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Explain the Gear

The Best Type of Tripod Head for Product Photography

A solid tripod for still life and product photography is undeniably one of the most important tool. It helps you keep the camera in the exact same place for when you are doing focus stacking. Also, it helps you ensure that you can have the perspective that you want to have. Along with the legs, there are quite a few different types of tripod head on the market. Here is the one I most prefer and why.

A three-way tripod head

A three-way tripod head

The 3-way tripod head lets you independently control the yaw (turn it from left to right), the pitch (turn it up and down) and roll (same motion as pitch, but turned 90°) of the camera. The roll motion is particularly useful for correcting if your subject is not perfectly straight. A ballhead can achieve those motions too, but in a much less precise way. Because of the fact that you can lock in each axis with the screw/handle, a 3-way head also tend to be sturdier and not so expensive because of its simpler construction. Further, I like the presence of a bubble level, though this is less and less required because of the fact that many new cameras have a digital level built-in. Finally, they tend to not be so heavy and do not take too much space (however, I have to give this one to ballheads).

Some product and still life photographers prefer ballheads, but, personally, I like 3-way heads better. If you want to have the most rock-solid tripod head ever, you can always buy Arca-Swiss’ “The Cube”!

What types of tripod legs/heads do you prefer? Share you thoughts in the comments below!

 

Cheers,

Tristan

Why Shooting at f/22 Won't Make your Shot Sharper

In product and still life photography, you usually want your subject to be in focus from front to back. You know that the larger f/ number, the more of the scenes that is in focus. So, naturally, you may think that photographing with a small aperture (anything above f/14, really) is desirable as you'll have less focus stacking to do and the result may even look more natural.

 

However, I would agree that such a setting wouldn't be ideal. Here's why. Every lens has an aperture where it is sharper. You can notice this easily by shooting at something like f/1.4 and then, with the same subject, go up to f/5.6. You will see two things; first, the focus point is sharper, less soft and, second, the depth-of-field  is larger, more is in focus. The reason why the in-focus part looks better at a higher f/ number is diffraction. The trick to keep in mind is that a lens will perform better at the aperture value just under the point where diffraction starts (at larger apertures, like f/1.4, it is another phenomenon that causes a lens to render a soft-ish image). Here's a video that explains in a lovely manner how light diffraction works :

Every camera has a different lens aperture where diffraction starts to happen. Most of the time it's around f/8. That's why 95% of my shots are at that aperture.

 

Now, capturing images at f/8 will require more files to have a complete in-focus image. However, it will be sharper throughout. You always have to factor in if the added sharpness will make up for the added time requirement!

Cheers,

Tristan

The Sony 90mm FE Macro f/2.8 G OSS Is Now the Sharpest Lens on DxOMark

The Sony FE 90mm is a super sharp lens introduced by Sony this summer. It is part of their premium G-series of lenses. When I first saw sample images that it produced, I was blown away by how sharp they were. I now have a confirmation that this lens is a beast, because it is the sharpest lens that DxOMark has ever tested, beating lenses several times its MSRP! Also worth noting is the fact that it scored #4 in overall score, which is phenomenal. As you can see from the screenshots below, almost all of the top lenses are either made by Sony or Zeiss. It’s crazy to think that Sony already produces such incredible products, even though the FE system is not even 2 years old! The a7 system is all mirrorless proving that those cameras can have higher image quality than “proper” DSLR.

Do you, like me, think that the Sony a7 system is such breath-taking? Do your prefer DSLR? Let’s start a discussion below!

Cheers,

Tristan

Quick Review: Manfrotto 294 Carbon Fiber with 804RC2 Head

I recently received a new tripod and I had time to play with it a bit. Here’s my review of the Manfrotto 294 Carbon Fiber and the 804RC2 3-Way head.

First off, the clips on this tripod are the more regular snapping ones. My previous tripod had the twisty ones. I have to say that the clips seem to be holding very well. I know that some people don’t like the twist to lock mechanism but I find that it works well for me and my opinion is the same for the snapping locks present on this tripod model. I found that those locks are really solid; in no way was I able to  slide a leg section in or out when it was locked. Speaking of leg sections, this tripod has 3 sections per leg. I prefer that over 4 or 5 sections because it makes the whole tripod more solid. One thing I don’t like at all about this tripod is the lack of a hook at the bottom of the center column. This is really frustrating as I use the hook as a way to weight the tripod down in order to make it more stable. I will have to find a way to attach a weight there myself.

On another subject, the feet on this tripod are a lot grippier than what I had before. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that this tripod is new and the old one isn’t but the feet are a lot softer and grip the surfaces with ease. Although I didn’t use them on my last tripod, no spike feet are included on this tripod. Moving up, the center column is, I would say, fair. I don’t really like it’s locking mechanism; it’s a simple bolt. However, when raised, the center column is rather wobble-free. The material seems to be some kind of metal, aluminium would make sense. Also, the raising and lowering action is pretty smooth.

Finally, I like the head. When you lock the big handles in, it won’t go anywhere. There’s an handle for every axis. I like the use of a standard Manfrotto quick release system as I can take off the camera, keep the same quick release plate and put it on my steadycam stabilizer. The head includes a bubble level. My only complaint would be that the head moves too freely when unlocked, a bit more friction would make everything smoother - but hey, it’s not a fluid head.

The legs can go in two positions in order to allow you to place the tripod lower to the ground. While it’s not bad, this feature doesn’t stand out from the pack as a lot of other tripods can go lower.

So, would I recommend this tripod for commercial product and still life photography? Yes, if you’re willing to build something that let’s you hang a weight at the center column.

What tripod do you recommend? What do you like about them? Tell us below!

Cheers,

Tristan

New Toy: Manfrotto 294 Sticks with 804RC2 Head

B&H has what they call “DealZone”, a super deal on a product every single day. Recently, they offered the Manfrotto 294 tripod with 804RC2 3-Way head at a discount and I took advantage of it. It is the carbon fiber variant of the 294 tripod.

The main advantage this one has over what I use right now is it’s height -- it can go up to 71.26”. This really helps when shooting ISO view shots of products when that product is on a C-Stand which is already pretty high. Also, the tripod is going to be a lot sturdier and this is really one of the key characteristics to look for. Finally, the 3- way head will allow me to lock that shot in place and have a rock-solid anchor point to do things such as focus stacking.

I will try to do a review of the tripod in the future (I haven’t received it yet). Let me know in the comments below if I should!

Cheers,

Tristan