If only technology worked the way it was supposed to. Short form: “If only technology worked...”

Amazing New Tech?

Geared follow focus for just $36!


The FocusDrill demonstrates more than it shows. What it shows is how a hand drill from eBay can be combined with clamps, rods and ribbed shelf paper (plastic paper? what a world), to achieve focus control over an HDSLR.

What it demonstrates is how little mechanism it involves to achieve focus control. From most sources, anything like focus control will cost you from $400 to $1800. How about $50?

Scott Lerman is showing how he adapts his Canon 5D Mark II with a little DIY. It’s a little Rube Goldberg, but nobody these days knows who that is. Now you know.

Weight, Weight!
Don’t Tell Me!

When to go non pro. 1/23/10

The Big Two—you know who they are—design and build cameras for everybody from apes* to sophisticated professionals. And now they build HDSLRs for people who want to shoot movies. This has defined a turning point in the evolution of photography, and the machines that make photography possible.

Somewhere along the way, they decided that Pro cameras should have much larger battery capacity built into the camera’s body. Additionally, they decided that Pro cameras should never have a built-in flash, since that is so amateur and has no place in professional photography. If you buy one of these cameras (c. $5K per each) you’ll have to shell out some additional cash to obtain a small, non-integrated fill flash that is powered separately.

The larger battery means a larger frame and greater weight, 24/7. HDSLR cinephotographers are already buying, for instance, the Canon EOS 7D, EOS 5D Mark II, or other brands of HDSLR, over the EOS 1D Mark IV due to weight, and how it affects their potential use of certain camera mounts.

Weight is a double-edged sword. It helps to stabilize the camera hand-held, but it adds mass in times you don’t want it. When shooting from a Steadicam Merlin, for instance.

Generally, less professional cameras take add-on battery bases and can catch up to many of the features that the Pro models have, but then, there are the exclusive features. Super ISO, for instance.

Eventually all features trickle down to the lesser models. Reagan was sort of right.

We look forward to the 7D Mark II, or 8D from Canon, and anticipate the D500 from Nikon, both of which should have the stratospheric ISOs, 10 fps and other Pro features in a body with fill flash and lighter weight for HDSLR shooting without gorilla biceps.

Nikon D3s            1220g

Canon 1DM4        1180g

Nikon D300s          840g

Canon 7D              820g

Canon 5DM2          810g

Nikon D90             620g

*Koko, the photographer, a Western Gorilla, shot her pictures with an Olympus SLR, so maybe the Big Two don’t make cameras for apes. She didn’t fully appreciate the DSLR or HDSLR revolutions. Although it is said she wishes to learn Photoshop Elements.

The Affair Of The Missing Wedge

X-acto to the rescue, Case #15,793,241. 1/16/10

When fitting a lens from another manufacturer to your HDSLR, and that lens has a manual aperture ring, all is well, and there is no problem, but attach a lens—via a mechanical adapter—which does not have a manual aperture ring, and you may find the optic shooting always at f/22.

Case in point: Nikkor optics adapted to Canon HDSLR bodies. It’s done more than you think. Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride was shot stop motion before HDSLR cameras ever existed, and they used a bunch of Canon 1D Mark II’s with Nikkor lenses. The lenses weren’t auto-focus or auto aperture, so no problems occurred with the optics. All they needed were thin adapters attached to the back of the Nikkor lenses, and mounting the optics was easy.

A low-cost, high-precision mount to adapt Nikkors to Canon EOS cameras is available from Haoda.

If the Nikkor you are mounting is auto aperture, you are up against a Gotcha. Nikkors shut their apertures to minimum when off a camera body. This will be in the f/16 to f/32 range, exactly not what you wanted. There is no way to exactly tweak the lens to a specific f-number, but you can cause the lens to stay wide open, and perhaps achieve an intermediate f-number, all by using a small wedge of plastic.

The secret is in the aperture actuator lever that projects out the back of Nikkor and Nikon-compatible third-party optics. This is a flat squarish arm sticking about 1/8” (4 mm) out from a slot on the back of the lens. When mated to a Nikon body, it engages an actuator in the camera that opens the lens up to full aperture for viewing, then lets the lens flick to the chosen f-stop for the shot. Since you’re shooting movies, you want that lever to be frozen at shooting aperture. The lever is spring loaded, and very easy to flick open.

An easy way to do this is to make a small plastic wedge that you can place in the slot, jamming the aperture lever open or partly open.

In our picture at right, it’s that slim light plastic piece. In the shot at left, it’s a chunk of translucent poly plastic. The aperture lever is anodized black. An X-acto knife cut the wedges out of pieces of thin plastic.

We’ve known of photographers making aperture wedges out of stir sticks, folded drinking straw plastic and dead credit card shards. It has to be thick enough to push the aperture lever to the open position and wide enough to fill the width of the slot in which the aperture lever moves. Ideally, it would be about as high as the adapter mount edge, plus a millimeter or two at most.

With a little tweaking, you may be able to make one that opens the aperture part way, but your first project should be to make one that holds the aperture wide open.

Tip: Make the wedge wider at the top, so there is no chance of pushing it into the Nikkor’s interior.

Tip: Tweezers. They should be in everybody’s camera bag.

Perhaps some day a Haoda-like adapter will appear with an adjustable aperture arm screw. It might not dial in an exact f-number, but it could easily achieve intermediate iris settings.

Just suggesting...

Things that seemed like a good idea at the time...

Click on images to link.

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