstock lenses, Phase One medium format digital back, and sometimes also supporting tethering with a Surface Pro tablet. Other alternate camera platforms might be a Phase One DF medium format digital DSLR, or a “professional” 1D series Canon DSLR with a long lens. These are heavier platforms, and generally much more expensive systems than may be considered typical, and worrying about whether your tripod head can safely support such expensive gear should not be even the slightest concern. Mounting and leveling the camera platform should be an easy task, with adjustments made smoothly and quickly. In short, the photographer should be able to focus on the process of photography and not have the slightest worry about the tripod head that supports his expensive camera system. In a nutshell, I want AS Cube-like quality and stability in a smaller, lighter package. I wanted a geared tripod head that bestowed all the Cube’s benefits afforded to my Cambo technical camera, and preferably less expensive too.  Simple, right?

The Arca Swiss Cube is considered by many to be the pinnacle of quality for geared tripod heads. As such, the Cube naturally set the standard by which to compare other geared options, including the KPS T5 in this review.  Manfrotto’s 405, 410, and their new xpro geared heads?  Not in the running for this level of desired quality. The Manfrotto’s paltry maximum of 16 pounds of support (even less for their new xpro) falls far short compared to the Cube’s 100+lb rating.  Sunwayfoto’s GH-Pro is a smaller, lighter, and less expensive version of the Arca Swiss D4, but its 26 pound capacity rating is rather optimistic and I found it much more acceptable for a small, mirrorless camera-sized platform. Both the AS D4 and GH-Pro exhibit lift inherent in their design and are not as stable as the standard set forth by the Cube. I did not consider the Photoflex Clam nor Linhof’s 3D Micro as both are very similar to the Cube in size and weight, not to mention expensive as well.   Enter the KPS T5 geared ballhead.

The KPS T5-DV packaged alongside KPS proprietary Slim Plates.

The KPS T5 Geared BallHead

KPS Research & Design is a small Korean company, owned by P.S. Kang. Kang’s background as an engineer and designer of custom industrial machinery carried over into establishing KPS. An artist and photographer at heart, Kang started developing and making photographic equipment, initially with viewfinders for DSLRs and later introducing the KPS Slim Plate system. A T5 geared ballhead prototype was introduced at Photokina in 2010 and became available to the public in 2012 and recently in the US. The T5 geared ballhead is unique in my mind as it is not a knock-off or carbon copy of pre-existing technologies. There really is nothing else currently on the market quite like it. This is not a cheap or inexpensive head. With the T5, KPS has clearly set its sights on the higher quality end of the photography market. If I had to describe a point of quality reference, I would place the fit and finish of the T5 on par with products from Arca Swiss and Really Right Stuff.  The U.S. distributor for the KPS T5 is Legio Aerium, located in Elkridge, Maryland. www.legioaerium.com  Legio Aerium is a veteran owned business.

 T5-DV with lever quick release on left; T5D with screw clamp on right. Both are Arca Swiss compatible. The T5DV also uses the KPS proprietary Slim Plate.

T5-DV with lever quick release on left; T5D with screw clamp on right. Both are Arca Swiss compatible. The T5DV also uses the KPS proprietary Slim Plate.

I received two geared ballheads from Legio Aerium to test: the T5D with screw clamp and the T5DV with quick lever release clamp. Both are Arca Swiss compatible, but the T5DV also uses KPS’ proprietary Slim Plates as well.  The T5DV includes a generic KPS Slim Plate. Legio Aerium also included several other KPS Slim Plates for a mirrorless camera and professional DSLR body. More on the KPS slim plates later.  The T5 head came well-packaged in cut foam placed inside of an elegant box. No “Coach” leather bag, but certainly better than a corrugated cardboard box. A small pamphlet is included that explains how to operate the T5.  This is much better than the poorly photocopied instructions that came with my Cube! I used the T5 geared ballheads for a period of approximately five weeks both in studio and on location. I will be taking the T5 geared ballheads with me to Capture Integration in Lake Tahoe, a workshop I lead with Don Libby of Tucson, Arizona.

I related to Legio Aerium my disdain for the needless use of permanent red Loctite, making it much more difficult for end-users to install the top clamp of their own choosing. Users must resort to a heat gun to release the adhesive and risk causing damage to the tripod head. I do believe that Arca Swiss has lost many potential sales of their venerable Cube and D4 heads when they recently opted for the use of red Loctite to prevent end-users from using anything but the stock AS top clamps. This rather shallow approach really misses the forest for the trees. Legio Aerium agreed. KPS is sending me a T5 geared ballhead at my request without a top-clamp, and machined to my specifications, so that I can freely swap between RRS lever clamps and a panoramic lever clamp. Responsive customer service? Make that an emphatic, “yes.”  Legio Aerium has informed me that KPS will offer the T5 geared ballhead in several clamp versions, including the same T5 that I requested without a top-clamp.  Smart move. Having a choice is a good thing. Pricing for the T5 ranges from approximately $730 (without clamp), $800 for the T5D AS screw clamp, and $830 for the T5DV quick lever release clamp.  The T5 geared ballhead is guaranteed free of defects in materials and workmanship for three years.

