Interfit EX150 MKII 3 Head Lighting Kit ..A good all-in-one option for beginners

October 24, 2011 2 comments

Interfit EX150 MKII 3 Head Lighting Kit Quick Review

This is a quick review on the Interfit EX150 MKII 3 Head Lighting Kit that includes the following items:

EX150 MKII heads x3 (three included)

100 watt Bulbs x 3

Lighting stands x3 (2 tall, 1 compact)

60cm (24″) Softbox x1

Translucent Umbrella  x1

Educational DVD

Sync and power leads x3

9ft x 30ft (2.4 x 6m )Background cloth x1

Snoot x1

All in one Kit Bag  

More information can be seen at the Interfit website at http://www.interfitphotographic.com/index.htm .

First, I should say that I am by no means a portrait photographer!  I normally loathe taking photos indoors where I have to play around with white balance adjustment, mounted flash units, etc.  As you may have seen from my other galleries, I am much more at home with allowing mother nature to illuminate my subjects, which consist predominately of wildlife.  So you can imagine my initial reaction when my wife approached me about doing some professional photos for her practice’s website. 

I had two options.  First, I could have told her to get them “professionally” done and in the process spend several hundred dollars for a photoshoot that would potentially result in limited access to the final photos or require us to buy the rights for use on her website.  The second option was to use that same amount of money (around $550 total US dollars) to invest in a lighting kit that would allow (or force) me to branch out into portrait photography.  Obviously, since I am doing this review I decided on the latter and am glad I did. 

But I am now getting ahead of myself…  First, I started by visiting my favorite local photography store, The Houston Camera Exchange ( http://www.hcehouston.com/ ), as I knew they would have many options for studio-type lighting and plenty of informed salespersons to help answer my questions.  After only a few minutes of browsing the store, I quickly realized that this venture could be a very expensive undertaking.   I mean I was looking through various lighting heads, light stands, backdrops, softboxes, umbrellas, and snoots.  And if you are anything like I was at that time, I was asking myself what the hell is a “snoot”.   I will digress for a moment to define a “snoot [as] a tube or similar object that fits over a studio light or portable flas and allows the photographer to control the direction and radius of the light beam”, per wikipedia.   Anyway back to the story, luckily for me, a nice sales associate must have noticed my stressed look and came over to help.  I explained my situation as a predominately nature photographer who would like to spend as little money as possible for a decent quality lighting system.  I told her the lighting system would likely only be used occassionally for family portraits and professional photos.  She smiled and said she had just the thing, as she led me to a shelf with the Interfit Lighting Kits.  After a brief description of the contents of the Interfit EX150 MKII 3 Head Lighting Kit, I was sold!  Basically, this kit has everything  that one would want to start taking professional-looking studio portrait photos, with the exception of a light monitor and stand for the background cloth.   The Houston Camera Exchange was having a promotional deal that included a second softbox for free with the purchase of the kit, thus giving me two soft boxes and an umbrella.   I decided to purchase a seperate interfit backdrop cloth support rack from B&H for about $50.  Though I bought my Interfit EX150 MKII 3 Head Lighting Kit from a local store, the same kit sells at B&H for $399 plus shipping and does not include a free 2nd soft box. 

I will be the first to admit that I am not one to read directions.  I ended up watching the education DVD that is included with the kit and some other instruction demos on youtube.  After this initial “research” I assembled the lighting system and “played around” with it for about 30 minutes before inviting my wife to join for the photoshoot.  After an additional 30 minutes of  a trial-and-error photoshoot ,  I had some photos that we were both very pleased with.    I would never claim that they are the best portait photos ever, but they are also not too bad for a first attempt and only 30 minutes practice.  I guess the main point I am trying to make is that Interfit EX150 MKII 3 Head Lighting Kit  is very easy to use and get quality results with, even by a novice like me.   I highly recommend the Interfit EX150 MKII 3 Head Lighting Kit for anyone looking to get professional quality studio protraits for an inexpensive price!

Additional items recommended:  A light meter would be really helpful and is something I will invest in sometime soon.  You can certainly get the correct exposure and lighting strength without one, but it would have made the process even faster.   Backdrop cloth rack that I purchased sepertate is helpful and allows me to set the background cloth up anywhere.  The kit does come with a set of plastic hooks that you can attach to a wall via those removeable adhesive strips.  That would probably work fine if you have one wall of you home/studio that you will always does your portrait work, but an actual seperate support rack makes it quite mobile.

