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Cactus Flashes and Triggers

Adam Lerner April 30, 2014 Comments Off

As you guys may already know, I love off-camera flash. Especially a nice portable system that does just about everything I need. So when the nice folks at Cactus contacted me about sending some of their new flashes and triggers, I was seriously stoked! I received two Cactus WIRELESS FLASH RF60′s and three Cactus WIRELESS FLASH TRANSCEIVER V6′s. To me this is a perfect editorial portrait kit. Two off-camera flashes and 3 triggers to allow for completely hands free, wireless control.

I was immediately impressed with Cactus’ packaging. The boxes look great. Very nice graphic design and labeling. I’m a sucker for graphic design and feel that packaging makes a strong impact. I opened the flash and the build quality is great. Very solid feeling, the seams are tight, the build materials overall solid. I popped in some batteries and really like the backlit LCD display. Big lettering and nice orange backlight make for easy to read controls. The buttons are very well laid out and easy to use. Its great that the flash comes with a PC sync port for either using a pc sync cable or a different radio trigger directly plugged in. I liked that the flash has a USB port for updating firmware and a threaded slot on the side for directly mounting to a stand. Some other nice features are the padded bag it came with and cold shot foot. Overall, it seems really nicely made and feature rich.

The flash goes from 1/128 to 1/1 power in 1/3 stop increments. Very nice. The flash head zooms from 24mm – 105mm, also a very nice touch. It has a flop over fresnel lens and pop up bounce card. All the kinda stuff you find in a high-end branded flash.

On to the flash transceivers. Again, very nice build quality. They come with a cold shoe foot, and are also threaded on the bottom for easy mounting. The buttons are laid out really well and it’s super straight-forward to configure. There are four buttons along the side for Groups A, B, C and D. Just press to activate and they glow orange. Sweet! You just dial in the power for each group on the back, so simple. And you can set the channel very simply as well.

Apparently, these flashes and triggers are compatible with most current camera manufacturers and I’d recommend getting the Cactus set that’s designed for your system. I also see that they are capable of performing HSS (High Speed Sync), that allows you to fire your flashes beyond your camera’s built-in sync speed. I love that feature and can’t wait to check it out!

I’m going to put these things thru their paces and provide a more detailed review with images, but for now, I wanted to share my first impressions from the unboxing and initial thoughts on their ease of use and build quality.

Check out all the detailed specs on Cactus’ site, http://www.cactus-image.com.

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I Built My OWN Working Digital Camera and So Can You

Jared Polin November 25, 2013 Comments Off

Have you ever been curious how a digital camera got built and works? Well wonder no more as you now have the chance to build your very own digital camera from scratch, from the box.

Introducing the Bigshot Camera which is the brainchild of Shree Nayar who is a professor at Columbia University. The Bigshot is meant to be a teaching tool that allows people of all ages to build and learn all about the pieces in a functioning digital camera. Not only is this a great learning tool for children, the camera let’s us see the world through their eyes.

Everything that you need to build the camera from the screws to the lenses are supplied in a perfectly marked and laid out kit.

I got the chance to build this camera and decided to film the process. What a confidence builder it is to be able to take all the separate pieces, follow the directions and end up with something that works. Now let me tell you, I didn’t know if I did everything properly but as you will see in the video I did.

I think this makes a great gift for any kid and I can see myself ordering one for my cousins son. One of the only issues I had was it was slightly more difficult to get into the plastic bags that held the screws and the springs. That part may be a little harder for younger kids, but with a little help they can do it. The last thing I will say about the building process is you will be left with extra screws and springs which is not marked in the directions.

One last thing to keep in mind is this is not a professional camera by any stretch of the imagination. It is a simple $89 learning tool that does capture images and kids imaginations. The point is not the quality of the images the point is the fun and learning that comes with building and using your own digital camera.

You can pick one up at Bigshotcamera.com
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ZOOM H6 Review

Jared Polin August 25, 2013 Comments Off

Jareds Thoughts

When ZOOM announced the H6 there was a lot of excitement in the audio community. Now I want to put this out there first, I am in no way an audio expert. I know how to hit record, tweak the levels and that is about it, but that may be enough.

Back in the day I purchased a Zoom H4 as I thought it would come in handy at concerts or for other recording needs. The H4 had a small screen, hard to work buttons and an even stranger menu system. I found that device very hard to figure out and use thus why I rarely used it.

Fast forward to the H6 coming out and I must say they have done an amazing job with this little wonder. It now has a large easy to read color screen. Multiple XLR inputs along with the ability to switch out the top microphones or add additional XLR inputs.

It is built very well and feels great in the hands. All the buttons seem to be placed logically and function as expected.

I ordered the H6 right after it was announced as I felt it may be good to have for recording RAWtalks either in the loft or on the road. As soon as Stephen and I unboxed it he was explaining to me all the functions and settings we should be using. Being that Stephen is an audio pro it’s a great thing to know that right out of the box the settings just make sense.

From here until further notice we will be using the ZOOM H6 to record RAWtalk and other interviews. For $399 you can not go wrong with something that is packed full of so many amazing features.

Click Here to download a SAMPLES .WAV file.
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LumoPro LP 180

Adam Lerner July 8, 2013 Comments Off

LP180OfficialImage1 web 604x353 LumoPro LP 180

Can you say fast, rugged, reliable and affordable! That’s just a quick summary for the new LumoPro LP 180 Quad-sync manual flash. Many of you already know, I’ve been a LumoPro LP 160 fanboy for some time now. Those flashes always serve me well and I love the simplicity. My only gripe was their build quality seemed a little cheap. Well, move over LP 160. The LP 180 is built like a tank! Totally redesigned and rugged. First impressions mean a lot and this thing really feels solid.