T5-DV, Arca Swiss Cube, and T5-D

T5-DV, Arca Swiss Cube, and T5-D

The Details

The T5 is a finely machined tripod head, approximately 5 inches tall, 2.5” in diameter, and weighs about 1.75 pounds. It has a 44mm ball with a rated capacity of 88lbs. The finish is a smooth matte black. It has a lockable panning base, with numerical settings marked every 30 degrees, and markings every 10 degrees between each numerical setting. There are three main knobs that control adjustments on the T5. The larger black knob controls the head much like any other typical ballhead. The friction lock may be adjusted as desired for the weight of the camera. Initial setting of the camera with the large knob is quick and easy. What makes the T5 unique is that the two smaller red knobs can make minute geared micro-tilt adjustments on two axes as much as 30 degrees total depending on the position where the ball has been locked down.  Leveling the camera is as quick and easy as with the Arca Swiss Cube.

Calla Lillies at Garrapata State Beach. Cambo WRS mounted on KPS T5DV geared ballhead and RRS TVC-24 tripod. Phase One IQ180 tethered to Surface Pro 2 with Wolf clamp, KPS T5DV geared ballhead and TVC-24 tripod.

Calla Lillies at Garrapata State Beach. Cambo WRS mounted on KPS T5DV geared ballhead and RRS TVC-24 tripod. Phase One IQ180 tethered to Surface Pro 2 with Wolf clamp, KPS T5DV geared ballhead and TVC-24 tripod.

I found that once the T5 head was adjusted for the weight of my camera, I typically would only need to secure my camera onto the ballhead and could go directly to making minor geared adjustments to level the camera with the two red knobs. Only if large adjustments are needed did I resort to using the larger main control knob. The knobs are much bigger than those found on the Arca Swiss Cube, and when making adjustments with gloved hands, this is a welcome feature. Depending on the position of the head, however, it can take as much as half a turn of the red knobs before the T5 gears are engaged to make minor adjustments, whereas the response of the knobs on the Cube when making adjustments are immediate. This has no impact on the ability to make fine adjustments or on the stability of the platform, rather I think this is more the nature of the geared mechanism moving to engage the ballhead. The knobs on the Cube to make adjustments extend from one side of the head to the other, making adjustments easy whether the user is left or right-handed. Consequently, both hands can also be used together on the same axis control knobs, making very fine adjustments on the Cube easier than on the T5. Adjustments to level the camera platform with both the Cube and T5 are smooth and fast. The KPS T5 provided a very stable platform for both my Phase DF and Cambo WRS technical cameras. Movements and controls are smooth and refined on the T5 as should be expected.  The video clip below demonstrates leveling with the KPS T5DV geared ballhead and with the AS Cube.

https://youtu.be/Y-ceazygCDk 

Other than the numerical markers on the panning base, there are no other markings or numbers on the T5. In contrast, the Cube has numerical markers to note the amount of adjustments made along both the x and y axis. Because of the fluidity and movement of the T5 ballhead, like any ballhead, it would be impossible to note with any sense of accuracy the amount of adjustment made along the x or y axis with the T5. I do not find this to be a significant feature in my work. The T5DV lever clamp has two bubble levels. The T5D screw clamp has a single bubble level.  The Cube has two bubble levels. I find that relying on the electronic dual axis levels, found on the Phase One IQ series medium format digital backs and other digital cameras, when making adjustments is easier than using the bubble levels found on the tripod head.

Of significant note is that although the KPS T5 weighs about ½ pound less than the Arca Swiss Cube, I felt that I had not sacrificed anything in terms of a stable platform for my cameras. The standard that I use for a tripod and head is that I should not have to worry about the stability of the platform nor the fear that my camera may crash to the ground at any given moment. I should not have to think about the tripod or the attached head. The photographer need only focus on the task at hand.  I feel equally secure using the Cube and the KPS T5 geared ballhead. The biggest concern that I had was that the T5DV, like the Cube, might be top heavy when used with the smaller and lighter RRS TVC-24 carbon fiber tripod legs. I feared that although it was ½ pound lighter, that it still might not be light enough yet.  My fears were not realized as I have found that the KPS T5 is well-balanced mounted on top of both the TVC 2 and TVC 3 series tripods.  I installed RRS TH-DVTL40 dovetails on the Cube and the T5 heads which allows me to quickly swap heads and tripod legs using RRS quick release lever clamps (aka the Graham Welland quick lever release tripod head system).