SAMPLE OF FINAL SHOTS:

Here are some of my wife’s favorites that she is deciding between for the website, though there were 14 photos that made her final cut.  

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Categories: My Equipment Review

Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VRII goes to the Ballpark

October 20, 2011 2 comments

Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VRII goes to the Ballpark

My wife and I came upon tickets to the last game of the 2011 Baseball regular game between the Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals.  Though, I am from Houston, I was hoping to see the Cardinals win since a Wild Card Playoff position was at stake for them.  Anyway, I digress but this was my first chance to take my Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VRII lens to a professional sporting event.  I also brought my Nikon TC-20EIII teleconverter to see how it might perform when paired with the 70-200mm f2.8 at such an event.

First, I would highly recommend that you check with any ballpark or stadium that you plan to bring any lens “larger” lens.  Personally, I assumed that the 70-200mm f2.8 was not large enough to even attract attention by the “bag checkers” at the gates, but I was wrong.  The lady at the bag inspection table actually said she would need to ask her supervisor if the lens was too big to all in the stadium.  He said it was fine to allow in, but the fact that it was even in question makes me want to give this advice.

Overall, I was very pleased with the performance of the Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VRII both alone and with the Nikon TC-20EIII teleconverter…at least for my purposes.  Obviously, the teleconverter limited the acceptable shots to predominately stationary photos of players, but I also got several good action photos despite a slower shutter speed to compensate for the increased f-stop.  You could probably get away with even a faster shutter speed with a FX camera that would allow for higher ISO. 

Shooting conditions:  Indoor stadium/baseball park with roof closed and stadium lights on

(BELOW) Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VRII at 240mm, f5.6, 1/125 sec and ISO 400

(BELOW) Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VRII at 200mm, f2.8, 1/200 sec and ISO 400

(BELOW) Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VRII at 195mm, f2.8, 1/200 sec and ISO 400

(BELOW) Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VRII at 200mm, f2.8, 1/200sec, and ISO 400

(BELOW) Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VRII at 190mm, f2.8, 1/250 sec and ISO 400

(BELOW) Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VRII with TC-20EIII teleconverter at 400mm, f5.6, 1/125 sec and ISO 400

(BELOW) Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VRII with TC-20EIII teleconverter at 400mm,f5.6, 1/125 sec and ISO 400

(BELOW) Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VRII with TC-20EIII teleconverter at 400mm, f5.6, 1/125 sec and ISO 400

Feel free to leave comments or your experiences…

-Kyle

https://ksqphotography.wordpress.com/

http://ksqphotography.zenfolio.com/

Categories: My Equipment Review

Yellowstone National Park Southern Loop Map and Photography Tour

Yellowstone National Park Southern Loop Map and Photography Tour

I visited Jackson, Wyoming in August 2010 and had the pleasure of touring around the Grand Teton National Park area and the southern loop of Yellowstone National Park.  I had plenty of time to explore and feel like I found many of the top scenic and nature sites in the area.  I put together this pdf file which contains an annotated map of Yellowstone’s southern loop with some of my favorite photos fromeach location.  Each site is designated with a yellow star that you can click on to provide a brief description of the site.  There is also reference to a “Slide #”, of which the slides can be found below the map and possess a few sample photos that I took from each area.  Obviously, there is nothing quite like experiencing a destination for yourself.  But, I hope this resource serves as a mini tour guide to help you prioritize your photography trip to the Yellowstone.  

Click below for the pdf file or right click to download (WARNING, this is a huge file (15MB) due to the size of the map and photos.  It may be easier to download this file for viewing versus doing so in your internet browser window.  Also you will need adobe acrobat reader to view the pdf file)

Yellowstone National Park Southern Loop Map and Photography Tour

See also a similar map for Grand Teton’s National Park (below):

Grand Teton National Park Map and Photography Tour

I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.  Enjoy!

-KSQ

http://ksqphotography.zenfolio.com/

https://ksqphotography.wordpress.com/

Grand Teton National Park Map and Photography Tour

July 28, 2011 4 comments

Grand Teton National Park Map and Photography tour

I visited Jackson, Wyoming in August 2010 and had the pleasure of touring around the Grand Teton National Park area and the southern loop of Yellowstone National Park.  I had plenty of time to explore and feel like I found many of the top scenic and nature sites in the area.  I put together this pdf file which contains an annotated map of Grand Teton National Park with some of my favorite photography spots.  Each site is designated with a yellow star that you can click on to provide a brief description of the site.  There is also reference to a “Slide #”, of which the slides can be found below the map and possess a few sample photos that I took from each area.  Obviously, there is nothing quite like experiencing a destination for yourself.  But, I hope this resource serves as a mini tour guide to help you prioritize your photography trip to the Jackson, WY and Grand Teton National Park area.  I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.  Enjoy!