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Nikon 80-400 AFS VR Review – Is this lens worth $2,700???

Jared Polin June 30, 2013 Comments Off

Is this lens worth $2,700, that is the question. First off in my sniff test I said it smelled “overpriced” and I meant it. Regardless of the quality of this lens there are other options for less money or slightly more that I personally would go with.

For example you could purchase a 70-200 2.8 VRII for $450 less. On top of that if you wanted a 300 2.8 you could probably find one used for a few more bucks. But it wouldn’t be fair for me to sit here and tell you about other options when this is a review of the NEW Nikon 80-400 VR.

Let me explain how I like to do reviews of lenses. My goal is to take sample images and give you the files and full res images to make your own mind up about quality. On top of allowing you the images to analyze I have to chime in with my own opinions.

9178415276 512014a35c z Nikon 80 400 AFS VR Review   Is this lens worth $2,700???

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This Smells Like a “Purple” Laser!!!

Jared Polin June 27, 2013 Comments Off

A little while back I talked about one item that always should be in your bag. Well this Zacuto Z Finder Pro 3X is now always in mine.

I consider the Zacuto Z Finders to be some of the best built and optically sound viewfinders on the market. I have used the third party viewfinders and find them to be subpar. Sure the off brand ones may be less expensive but they are also less quality all the way from build quality to optics.

The way I look at purchasing gear is why not try and buy the best that is on the market. Yes these Z-Finders are expensive. But the fact is if you want sharp and consistant results that are built well, than you will want to check out all things Zacuto.

The uses for this are simple, you can use it to double check the focus of images you already took. Or you could use it the way I like to which is to capture tack sharp and in focus video.

For more information please check out http://www.zacuto.com/

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Natural Light Portrait, Fuji X-Pro 1

Adam Lerner June 11, 2013 Comments Off

9032389947 58bd5c13f0 Natural Light Portrait, Fuji X Pro 1

The Fuji X-Pro 1 is an odd beast. Odd in that it’s quirky. Quirky controls and menus. Quirky viewfinder and focus. However, it’s a beast. The files are freakin sweet. That 35mm f/1.4 lens is insanely sharp. Fuji’s sensor for this camera has a fantastic look and the files are hefty. Seems that Fuji and Adobe finally got their sh*t together and the RAW conversions are looking sweet.

Here’s a quick portrait I shot of buddy and ace photographer, Lance Omar Thurman. I fired one frame and am amazed on the image quality. I dig the portrait too. Sure, had this been a portrait session, we’d have run thru quite a bit more, but as far as test shots are concerned, I really dig it.

Seems that Fuji and Adobe finally got their sh*t together and the RAW conversions are looking sweet.

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Nikon D3s, Four Years Later

Adam Lerner June 7, 2013 Comments Off

DSCF9929 1024x682 Nikon D3s, Four Years Later

I’ve been a Nikon shooter for years. It’s not because Nikon is better than Canon or a subjectively biased motivation and at this point, I’d shoot just about anything and be happy. I consider myself fairly brand agnostic however, there are camera brands I like and prefer, but at the end of the day, they all do some very basic things and they all seem to do them well.

I bought my Nikon D3s in the Fall of 2009. I had been shooting a Nikon D700 and loved it, but wanted more. In fact, there are many times where I wish I still had my D700 as it was such a great camera to shoot. The size, form factor, all great. And it made some great files. Oh, and I actually really dug how the built-in flash was so versatile as a quick fill or even as a CLS commander. All good stuff. But, I’m far happier with the D3s and frankly never looked back.

Over 100k clicks and it performs exactly the same today as it did the day I got it 4 years ago!

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The MUST HAVE accessory for ALL Camera Owners RØDE SmartLav

Jared Polin June 3, 2013 Comments Off

There is a very good reason I say the RØDE SmartLav is a must have for all camera owners and in this review you will find out why.

First things first, how many times have you set out to record and interview with the built in microphone of your camera? Now how many times have you been happy with the audio from the built in? If you are like me the answer would be a BIG NEVER. The reason the audio is so bad is that the microphone in the camera picks up every noise from focusing the camera to breathing to wind all without picking up clear audio of your subject. Beyond that your subject sounds like they are very far away which makes them come across as unprofessional.

The key to a great video interview is even better audio. You may have the most expensive camera in the world but without solid audio the video may be worthless. This is where the SmartLav from RØDE will help you take your videos audio to the next level. This $60 microphone in my opinion is one accessory that every camera owner should have in their bag at all times.

Pick up a SmartLav Mic for $60 Right Here and get a a FREE RODE Vampire Clip (a $10.99 Value), plus a 5% discount with code FROKNOWS.

smartlav 03 The MUST HAVE accessory for ALL Camera Owners RØDE SmartLav
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Canon PIXMA Pro 10 REVIEW

Jared Polin April 30, 2013 Comments Off

I used to think I’d never own an inkjet printer for printing my photos, believing that a solution for the home would never match a “real” lab print. Well, I can honestly say that I’ve had a bit of a change of heart recently with my introduction to the Canon Pixma Pro 10 inkjet printer.

When Canon asked me if I would like to review the Pixma Pro 10, I agreed, as long as they sent me enough ink and paper to properly run some real world tests. I was always under the impression that the ink was way too expensive and the added cost of purchasing paper made it an easy option to order my prints online. Despite my newfound respect for some at-home printing solutions, inkjet printers aren’t perfect, and I will break down their pros and cons in this full in-depth review.
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