Slim plate and Arca Swiss compatible plate; 1Ds Mark III shown with Slim Plate attached and also with RRS L-bracket attached.

 The KPS Slim Plate System

The T5 comes in four variants: T5, T5M, T5D, and the T5DV. All are the same and only differentiated by the type of attached clamp (or no clamp for the T5). I did not test the T5M. All of the variants are Arca Swiss compatible. The T5DV and T5M also use the KPS Slim Plate system. Rather than clamping the outside rails as the Arca Swiss standard, the Slim Plate system is secured by clamping two rails along the inside of the plate. This novel design allows the system to have a much lower profile and take on a nice body hugging design. The clamping system is secure and clamp force is easily adjustable. The Slim Plate system is well-engineered and works well, but I decided that it is not right for me. I have multiple cameras, most with L-brackets, all of which by deliberate choice use Arca Swiss compatible RRS brackets and plates. This consistency allows me to easily use each of my cameras on all of my tripods with ease. KPS does not offer a “slim plate” L-bracket and consequently Slim Plates are not an option for me. As you can see from the photos above, the Slim Plate design is much smaller in profile. For those wishing to maintain a smaller camera profile, the KPS Slim Plate should be considered. A single Slim Plate attached to the bottom of a camera is substantially less obtrusive. I would estimate that the Slim Plate system is about half the thickness of a typical Arca Swiss compatible plate. The difference is more noticeable on smaller cameras such as a Sony A7r. The photo above shows the fit and finish of the Slim Plate attached to my Canon 1Ds Mark III compared to the bulk added by an Arca Swiss compatible RRS L-bracket. When considering its low profile fit, weight, and less bulk that the KPS Slim Plate has on a large DSLR like the Canon 1DsMark III, it really is remarkable. A line of sleek, low-profile, form-fitting, Slim-Plate L-brackets would really give a lot of photographers pause to reconsider.

Layout of the T5DV clamp

Layout of the T5DV clamp

The only issue I found, albeit minor, was with the T5DV clamp. Setting the clamp to be Arca Swiss compatible is easily and quickly accomplished by moving a single stainless steel pin from one setting to the other. However, in so doing, the camera plate is then slightly off center above the ball stem. This is not the case when using the Slim Plate system. This may or may not be an issue for some photographers. Regardless, the clamp does work well and overall I liked the speed of working with the T5DV lever release clamp better than the T5D screw clamp. My preference overall, however, is being able to attach the clamp of my choice using the base model T5.

Moss Landing Power Plant. ©2015 Ken Doo. Cambo WRS, Phase IQ180, Rodenstock HR70 t/s two-image vertical stitch. KPS T5DV geared ballhead on RRS TVC24. Thirty-four second exposure.

Moss Landing Power Plant. ©2015 Ken Doo. Cambo WRS, Phase IQ180, Rodenstock HR70 t/s two-image vertical stitch. KPS T5DV geared ballhead on RRS TVC24. Thirty-four second exposure.

Conclusion

Over the past five weeks I have used the KPS T5 geared ballhead in a variety of situations including portrait sessions, products, and landscape photography. I rarely use the Cube during portrait sessions because making adjustments is too slow. The speed of a ballhead during a portrait session important, yet still being able to make small adjustments during the session with the T5 was a pleasant surprise.  The T5 combines the benefits of a ballhead with the precision of a geared head. For those who already have the Arca Swiss Cube, buying the KPS T5 geared ballhead may not make sense unless your work requires a lighter geared head alternative that is capable of providing a stable platform for a larger DSLR or medium format camera system.  For those that have not yet succumbed to the Cube, the KPS T5 geared ballhead is a great high quality alternative. It may not come with a “Coach” leather bag, but the T5 provides similar quality and features, and at half the price of admission. My search for a smaller and lighter, geared ballhead has ended.  –Ken Doo, April 2015

Ken Doo is a professional photographer with a boutique portrait studio located in Carmel, California. He is also is a fine art printer and recently launched his new fine art printing website, www.carmelfineartprinting.com  From Vision to Print— order your photos on canvas and fine art papers online!  (831) 626-1844.

UPDATE! I just received a new KPS T5 “improved” geared ballhead prototype on December 31, 2015.  Okay, it’s really not a substantial material improvement in my opinion, but it does show that KPS has some mad engineering skills and is very receptive to offering an exceptionally high quality, mature, and polished product.  The new T5 no longer features a minimum friction control on the main knob. Instead, KPS has engineered “Click-stop” settings from 1-2-3 on the main knob. The user simply adjusts the ballhead and then tightens the main adjustment knob until the first click-setting or “1” on the knob. This insures that the camera is held in place and the microadjustment functions will operate optimally as designed.  Pretty neat.  Users with heavier cameras such as the Phase One XF may find themselves using click settings 2 or 3.

