Godox Ving V850 / XT16 / XTR16(s) Review Preamble

Recently I added a Godox XT16 transmitter and some XTR16s receivers to my Godox  V850 Ving hotshot / speedlite manual flashes. Basically, I replaced my PocketWizard Plus Xs. Thought I’d write a little review.

I’m splitting this review into two, more manageable chunks, since I seem to be failing at brevity. _DSF7600-Edit-Edit

Godox, who may or may not also be Neewer and whose products are rebranded by Adorama (as Flashpoint) and others, is a Chinese manufacturer of relatively cheap but quite modern and fairly good quality lighting equipment.

Godox now have a really nice range of equipment, and some seem to feel this is where they are edging ahead of their competitors. In terms of light sources, as well as several series that meet the needs of mains powered high power studio photography and their portable, on site equivalents, and several series of lower / standard power speedlite  or hotshot flashes (i.e. basically what most other manufacturers offer), Godox also has the interesting Wistro series of medium powered flash units – basically, bare bulb hotshot flashes powered by battery packs.

Along with light units, Godox offers an extensive range of fairly cheap light modifiers. Keeping track of what is on offer and how various models differ is a bit of a headache however. Their website is not so logically laid out in terms of product listings and often items seem to be missing from these listings. Added to this, Goddox / Neewer light modifying products (and the sellers themselves) seem to come and go quite frequently on places like Amazon. I suspect that the modifier arm of the business might more closely reflect what we might term as the more flexible nature of supply / demand / manufacture that for many stereotypes modern Chinese production. I am a really big fan of the Cheetah QBox24 I should add, which seems to have been designed in conjunction with and to be manufactured by Godox, at least as far as I can tell.

Flash Havoc hints that Godox might be a good place to start for those first getting into lighting, as their various systems are largely cross compatible and play nicely together if / when you might want to expand – something that not all (any?) other reasonably priced manufacturers can claim.

Anyway, the somewhat oddly named Ving series is a range of speedlite / hotshot flash units that come in plain old manual (Ving 850 aka V850*), or as Canon, Nikon or Sony compatible Ving 860 units (aka V860) with all the associated TTL bits and bobs. The two links immediately above are for the original Flash Havoc reviews (which still apply for everything apart from remote functions). Newer, version II units have radio receivers built in (as do newer versions of many of the other Godox ranges of lighting units). Older versions, like mine, take a clip-on receiver unit. For the nitty gritty on the new V850II Ving, go here.

The Godox page for the V850II Ving is here.

Anyway, it is these V850 series speedlite flashes and remotely adjusting / triggering them that I will address in the next post.

Part two coming soon.

* technically, I think it might be “Godox V850 Ving,” etc. However, depending on whether you are looking at the website or an actual unit, it could also be “Godox Ving V850” etc.

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Manfrotto 1051BAC Mini Air Cushioned Light Stand Review – Over Engineered and Under Developed

Grrr…

At myself, but also at the idiots who review things. Mostly at myself though.

I was going to call this post ‘Don’t Believe The Hype 2: aka Don’t Assume.’ It’s also a fairly comprehensive review, cos that’s what I needed. What I didn’t need was idiots going “Great stand”. Lot’s of photos below too, cos I reckon it helps.

Anyway, I just bought two of these. Online, so that makes returning them a hassle. Also, I’m going overseas soon, and I need two more light stands. So I don’t have much free time and this also makes returning them a hassle.

Earlier in the year I bought a Manfrotto 1052, on account I had read the foot print was quite large, and that’s what I was looking for. Unfortunately, it was’t really what I needed, and I ended up with something too big. I never thought about it’s compacted height, and ended up with something I have to strap on the outside of my bag, rather than put inside.* This also means I can’t pack it for international travel unless I make up another box to put it in – pain! Also, while the large footprint is great outdoors, it’s a little too big indoors.** Still, I figured, I’ll use it. And I do.

So, when I needed two new stands, I decided on the smaller 1051 model. I checked the compacted height this time – great, basically the same as an 8 ft LumoPro air cushioned stand, so will fit in the bag I check in for flights. Also, they have that space saving stackable goodness. Great, right?

Wrong, wrong, and wrong.

I didn’t check the actual size of the footprint.* Turns out it’s so tiny it actually looks wrong. These things tip over so fecking easily, it is ridiculous.

