A Lesson in White Balancing


I shot the annual Vacation Rental Managers Association (VRMA) conference at the Hilton Bonnet Creek Resort in Orlando last week and it was a white balancing nightmare! Truth be told, I shoot in RAW so I can always change the white balance in post, but I like to get an accurate representation of the image at the time of capture. It’s just a comfort thing, not to mention trying to get as much right in camera to begin with. Take a look at this image: (NOTE: for the images in this post, try not to focus on the content, but rather the color. These examples are pretty much out of camera with little or no editing)

VRMA Conference. Orlando 2011.

You can see how “orange” or “warm” it looks. That’s pretty much right out of camera. The warmth is due to the tungsten (incandescent for you Nikonians) lights overhead. So I switched from “auto” white balance to “tungsten” and while the result was better, I knew I’d run into trouble if I wanted or needed to use flash.

The 2011 VRMA Conference in Orlando

In the image above I used fill flash with a 1/2 cut of Color Temperature Orange (CTO) gel. Putting an orange gel on your flash essentially turns it into a tungsten light. So if you set your white balance to tungsten (incandescent) then the two light sources will balance. If you look carefully, however, you’ll notice that the waiter’s face still looks a little “cool” or “blue” in comparison to the room. So I added another 1/2 cut of CTO which equals one full cut and that did the trick.

The next day, I turned to using custom white balances for each room and that really made a difference.

The 2011 VRMA Conference in Orlando

Compare the color of the walls in the image above to the very first image in this post. Actually, if you see that white board on the right side of the frame; that’s what I used to get a custom white balance.

I learned about custom white balancing as a news videographer right out of college. Back then, those big cameras didn’t have handy white balance settings and you couldn’t tweak it in post. You either set the kelvin temperature or you took a custom white balance every time you moved from indoors to outside and back.

In case you don’t know, when you take a custom white balance, you’re basically telling the camera what “white” is so it can set all the corresponding colors accordingly. Camera models vary, but to take a custom white balance, take a picture of something white that is getting hit by the light source in the room. If, for example, you have a mix of tungsten and daylight, take something white and put it where it’s getting hit by both sources. You might need to switch to manual focus because your camera may not find focus in something with no contrast. Next, go to your menu function for custom white balance and select the image you want to use. Then, change your white balance to “custom”. Don’t forget to switch back to auto focus.

The 2011 VRMA Conference in Orlando

The classrooms (pictured above) were the worst! They really did have this weird orange color that seemed warmer to me than regular rooms lit by incandescent lamps. Not to mention, I was expecting fluorescent lights at hotel conference rooms. Switching from “auto” to “tungsten” didn’t help at all. So I just shot the white door at every room to get a custom white balance.

The 2011 VRMA Conference in Orlando

Getting the right white balance is crucial if you shoot JPEG because you don’t have as much latitude in post processing to tweak it. It’s less important if you shoot RAW, unless you’re like me and want to see an accurate picture when you shoot it.

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Nikon’s New Red D3100


Nikon's red D3100

Last June, Canon launched a red Rebel T3. Now Nikon is out with a red version of its D3100 DSLR. Monkey see, monkey do?

Would you buy a red DSLR? Do you wish other models came in a color other than black? If so, what color would you want?

Nikon, Sony, Scott Kelby Launch New Products


Nikon P7100

Ok, so if you read yesterday’s blog, you know Nikon and Scott Kelby planned big announcements a day after Canon announced new point and shoots. I really wonder if the Nikon and Canon PR people hang out; you know, maybe have lunch or meet for drinks. It would go something like this:

Nikon: Hey, when are you announcing those point-and-shoots?

Canon: August 23rd. Why?

Nikon: Oh, shoot, we’re rolling out new point-and-shoots too.

Canon: Well, should we flip a coin to see who goes first?

Nikon: Nah, you go first. We’ll just announce ours the very next day!

Canon: Well that’s jolly good of you…. OMG, look who just walked in! It’s Sony.

Nikon: Pfft. Don’t make eye contact.

Canon: Crap, they totally see us. They’re coming this way. Act natural.

Yes, despite fever-pitch speculation about a new DSLR, Nikon updated it’s P7000 with the P7100 as well other Coolpix point-and-shoots. Read more about it here:

Nikon Rumors

PDN Online

Not to be left out of the party, Sony refreshed it’s DSLR line, introducing four new Alphas including one which it calls the “fastest continuous autofocus” with 12 frames per second at 24 megapixels.

Sony Alpha 77

 

Lastly, Scott Kelby let the cat of of the bag on his big news. I read yesterday that the announcement would not be Nikon related and “rdavisphoto” commented on my blog yesterday telling us to get our IPads ready. It turns out, Kelby is launching a new magazine designed for the IPad aimed at teaching photographers about lighting. Check out the video:

 

So there you have it. Those are the big announcements. Now we can all go back to grinding our teeth until Canon or Nikon update its DSLRs. There are still a few months left in the year and the latest rumor is to expect a Canon 5D MKIII in October.

Damn, here comes Olympus…pretend you don’t see them!