_O7E1105

New KPS T5 geared head prototype with click-stop functions on the main adjustment knob.

The KPS T5 geared ballhead remains my head of choice on my RRS TVC-24 CF tripod.  I don’t see a need to upgrade my T5 for the new “click-stop” features, but it certainly will be a welcome addition for new users.  The KPS T5 geared ballhead may be purchased through the U.S. distributor for KPS at www.legioaerium.com .  I have been promised a few KPS T5 ballheads will be available at Capture Integration’s medium format digital workshop in February, the seventh annual CI in Carmel 2016.

 

Carmel Fine Art Printing & Reproduction Grand Opening! 50% Off Prints Limited Time Offer!

Posted in Events, General, Landscapes, Nature & Wildlife, Portraiture, Weddings and Bridal with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 11, 2015 by kendoophotography
Bonsai Rock Panorama  available printed on Hahn Photographic Baryta and Canson Rag Photographique. ©2015 Ken Doo. Cambo WRS, IQ180, HR70 t/s.

Bonsai Rock Panorama available printed on Hahnemuhle Photographic Baryta and Canson Rag Photographique. ©2015 Ken Doo. Cambo WRS, IQ180, HR70 t/s.

It’s official!  I’ve launched my fine art printing website, Carmel Fine Art Printing & Reproduction, making it easier to clients to order fine art prints, giclee canvas, and place re-orders for prints. To mark the grand opening and introduction of the website, online print orders will be 50% off  for a limited time only, until April 10, 2015.  Carmel Fine Art Printing & Reproduction was started for artists, photographers, and the general public to allow easier access to printing their images on the best archival fine art materials.  The website features an easy digital file uploading page tool which also allows users to open a free account, share their portfolio images with friends or their clients, and place orders from any device.  The website also allows for sending evaluation files and larger digital files for large prints and special orders, such as B&W K7 Piezography prints.

Gallery-wrapped stretched canvas ready for delivery.  Carmel Fine Art Printing uses archival Lyve canvas and state of the art printers using pigmented inks. Notice the great corners!

Gallery-wrapped stretched canvas ready for delivery. Carmel Fine Art Printing uses archival Lyve canvas and state of the art printers using pigmented inks. Notice the great corners!

Once files are uploaded, users can select print sizes, crop their images, and choose from many different fine art medias including photographic baryta papers, fine art cotton matte papers, and gallery wrapped canvas. Users can select finishing options from just a rolled print, to stretched canvas, canvas floaters and frames—ready to hang.  The fine art paper and canvas selections are exceptional and a step above normal photo lab offerings. The studio’s state of the art printers can produce images up to 44″ in width by whatever length.

Gallery wrapped and stretch bamboo!  Stretched fine art papers is a Carmel Fine Art exclusive!

Gallery wrapped and stretched bamboo! Stretched fine art papers is available to clients and is a Carmel Fine Art Printing & Reproduction exclusive offering!

Gallery wrapped stretched fine art papers is an exclusive offering from Carmel Fine Art Printing. It is a labor intensive process requiring hand coating of the fine art paper in preparation for stretching over 1.75″ wood bars. Bamboo paper is particularly well-suited for stretching, with the final product being tight as a drum.

Exceptional B&W printing is offered by Carmel Fine Art Printing & Reproduction.

Exceptional B&W printing is offered by Carmel Fine Art Printing & Reproduction.

Carmel Fine Art Printing & Reproduction is also one of the few printing studios to offer B&W K7 Piezography printing. Beautiful B&W prints are normally available on the studio’s Epson 9900 printer, with B&W K7 Piezography prints available only by special order. B&W prints from the studio’s K7 printer are simply exceptional.  K7 Piezography MPS selenium prints are available on both matte and glossy papers.  If clients do not have a print ready digital file, Carmel Fine Art Printing & Reproduction also provides high resolution scans and copy work for artists. This process produces a high quality digital file in preparation for the printing process. The studio uses a Phase One IQ180 medium format digital back with 80 megapixels, which is ideal for both color and B&W reproduction. The image above was reproduced using the IQ180 to first generate a high resolution file for some minor restoration work on a family image taken with a young President John F. Kennedy. The image was then printed on K7 B&W Piezography printer. This image exemplifies memorable portraits that are deserving of archival fine art printing!  Printing Family portraits, Wedding portraits, Anniversaries, and other special memories is no different than an artist or photographer seeking to use museum quality materials to sell or simply to display their work. Carmel Fine Art Printing & Reproduction helps you From Vision to Print.

Visit www.carmelfineartprinting.com and let me know your thoughts!  50% off prints introduction offer is for new clients and good until April 10, 2015. Use coupon code carmel50. Offer does not apply to featured artists galleries.  Professional/business accounts are welcome.  Please contact me at (831) 626-1844 for any questions.  Ken Doo

Capture Integration in Carmel—On the Road to Lake Tahoe!

