Monday, November 24, 2014

Oh No! WD-40!!!

This post is not for the faint-hearted or any glove wearing gear lover!

I have not yet posted about my latest turn in classical photography, which brought me into large format. Yes, you read correctly, I am into large format now, more about that in a later post.

Along with a very nice Plaubel Peco Supra outfit came a 65mm Super-Angulon lens with a #00 Synchro-Compur shutter. All was fine with that shutter, but the slow speeds, which were gunked up.
"What do I care about slow speeds, since we have fast film!", you may think ... not so fast my friend. Large format lends itself to very slow film speeds, e.g. by use of photographic paper, rather than film. Now we are talking ISO 3-6 actually.
For me, the slow shutter just had to work!

So, I  decided to give a try and dismantled the Synchro-Compur, well, ok, I just took the lid and the speed-cam off.

First attempt to free the gears:
Zippo lighter fluid. Essentially, I swamped the entire mechanism with that stuff. Firing the shutter gradually freed the gunked gear and the slow speeds were coming up again. After some struggle with some springs, I managed to get the cam-plate back in place, closed the lid and had the shutter firing normally again. All speeds working! .... YEAH! Well ... not for long. 
The slow speed mechanism got sticky again a day later.
Cleaning with lighter fluid only did thus not do the trick!

Second attempt to free the gears (this is were real geeks should stop reading!):
WD-40 next to Duck-tape is the technicians best bet. Both are known for some severe and unwanted side-effects. Actually, the side-effects are somewhat similar, sticky gunk, which is difficult to remove!
WD-40 however, has the brilliant property to to loose old grime real good.
With the motto: no shutter is as good as a useless shutter, I tried to carefully spray some WD-40 into the stuck gears. Of course this did not go to plan... WD-40 ended up everywhere... in the shutter blades, on the aperture blades, etc. etc.
The result was, all shutter speeds ran extremely smooth! The volatile light highly viscous component of WD-40 did an excellent job.
Now, let's remove WD-40 as quickly as we can from the shutter.
In a first step, I flushed the shutter with Zippo lighter fluid.
In a second step (now look away if you are a purist!) I bathed (!) the entire shutter in medium hot water with a high a concentration of neutral (no perfume, no coloring) dish soap. Actually, I poured some of the dish washing soap right into the shutter and on the blades. Having done so, the entire mechanism experienced a dive, during which the shutter had to operate many time through all the gears (speeds).
Some time later, the Synchro-Compur experienced a hot shower of plain water, whilst firing, to be dried on a heating radiator a moment later.

Contrary to the first attempt of freeing the slow gears, the second attempt's result holds up. Fully dry, showing no signs of "lubricant", the shutter speeds, down to 1s, are just fine, finally, thanks to WD-40!?

Time will tell if I managed to also remove the heavy component of WD-40, which has the reputation to keep water away by greasing up, i.e. becoming sticky.

Use with care! Please understand the risks of using WD-40 in such delicate mechanisms as photographic shutters. Having warned you, I wont sign responsible when you messed up your $$$ camera mechanics.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Gary Fong Lightsphere Clone for Fuji EF-20

Nope, the following is not my idea... credits to Artur Gajewsk! Have a look:
DIY Gary Fong Lightsphere

Artur designed his diffuser for normal speedlites, the head of which can swivel. I must say, this design works very well! Please refer to Artur's article for the materials required.

Looking at the Fujifilm EF-20, which accompanies my X100S, things start becoming different.
First of all, although the EF-20 allows to tilt the flash 90 degrees upwards, there is no swivel possibility.
Secondly, the EF-20 is slightly tapered towards the business end.

So, I adapted the dimension as follows:
  • length: 23.5 cm
  • width: 12 cm
The width defines how well the diffuser wraps around the speedlite, while the length determines the aspect ration of the diffuser. The length is somewhat less critical, I figure 23cm or 24cm will do equally fine.
The constraint here is to employ an aspect ratio and orientation similar to the sensor in the camera, since the EF-20 does not swivel.