Solution – sandbags? Nope. First, you need to constantly move light stands a few centimetres this way or that, to get the perfect fall of light, so sandbags are a pain. Second, my presumably standard sized sandbags don’t work, cos the stands’ legs are too short / steep. In one direction, the stand falls half way over before it catches, not really a solution. In the other direction, is slips out completely and falls all the way over, not a solution at all. See the photos below.

Part of the problem here is that Manfrotto uses really large clamps to secure the extended tubes. These take up a huge amount of space, and mean the legs are forced to be relatively short. You can see this in the photos below.

Stackable goodness? Well yes, the system works really well. It’s clearly a carefully designed well engineered effortless marvel. Great. Except, while the design does mean they fold down space savingly thin, it also means they fold down space consumingly wide. Also, as you can see below, they’re not all that thin anyway.

There’s a whole bunch of photos below, where you can see the problems. The first softbox shown is a relatively small 60x60cm / 24 inch one, and the second is slightly larger at 80x80cm / 32 inches. In other words, neither is very big.

The other stand is an 8ft LumoPro air cushioned stand, which I think is really great. Works a treat, and has a decent footprint. It’s actually more stable in the worst set up position than the Manfrotto in its most stable set up position (weight hanging between legs vs. over leading leg).

In the photos – standing, the LumoPro is always to the right of the 1051, while lying down, it’s to the left. The last photo of them standing also has the 1052 on the right. Also, in the standing & comparing shots, while it’s not obvious, the centre tubes are all over the same line on the floor & thus the footprints can be compared with confidence. Bear in mind too, the 1051 and the LumoPro are essentially the same length when collapsed (the 1051 is 2 cm longer with the ‘Baby 5/8″ top’ fitted or 3mm shorter without), yet the LumoPro has a max. height of advantage of 13 inches / 34cm (8ft / 2.44m vs. 6.9 ft / 2.1m).

It’s “Would I recommend this product to a friend” time: Nope, nope and nope.

Over engineered and under developed.

If you live in the US, or somewhere else where the shipping makes no odds, get the 8 ft LumoPro Air Cushioned stand from Midwest Photo Exchange. It’s better, and around half the price.

_DSF5903  _DSF5904  _DSF5906 _DSF5907 _DSF5911 _DSF5913_DSF5915 _DSF5918 _DSF5919  _DSF5921 _DSF5924

* Grrr at myself

** see my previous post where I talk about the cramped conditions in Japan.

Why I’m Buying Neither A Fujifilm X-T1 Nor A 56mm f1.2: A Mini Review

Recently I had the use of an X-T1 and XF 56mm f1.2R lens for two days. I even shot a portrait session on the first day with it, in conjunction with my X100s. 

You shouldn’t really walk into a portrait session with a paying client and try to use a camera you’ve only had in your hands for 30 minutes or so. But I did. And it was fine.

Now, while I am a primate, I’m not the kind of monkey that spends all day picking nits, so I’m not going to go into those often very personal things that also often don’t really matter. The fundamental point I learnt is, you can pick this camera up and get on with it. End of story. So, now for the middle.

What I liked about the X-T1 – just about everything. I didn’t make use of any feature not also found on my X100s, so I can’t speak to those. It worked just fine for the most part. Kinda like a big brother of the X100s, so nothing much to say there really.

That big viewfinder screen is totally, absolutely, completely, utterly, freaking delicious. So much so that it deserves this paragraph all on its own.

The only thing that gave me pause was that old bug bear, focus. Occasionally it had a little trouble locking on. When it happened, it was mildly frustrating. It didn’t overly bother me, just as it doesn’t on the X100s, but if someone was coming from the blindingly fast responsiveness of a mid to upper end modern dSLR, then I can imagine it might be quite annoying. I do though, suspect that a lot of this hinges on the photographer’s personality.*

I also had some focus issues with the 56mm f1.2 lens, but simply because I was insisting on using it with as narrow a depth of field as possible. At times I was squeezing it down too far for the specifics of the situation. That really comes down to experience and practice – neither of which I had going in. Common sense too, which I also apparently lack.

However, as much as I like the stunning results, not to mention the ability to throw the background further out of focus, I’m not going to buy the lens. That negates the body too. Why though, since they would seem natural choices, given that I spend so much of my time doing portraiture? _DSF0055 1

Space. That’s the main reason. Japan doesn’t have a lot of it to spare and I found myself constantly bumping into things as I backed up to frame. It became both frustrating and annoying. Not really the lens’ fault, just the situation.