Posted in Events, General, Landscapes, Nature & Wildlife with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 23, 2015 by kendoophotography
Lake Tahoe ©2015 Ken Doo Photography

Lake Tahoe ©2015 Ken Doo Photography. Cambo WRS, Phase IQ180, Rodenstock HR40

Last year marked the fifth annual Capture Integration in Carmel, an informal workshop led by Don Libby of Iron Creek Photography in Tucson, AZ, and me–Ken Doo Photography, featuring the finest in medium format digital photography. After much discussion with Don and Dave Gallagher of Capture Integration, we decided to take the show on the road.  This year’s event takes place in beautiful Lake Tahoe. We’ve already made a couple trips scouting the area for suitable locations, restaurants, and activities. The sixth year promises not to disappoint!  Photographers interested medium format digital photography can sign-up for the “Don, Ken, and CI in Lake Tahoe Not a Workshop Workshop” online. Registration is $349.00.  The online pdf itinerary gives a brief overview and will be updated shortly.  Contact me at my boutique portrait studio in Carmel or call (831) 626-1844 for questions. Ken

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 2: A Game Changer for Phase One IQ Series and Leaf Credo Medium Format Digital Backs

Posted in General, Landscapes, Nature & Wildlife with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2014 by kendoophotography
Microsoft's Surface Pro 2 and Phase One's IQ180

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 2 and Phase One’s IQ180

Background in a Nutshell.  When Phase One released its IQ180 digital back, its full frame medium format sensor boasting a staggering 80 megapixel resolution was not so surprising. What took the high-end medium format photography community by storm was its large high resolution retina touch screen. Prior digital back screens were postage stamps by comparison. The IQ180 and her sisters the IQ160 and IQ140 were indeed groundbreaking, easily surpassing the viewing screens of its competitors and even those of the smaller format DSLRs such as those offered by Canon and Nikon.  Phase One’s sister company, Leaf, released similar high resolution retina touch screens on its Credo line of digital backs.

Phase One now offered “live-view” on its IQ series and Leaf Credo digital backs, but live-view on a CCD sensor is quite limited in comparison to live-view on a CMOS based DSLR.  Furthermore, the size of MFDB CCD sensors with its high sensitivity often meant that the sensor was overexposed in live-view mode.  Consequently, stopping down the aperture and/or using neutral density filters are often necessary to enable this rather limited live-view function. The Phase One IQ series offered focus-mask, which in my opinion was a sleeper surprise feature on the IQ series digital backs, one that quickly overshadowed the claimed benefits of having live-view. But in a fast moving tech world, the clamor still continued for true live-view, something DSLR CMOS sensors could accomplish well whereas the much larger CCD sensors of MFDBs could not.   And again, the voices clamoring for live-view continued, and Phase One answered with its recently released IQ250 MFDB, the world’s first CMOS sensor digital back—with true live-view.

But regardless of live-view capabilities, the most significant limitation on the effectiveness of live view on location is the physical size of the screen. No matter whether DSLR or MFDB, the screen size on the back of a camera or digital back is still limited to about three-inches in width, or about the size of a credit card.  Regardless of technology, this is a physical limitation that can not be overcome absent an external monitor.  When combined with tired aging eyes, the difficulty of the challenge becomes more pronounced and the proponents of true live view on a diminutive three-inch screen suddenly discover that it is not the panacea that they had been clamoring for.

Tethering in studio is not a problem where powerful computer workstations can run fully featured versions of Capture One Pro software, viewing full resolution digital raw files on large monitors.  In prime conditions it is relatively easy to check composition, exposure, and focus. The difficulty or challenge is viewing images while on location with a larger portable screen option. Tethering on location generally requires using a laptop solution mated with tethering options such as those offered by Nine-volt.com.  For architectural and interior photographers where size, weight, or carrying equipment long distances is not as much of a concern, tethering with a laptop with a larger 15″ or 17″ screen may not be a problem.  Nine-volt offers flexible solutions and I have been able to successfully mount a laptop with a 17″ screen on the DigiPlate Lite, although a 15″ laptop is the largest recommended configuration.

However, size and weight is often a significant concern for landscape photographers and other photographers working on location.  A tablet provides a much better form function over a laptop,  especially where size and weight are primary considerations.  Despite a large selection of tablets on the mainstream market none have had the power or memory necessary to tether a medium format digital back.  None, that is, until the introduction of Microsoft’s Surface Pro 2.  And I’m not talking about the use of Capture Pilot and viewing scaled down JPEG files on an Apple iPad.  I’m talking about viewing full resolution RAW digital files from an 80 megapixel digital back using a fully featured version of Capture One Pro 7 —all in a small tablet format.  That’s a game changer.

The DigiPlateLite shown on a studio stand and on tripod.