New Canon Products Overshadowed by Nikon Anticipation


Canon announced new products, including three point-and-shoots, an external flash for point and shoots and a few printers. You can read more about the new products at the following links:

Canon Rumors

PDN Online

DPReview

But Canon’s thunder might be stolen tomorrow. Nikonians have been abuzz for weeks about an announcement expected tomorrow. It’s the same day that Joe McNally (re)launches his “Faces of Ground Zero” display. McNally is of course a well known Nikon shooter and Nikon is a sponsor of the display. It’s also the same day that Scott Kelby is announcing something new. My feeling is that it can’t all be coincidence and that all three events are related.

[UPDATE: If you clicked on the link to Nikon Rumors, you saw that the new Nikon products are also point-and-shoots. Most people have been expecting an update to the D700 or even a new D4. We shall see.]

Stay tuned…

Shark Week Features Phantom, Canon Cameras


Great White Shark

image: discovery.com

It’s Shark Week and you know what that means! O.K., I don’t actually know what that means except that a lot of people seem to really enjoy watching sharks on TV. I found myself among them last night as The Discovery Channel kicked off Shark Week. I, of course, was more intrigued by the cameras they were using to film and shoot great white sharks jumping out of the water. The photographer was using Canon gear; I assume a 1D MKIV given the audible fast frame rate. I also identified what looked to be at least a 600mm lens, the 70-200mm and possibly a 17-40mm. For the super slow-mo stuff they pulled out the Phantom camera shooting at 1,000 frames per second.

In case you don’t know, the Phantom is an uber-expensive camera used by movie studios to capture super slow motion video. I blogged about it awhile back when I found a video of a flame thrower versus a fire extinguisher.

Anyway check out the video clip here and you’ll catch a glimpse of the 70-200 and the cool slow-mo video shot by the Phantom.

Canon Adds Color to the Rebel T3


Red Canon Rebel T3

Most DSLRs come in one color: black. Pentax offers a few varieties and now Canon is jumping in by offering the Rebel T3 in three different colors: Metallic Gray, Brown and Red (in addition to black).

The colors are only available at the Canon online store. The company is also offering a rebate up to $200 on select T3 kits.

Cropped Sensor vs. Full Frame Comparison


Awhile back I wrote a post about why sensor size matters when choosing your camera body/lens combination. In it I shared this video which demonstrates the difference in focal length between a Canon 5D MKII and a 7D.

Well just yesterday I had the opportunity to test it out first hand using a 5D and 40D. Here’s the set-up: I was shooting a bedroom with the 5D. I had it on a tripod to make sure I was shooting from the same position when I switched to the 40D.  I was using a 17-40mm f/4 L on the 5D and a 17-55 f/2.8 on the 40D. Below is the shot on the 5D. I thought I had it racked to 17mm but it was actually 19mm; but hey, I’m not gonna cry over 2mm!

Bedroom
f/10, 1/15, ISO 200, 19mm

 Next, I switched to the 40D and dialed in the same exact settings.

 

Bedroom

f/10, 1/15, ISO 200, 17mm

You can see how dramatic the difference is even without the 2mm discrepancy. I knew that a 17mm on a cropped sensor lens is about 24mm (1.6 x 17 = 27.2) so I put the 5D back on the tripod and set it to about 24mm to compare.

Bedroom shot with a Canon 5D

f/10, 1/15, ISO 200, 25mm

It’s pretty close I think (remember I’m off by 2-3mm). This is just another illustration of the difference between full frame and cropped sensor cameras. It’ not a bad thing or a good thing; just something to be aware of. With the knowledge you can take advantage of either a full frame of an APS-C sensor depending on what type of shooting you do.

I want to take a few moments to share a couple of related stories. First, a photographer friend of mine has a 35mm 1.4 and he wants the 24mm 1.4 to get a wider focal length. For an extra 11mm, I would take a step back when composing and save the $1700.

I was reading a blog about the 17-55mm f/2.8 and it said the lens gives you a wide focal length. I commented that it’s comparable to the 24-70mm f/2.8 but at a lower price point and with the added benefit of image stabilization (IS). The writer wrote back and said because it is an EF-S lens that the true focal length is 17-55. I referred him to some supporting documentation and never heard back. Just goes to show that just because it’s in a review or a blog (even this one) doesn’t mean it’s gospel.

Lastly, I’ve been asked if a full frame camera will deliver sharper images than an APS-C sized sensor. Sharpness is a function of the lens and your camera settings (shutter speed, focus drive etc.). The weakest part of a lens is typically the edges. Now imagine a circle inside a square. The square is your sensor and the circle is the image coming from your lens. Because the square is larger than your circle (full frame) you are going to see every part of the lens. This is why most lenses produce vignetting on full frame cameras but not cropped sensors.

 Now imagine a square inside a circle. Because the square is smaller (cropped sensor) you will not see the edges of the circle. So in general lenses perform better on cropped sensor cameras; but that’s not due to some design flaw in full frame cameras. It’s just the nature of the beast. The better the lens, the fewer the distortions. Again, I am generalizing and simplifying here.  Every lens generally performs better when stopped down from its maximum aperture. You really have to research a camera and lens and test drive it yourself.

Well let me leave you with the final edited image of that bedroom.

Master King Bedroom