Since the flash is tapered, it is important to get as much friction as possible between the flash head and the diffuser. The rubbery material of the EF-20 is a good help here, since it is pretty sticky when used with the smooth side of the silicone lining material. The knobby side provides essentially no grip at all.

When building the diffuser, you hence want the flat/smooth surface inside. This might actually help the light bouncing inside the diffuser.

To mount the diffuser on the EF-20, you want to mount it on the front part of the head first and then slide it back to obtain good grip.

All in all, the first result look pretty promising!

A new addition to the bag, which easily fits into the bag's tablet compartment.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Fujifilm X100S Outfit Complete

The X100S has developed into my favorite camera, next to the Lumix LX7. This post is all about the X100S. Coming from mechanical SLRs, the silence of the leaf shutters is really pleasant. In a later post, I will write about film cameras with leaf shutters. The X100S, in addition to the super silent shutter, adds all the manual controls I am used to from my purely mechanical cameras.

For the camera to be useful beyond street photography, some additional accessories could come useful.

Portraiture Lens

The 63 degrees field of view, equivalent to a 35mm lens, is pretty ideal for photojournalism, showing the scene around the subject, slightly enlarging the center of the image, where the subject would be placed.
In portraiture, a slight distortion of the image center leads to unwanted effects, e.g. big noses and things of similar nature. Also, in portraiture, one actually does not want to show any of the surrounding scenery. Usually lenses between 90mm and 120mm (full frame equivalent) would do the trick.
The X100S, however, is stuck with a single lens.
To the rescue, Fuji provides 2 auxiliary lenses for the X100/X100S/X100T, a wide angle converter and a telephoto converter. For obvious reasons, the wide angle converter will not help for portraiture.
So, the telephoto converter (Fuji TCL-X100), is what we need to look at.
The TCL-X100 will result in an equivalent "normal" 50mm field of view. Although not ideal for studio portraiture, this is a starting point for taking portraits.

Off Camera Flash

The built-in flash is nice to have, however, it creates really harsh light and needs to be gelled (scotch tape) to diffuse and warm up the light a little.
Fuji offers 3 external flash units, one is ridiculously large, the second one provides a forward angle only, while the third and cheapest option (Fujifilm EF-20) can be pointed upwards in several angles. Still, even this flash would be sitting right on top of the camera.
Whichever option one choses, to get the flash off camera, one might use a flash remote cable. The contacts on Fujifilm's cameras' hot-shoes are similar to Canon cameras' hot-shoes. And in fact, Canon compatible flash cable work just fine with Fuji flashes, TTL and all.

There is a second option for off camera flash: RF (radio) remote triggers, my favorites! Note that radio triggers only work with manual flash settings.
Personally, I tested 2 different brands, both very inexpensive:
  1. WANSEN WS-603C
  2. YONGNUO RF-603C
The YONGNUO got 4+1 contacts in the hot-show (4 plus ground), while the WANSEN got 6+1 contacts.
The YONGNUO units have no problems to fire the Fuji flash, while the WANSEN units struggle. I figure that's got something to do with the Fuji flash's 4th contact, which is blanked out by the YONGNUO remote triggers. Actually, it turned out that one of the WANSEN units was bad, i.e. not popping the flash, whilst otherwise behaving normally.
My recommendation is still towards the YONGNUO RF-603C!

Filter Holder & Lens Hood

Yeah, I know, filters are for wimps! However, here comes your favorite camera, the lens of which cannot be exchanged... maybe here´s a reason to add a useless UV-filter, just to protect the front element of the non-exchangeable lens of your very favorite camera... makes sense?
Of course, you can get the Fuji-thing for about 80 Euros... or, you fetch one of the very cheap after-markets part (LA-49 X100). And screw on your favorite useless UV-filter!


However useless the protective UV filter is, there are some filters really useful to the X100S.
With a "circular polarizer" (which has actually nothing to do with circular polarization!), one can adjust for polarized light, such as reflections and polarization of the sky.
My X100S bag also holds a filter that is primarily used for astro-photography, a so called "sky glow filter". This filter blocks spectral lines of man made light sources, thereby enhancing starlight. Filters of this kind come for 2" eyepieces, which is in the same ballpark as the X100S filter holder. A small piece of tape interfaces between the filter and the lens' filter thread. There are more extreme filters, e.g. for hydrogen and oxygen lines, however, this would be taking it to the extremes.