The DigiPlateLite shown on a studio stand and on tripod.

The Game Changer.  A tablet has a better physical form factor for both traveling and viewing in the field than the clam shell configuration of a notebook or laptop computer, a popular selection being the Macbook Pro or MacBook Air.  When tethering, additional accessories are helpful to secure the laptop to a tripod for ease of viewing. There is no doubt in my mind that Nine Volt’s DigiPlate is the finest solution for a laptop tethering. For those with a Macbook Pro or Air, look no further than Nine-volt. The DigiPlate and DigiPlate Lite are both well-crafted and CNC machined from aircraft grade aluminum and allow for infinite configurations and tethering options. Both are designed with laptops in mind and although I could attach the Surface Pro 2 tablet to the DigiPlate Lite, I found myself wanting a smaller and lighter on location solution yet—as even the DigiPlate Lite weighs almost as much as the Surface Pro 2 tablet itself.  I have instead decided to use the Nine Volt tethering solution in studio only.

The Microsoft Surface Pro 2 tablet weighs two pounds.  It is smaller and lighter than a laptop, but heavier and much more powerful than a typical small tablet, casting itself as a red-headed step-child among a large, rather uniform, and ordinary field of tablets, notebooks, and laptops. There really isn’t an equivalent piece of hardware readily available in the mainstream market.  The Surface Pro 2 measures 10.81 x 6.81 x 0.53 in, with a 10.6 inch HD touch display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080. It sports a fourth generation Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM for those selecting the 256/512 hard drive option, blue tooth, a micro SD card slot (adding up to another 128GB of storage),  and a full-sized USB 3 port essential for tethering the Phase One IQ series or Leaf Credo series MFDBs.  Battery life is excellent. It is essentially a laptop in tablet form that can run a full version of Capture One Pro 7.   This changes everything.

Cambo WRS, Phase One IQ180, HR40 t/s. Surface Pro shown mounted on a RRS TVC-24 tripod

Cambo WRS, Phase One IQ180, HR40 t/s. Surface Pro shown mounted on a RRS TVC-24 tripod

Tethering on Location.  Size and weight are major considerations when working on location, especially when you have to hike any considerable distance to your destination. The Surface Pro 2 tethering solution adds no more than 3 pounds total to my pack, including the Arkon heavy duty c-clamp universal tablet mount, which attaches to my Really Right Stuff TVC-24 carbon fiber tripod.  Set up is quick, taking no more than a minute. The tablet mount features two ball joints allowing me to maneuver the Surface Pro 2 in any position quickly and easily. Some care needs to be taken to avoid over tightening the c-clamp and damaging the tripod leg. I placed thin adhesive rubber strips inside the c-clamp which adds grip while also protecting the tripod leg from potential scuffing. I have placed strips of gaffers tape around the tripod legs to quickly mark where to attach the Arkon c-clamp and also provide further protection to the tripod legs.  I chose the Manvex case for protection, and leave the Surface Pro 2 in the case even when using the tablet mount. The Manvex case provides a secure holder for the stylus pen.  In the above photo, I have chosen to position the Surface Pro 2 directly below the digital back on the camera.  The Surface Pro 2 boots up quickly to a nice clean desktop, having opted to bypass the messy desktop of Windows 8 using a neat free program called Classic Shell. Seconds later, Capture One Pro 7 DB is ready. The program recognizes the IQ180 automatically after plugging in a short three-foot USB3 cord connecting the digital back to the Surface Pro 2.  This is just too easy.  

Full view. Note the yellow rectangle for reference.

Full view. Note the yellow rectangle for reference.

Although Capture One Pro 7 can be used to tether a DSLR or Phase DF with digital back, the real advantages become apparent when using a technical camera. The larger screen of the Surface Pro 2 makes it easier to compose images, check settings, and check focus using Phase One’s Focus Mask feature.  Since the Surface Pro 2 is running a full version of the Capture One 7 raw processing software, all the features of the program remain accessible, though my intent is to use the Surface Pro 2 more as a tool on location and process the image files later on the studio’s workstation. The convenient tablet form factor and the capability of the Surface Pro 2 to run a full version of Capture One Pro 7 is ideal for landscape photographer and is also an attractive tethering solution for architectural and interior photographers as well.

Full image view. Note the approximate area of the image marked by the yellow rectangle on the screen.

Full image view. Note the approximate area of the image marked by the yellow rectangle on the screen.

For working on location, I have chosen to set up my Capture One Pro 7 work space to maximize the viewing area of the main image.  Once the cable release is triggered, the image captured by the IQ180 MFDB appears within seconds on the Surface Pro 2’s high resolution screen. Too bright outside? Simply tap in the bottom right corner and adjust the brightness of the screen to match.   Double-tap on the screen and the program automatically zooms in 100% to check focus. Tap the Focus Mask tool to assist and the sharper areas of focus appear painted in green. The Focus Loupe tool or any other tool in C1 Pro 7 is also available to use on the full 80 megapixel raw file.