This happened in all the places I used for the portrait session; the hotel room, the hotel lobby, on the street and even, surprisingly, in the park. It also happened the next day at my home, where I also do a lot of portrait work. It really caught me out, as I didn’t anticipate this being an issue at all – it never even entered my wildest dreams that it might be.

That’s it really. Not much else to say. Being a rangefinder orientated kind of person, I’m expecting to get all excited and tempted by the X-Pro2, if and when it turns up. That will probably lead me to reconsider the 56mm again too, as it really does give sweet results.
We’ll see…

 

*It is easy to find comments of the likes of “I need a camera that responds super fast / I can’t deal with a camera this slow / for my work I need a camera that focuses faster than this / etc.” To which, I typically think ‘really?’ along with ‘get over yourself.’ It’s not the speed that bothers me – after all, when I came of photographic age, I had to manually focus and wind film on. It’s more that I expect something is about to happen and it doesn’t. It’s a subtle distinction, and I’m not sure I’m making it effectively. So, following Homer Simpson’s sage advice, I’ll just give up.

Photography Q&A by Zack Arias – Review

The following is a book review, of my now much used and battered copy of Photography Q&A, by Zack Arias, which I wrote back in September 2013. The original can be seen here on The Book Depository (with slightly wonky formatting which makes it hard to read, due presumably to something in their system). You’ll have to excuse the bad joke at the end. Also, obviously some things have changed – a year and a bit later and I do now shoot with lighting and I do spend part of my time as a portrait photographer. I wonder how that happened…

**** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** ****

Who’s this book for? Not me for sure. So, who’s this book for? Me, that’s for sure.

I’m not a professional photographer, and I’m not planning on being one. However, demographics aside, this book is brilliant. Fecking wicked.

Anyone with a middling to serious interest in any type of photography would, in most likelihood, find this book interesting (okay, not anyone – but let’s say, many).

The writing is personable and entertaining, and the advice is to the point and, most importantly, realistic and usable. Even if, like me, you are neither in nor entering the professional photography leagues, both the stories and the insights they provide about the industry are fascinating.

The technical / gear aspects are interesting too, even to an available light guy like me. The business and marketing / branding advice I think reaches outside the target demographic of this book too. If youre planning on starting your own pizza shop say, or a hair salon, or a coffee shop, or whatever, much of the advice within would be adaptable I think. While Arias doesn’t go into too much detail with these matters, he does give you the kernel that you can grab and run with (if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphors).

Another interesting thing about this book is that it is a great ‘inspirational / personal self help’ book. It doesn’t set out to do this, but it effectively does via much of the practical advice about how best to approach and deal with various situations that affect your self esteem (again, it’s that kernel and run thing). In case that puts some off, I’d note that if you don’t need it, then you don’t have to read it this way. Another cross demographic bonus with this book.

The only negative note I have is rather strange. The Q&A format has Arias answering various real world (as in, from real people) questions, and he addresses these questioners directly. However, even knowing this, you feel like he is talking to you. After the last question is answered, you turn the page to find that the conversation has ended, rather abruptly. There are some practical flow chart thingys following this, but it does kinda feel like he just got up and left the bar without saying goodbye. On the other hand, he did get every round.*

Can you please look at my pictures at http://www.ionlywrotethistogetattention.com **

* just in case that slipped through any cultural cracks  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Round_of_drinks

** again just in case – I jest

_DSF1620-2

A Good (X100s) Review

Digital Photography Review, aka DPReview, is a great site, and offers good all round reviews of camera gear, from people who now not only have a great deal of technical knowledge, but also a great deal of experience with a very wide array of cameras. Also, they tend to offer ‘first impression’ type reviews for newly introduced products, which because of the aforementioned experience, are actually valid and useful. Their full reviews tend to be based on extended use, and this fact, again combined with the aforementioned experience, mean really usable and reliable reviews.

What they do lack however, to some degree, being focussed strongly on the technical, is the more abstract element – that subjective perspective centred around more airy fairy aspects, such as emotional connection, drive to use, psychological liberation, etc. You know, unicorn rides across the gumdrop mountains while sipping fairy dust Frappuccinos, to paraphrase Zack Arias.

That’s not to knock the likes of DPReview, just to acknowledge that they might not be enough. A very important first stop, but certainly not the only one.

Anyway, here’s a good experiential review, in my oh so humble opinion.

http://mariusmasalar.me/fuji-x100s/