A decent tripod should be in any serious photographer's bag!
Full size tripods require some space, which the usual bag does not offer, hence, I went for the MeFoto DayTrip. For a price of next to nothing, you'll get a very sturdy, not too tall, tripod.

A Strap

Probably the last thing anyone would be concerned with is the strap used to hold the camera. What I am concerned, the strap should be the first consideration someone should half, after buying a camera.
My preference goes clearly towards the cross-body-style Black Rapid Strap and clones thereof.
I held SLRs, DSLRs and other cameras, including the X100S that way, ready to shoot in an instance! Very cool!

Cable Shutter Release

While this sound really outdated, the X100(S/T) sports a thread for a mechanical shutter release cable. Great stuff with an oldschool camera such as the X100(S/T). Great for really long exposures. That brings us back to the filters, in particular the ones used for astronomy.

Batteries and Charger

Digital cameras run on batteries, and batteries run empty occasionally. So, the more batteries available, the better. However, at some stage, batteries need to be recharged.
Again, the after market offers a really nice deal. PATONA offers a charger for multiple power sources, including 2 batteries for a very competitive price. The charger itself allows for charging from mains, USB or 12V (car) power sources, all necessary cables included! Not much more to wish for, I figure.

The Bag

Finally! I mentioned "the bag" sometimes, previously, and this is it:
The Urban Photo Sling 150 by LowePro.

The Entire Outfit

all items shown fit in the bag shown, actually, I forgot the cable shutter release....

Thursday, November 13, 2014

WANSEN WS-603C mod

The RF trigger transceivers made by WANSEN do a pretty good job. I use those in my Canon digital gear.
However, next to the digital stuff, I also shooting film. The cameras I use for this might have a hot-shoe... at max.
Wanna doe wireless with random and oldskool gear?
Here is the solution: get some WANSEN WS-603C an modify those. No, this is not my idea, I found this guy who modified a Yongnuo RF-603N trigger system this way. Here's another chap showing a modification of a RF-603C in video.

The mod add 3V via a 100kOhms resistor to a pin of a multipole hot-shoe. The 100kOhms resistor would be called a "pulled up", i.e. pulling up the potential w/o adding the current. A very safe bet for any electronics.

The WANSEN units seem to be slightly different from the Yongnuo units. So, take care to modify your RF trigger in an appropriate way. Actually, within different WANSEN units, the wiring is different!
I have to say, that my mod is pretty tolerant to various layouts of the main PCB, since it is oriented on the PCB assigned to the hot-shoe.

the pin on the hot-shoe sensing the presence of a camera

here the pin ends, in the middle!
One can attach the switchable pull-up on either the hot-shoe, or the main PCB.
For reduced confusion, I decided to apply the pull-up to the hot-shoe.
Looking out for "done work", I decided to remove the 3.5mm trigger socket, to make place for a switch. One of the terminals of said switch came conveniently close to the hot-shoe's PCB's solder patch for the relevant pin. A very short piece of wire connects the switch with pin, enabling "pull-up".
The green arrow of the following picture indicates the location of the added pull-up resistor.
the mod asks for a 100kOhms pull-up resistor (connected to the battery terminal)
The unit functions as a flash-trigger now... that's the supposed primary use.
Many modern cameras require their very own speed-light systems. Modifying existent systems, such as the WANSEN or Yongnuo, may not provide TTL metering, however, those system form a perfect alternative to the overpriced PocketWizzards.

Actually, I use those trigger to pop a remote flash with an AGAT 18k.

receive mode, all three
device in the middle set to transmit (cf. green LEDs)

Beneficially, the WANSEN and the Yongnuo system are fully compatible in terms of functions.
Personally, I got 2 Yongnuo units and 4 WANSEN units...I will have a hard time figuring out how I can use 5 speedlites....