Full View.

Full view on image on the Surface Pro 2.

Partial zoom. You can easily zoom in from zero to 400% viewing to check details.

Partial 33% zoom using C1 Pro 7 on the Surface Pro 2. You can easily zoom in from zero to 400% viewing to check details.  Simply drag a finger on the screen to easily adjust the location of the image area to be examined.

100%. Note the area selected from the yellow rectangles.

100% image view using a simple double-tap on the screen of the Surface Pro 2. Note the area selected from the yellow rectangles in the previous images.  Double-tap the screen again to return to full image view.

Once on screen, the image can be moved around to inspect other elements of the image simply by dragging a finger on the screen to the area of the image desired. Viewing the preview image on the larger screen of the Surface Pro 2 makes it much easier to check composition, focus, and even the desired amount of lens movement afforded by technical cameras.  Changes can be now be quickly and confidently made on the camera or digital back before again triggering the shutter for the final image capture. Once satisfied with the final image, an LCC image is taken to assist later in post-processing with Capture One Pro 7.  The IQ180’s 80 megapixel image files are stored on the Surface Pro 2’s hard drive and later transferred to the studio’s workstation for processing. I’ve never been much of a fan of tethering, however, the Surface Pro 2 changes everything at least for when I’m working on location with my Cambo WRS technical camera.  For my typical workflow, I do not see myself using the Surface Pro 2 to photograph tethered in studio, although its Windows 8 Miracast WiFi capability to send images to other Miracast enabled monitors, such as high resolution viewing tablets and high definition widescreen televisions, has potential worth investigating.

Live-view still remains an option on IQ series and Leaf Credo series medium format digital backs, and except for the CMOS-based IQ250, are still limited by the constraints of its CCD sensor.  Live-view via USB3 may still be an option on the Surface Pro 2 and C1 Pro 7 enabled later via Phase One firmware update, however, in my opinion, I do not expect any further improvements in live view capability to be implemented with CCD sensor-based digital backs, although I surmise that live view on the ten-inch screen of the Surface Pro 2 will be better than on a three-inch MFDB screen .  My understanding is that live-view via USB3 firmware update is now in beta testing.  In the meantime, I find that using focus mask and other tools within C1 Pro 7 on the Surface Pro 2 on full resolution raw files to be faster and more effective than working with a limited version of live-view and neutral density filters.  Even the IQ250 and DSLRs, with their true live-view capabilities are still limited by the physical size of their viewing screens. Indeed, the IQ250’s true live-view via USB3 (if enabled by firmware) on the larger screen of the Surface Pro 2 may be something to really silence the live-view pundits. *update*  Live View via USB3 on the Surface Pro 2 is now possible with the latest firmware 5.11.36 update for IQ backs and C1 Pro version 7.2; all CCD sensor limitations on live view remain, but is more usable on the larger screen of the Surface Pro 2 as expected.  Life is indeed good with options!

The Verdict.   For Phase/Leaf/Mamiya medium format digital backs that are USB3 capable, the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 is an ideal tethering companion on location. The tablet format does take some getting used to but its form factor and power is exactly what makes the Surface Pro 2 unique as a tethering tool, especially in the world of medium format digital photography. The tablet is lighter than a laptop and consequently does not require as strong of a mounting clamp to attach to a stand or tripod. This means less bulk and less weight. When traveling the Surface Pro 2 can serve double duty replacing a laptop while also providing a small but capable tethering solution. The Sony Vaio Tap 11 or the less expensive first generation Surface Pro are alternative tablets that could be considered, but their performance does not appear to be as good as the Surface Pro 2 running programs under Windows 8.1.  Further, battery life for both of these tablets in the field is substantially shorter than that offered by the Surface Pro 2. While tethered to the Surface Pro 2, images from my 80 megapixel Phase One IQ180 appeared on screen in Capture 1 Pro 7 DB in a scant three to five seconds.  Battery life in the field for the Surface Pro 2 is rated up to ten hours but I would rate it conservatively in the field at about seven hours. At least one review points out that the Surface Pro 2 has better color performance than the first generation Surface Pro. The Cintiq Companion was not considered as the larger 13″ tablet is almost twice the weight of the Surface Pro 2, which would necessitate a heavier clamping option and further limiting tethering portability in the field.

The Surface Pro 2 has a faster fourth generation Core i5-4300U processor at 1.9GHz base and 2.9GHz Turbo, an increase of 19% at the lower end and over 11% in turbo compared to the first generation Surface Pro. The Surface Pro 2 also offers 8GB of RAM over the first generation’s paltry 4GB of RAM. Consequently, the Surface Pro 2 is capable of much faster image viewing, taking only three to six seconds for a full image preview to appear on its screen via C1 Pro 7.  Processing time to tethered viewing varies according to the resolution (40, 60 or 80 megapixels) and type of digital back being used.  The Surface Pro 2 also has substantially longer battery life.  The tethered view in the field from either Surface Pro generation is still magic.

There are two items that I don’t like about the Surface Pro 2.  First, the Windows 8 operating system to me is like Vista was to XP. It’s like Microsoft just couldn’t help themselves and leave well enough alone with Windows 7. The Windows 8 desktop is a messy social enabled interface. I am sure it’s fine for many, but I’m here to work. Some may recall why the term “desktop” was even developed: software engineers likened the “computer desktop” screen as replacing a real office desktop, as in papers, folders, and projects on your desk. I want a clean office desktop, and the Windows 8 interface is busy, messy, and trendy. Thankfully there are a host of free programs such as Classic Shell that address this minor shortcoming, allowing you to boot directly to a nice clean desktop similar to Windows 7, with a C1 Pro 7 shortcut icon now plainly visible. No more useless clutter. Finally, the magnetic holder which doubles as both the battery charger port and pen stylus holder on the side of the Surface Pro 2 is gimmicky. I find myself spending more time making sure that the magnetic connection is secure enough to enable charging without inadvertently being bumped off. Using the magnetic holder to store the digitized stylus pen is almost insuring its eventual loss and replacement. The charger works well enough, but storing the stylus pen is much better in the pen holder provided by the Manvex case.

There are a host of accessories available for the Surface Pro 2, including the Touch/Type 2 back lit keyboards which attach magnetically (which does work very well) or by wireless blue tooth, and wireless blue tooth mice. All of these accessories are best left in your bag (except for the digitized stylus pen) when tethering on location.  Unless Apple releases an iPad Pro, Microsoft’s Surface Pro 2 currently stands alone as the ideal tablet tethering solution on location.  Lighter than a laptop or notebook, yet heavier than a tablet, the Surface Pro 2 has not been as widely embraced as a powerful hybrid computer tablet that maybe it should.  But for photographers seeking to shoot high-end medium format digital backs tethered on location, the Surface Pro 2 is indeed a game changer.   It is a worthwhile investment for Phase One IQ series and Leaf Credo medium format digital back users.

Special thanks to Zac Henderson, technical support at Capture Integration in Atlanta. For more information on tethering with Capture One Pro or medium format digital photography, contact Capture Integration at (877) 217-9870.  I will be doing further testing tethering with the Surface Pro 2 during this weekend’s medium format digital workshop, the 5th annual Capture Integration in Carmel.  You may contact me at my boutique portrait photography studio in Carmel or view my landscape work at www.houseoflandscapes.com.  Ken (831) 626-1844

Surface Pro 2 with Type 2 keyboard attached; Arc Touch mouse and digitized stylus pen; Arkon Universal Tablet Mount

Surface Pro 2 with Type 2 keyboard attached; Arc Touch mouse and digitized stylus pen; Arkon Universal Tablet Mount

The Equipment List.

  • Microsoft Surface Pro 2, with 4th gen Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, 512GB storage
  • Sandisk 128GB micro SDXC memory card with adapter
  • Superspeed 1.5 foot USB3 Type A to B cord; optional 3 foot USB3 cord
  • Manvex case for Surface Pro 2 with Type 2 cover
  • Microsoft Type 2 keyboard
  • Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse
  • Am Film screen protectors for Surface Pro 2
  • Arkon Heavy Duty Aluminum c-clamp Universal Tablet Mount (10 inch) Tab 804
  • Classic Shell
  • Phase One – Capture One Pro 7 DB

Improved Clamp options! (revised February 2015)

  • K&M stands 19740 Universal tablet holder  “Wolf Clamp” (fits Surface Pro 2 or 3)
  • RRS CRD rail with end clamp or Sunwayfoto rail with end clamp
  • or RRS MPR-CL II nodal rail (my recommendation)
  • quick release plate with 1/4″ screw for clamp
  • RRS FAS lever clamp for camera/Cube/tripod head
  • Optional Urban Armor Gear UAG case for Surface Pro
  • PerfectFit Anti-glare glass shield for SP3 (not for use with UAG case)

New “hiking” clamp!  (revised April 21, 2015)

  • The “Pig” clamp Small, flat folding clamp ideal for hiking. Lightweight clamp but not cannot adjust viewing angle. Usable only with RRS MPR-CL II or Sunwayfoto 180 with end clamp on top of rail. Fits SP2 and SP3.

No further updates will be made to this article; updates will be in “new” blog articles on tethering with the Surface Pro.  The latest clamping options are discussed here:  Tethering With the Surface Pro: Evolving Clamp Choices

ken.

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