Click below for the pdf file or right click to download (WARNING, this is a huge file (17MB) due to the size of the map and photos.  It may be easier to download this file for viewing versus doing so in your internet browser window.  Also you will need adobe acrobat reader to view the pdf file)

Grand Teton National Park Map and Photography Tour

For more photos from my trip to Wyoming see the links below:

https://ksqphotography.wordpress.com/2010/10/06/nikon-300mm-f2-8-vrii-wyoming-photos/

http://ksqphotography.zenfolio.com/p209984540

-KSQ

http://ksqphotography.zenfolio.com/

https://ksqphotography.wordpress.com/

Feel free to leave your feedback or personal experiences.  Check for future updates for a similar map of Southern Yellostone Park.

Nikon 200-400mm f4 VRII lens with teleconverter… my one time impression

Nikon 200-400mm f4 VRII lens with teleconverters – July 23, 2011 

Before I get started describing my impression of the Nikon 200-400mm f4 VRII lens with teleconverters, I want to make it clear that I do NOT own this lens.  I was able to borrow it from a friend one moring to do some test shots and get an initial impression.   As a result, all of my findings are based on a single day shooting with the lens both with and without teleconverters including the 1.4x (TC-14EII), 1.7x (TC-17EII), and 2.0x (TC-20EIII).  Please take my results for what they are and read other reviews in addition to this one if you are seriously considering this lens in combination with teleconverters.  For convience, I have included two links to other more detailed reviews at the end of this thread.

Unfortunately, the shooting conditions were less than ideal for this test.  First of all, I wanted to have a living, relatively interesting, and stationary subject to photograph.  The tigers seemed like a good choice at the time, except that they were not as eager to have their photo taken that morning.  As a result, the series of photos below were shot with the tiger in a shaded area of the enclosure.  This resulted in less than optimal lighting conditions for the test photographs. On the other hand, this scenerio mimics the challenges you might be faced with when you are shooting in the field with this lens and teleconverter combination.   Also, I did use a tripod and Wimberly gimbal head for all photos in the series below and all photos were taken with the Nikon D300.  I am considering doing a repeat test in a more controlled environment with better light to help eliminate slow shutter speed from the equation.  This factor was increasingly evident with the 1.7x tele at 580mm equivalent and even more so with the 2.0x teleconverter at 800mm equivalent.  So, as I mentioned before, take the results for what they are.

My Overall Impression: 

Nikon 200-400mm f4 VRII WITHOUT teleconverters :

-Excellent sharpness, color, and contrast

-Immediate and responsive autofocus on the Nikon D300 body

-I found images to be quite good at all ends of the zoom spectrum including wide open at f4

-Even though I used a tripod, I did take some photos handheld and found it manageable

Nikon 200-400mm f4 VRII WITH 1.4x (TC-14EII) teleconverter:

-Overall good to excellent image quality in most photos within a series

-Autofocus remained fast and responsive…I noticed very little change compared to the autofocus without a teleconverter

-This seems to be a rather good combination when you need a bit more reach without too much aperture sacrifice

Nikon 200-400mm f4 VRII WITH 1.7x (TC-17EII) teleconverter:

-Overall fair image quality with a few good shots mixed in…probably more unacceptable photos that keepers

-Started to notice adverse results of camera vibration from slow aperture and teleconverter

-Autofocus was slow but did fuction most of the time, though it had a tendency to hunt

-Personally, I would only use this combination when I absolutely had too

***Nikon 200-400mm f4 VRII WITH 2.0x (TC-20EIII) teleconverter:

-Overall soft images were a results of camera shake artifact from slow shutter speeds and the combination of the teleconverter.  One out of every ten photos was decent enough to post on this blog, but none we that I would brag about.

-Extremely slow to no existent autofocus.  Most of the time it would just hunt without finding focus

-Personally, I would only use this combination when I absolutely had too, or maybe not even then.  Perhaps further testing in better light condition will change this.

***The results at 800mm equivalent with the 2.0x teleconverter are difficult to evaluate and perhaps even down right inconclusive.   Because of the significant camera shake artifact, I personally will not make any conclusions about the quality of this combo, other than saying you will need a good amount of lighting to overcome the aperture limitations.  I don’t blame the tiger for wanting to stay in the shade out of the Texas heat, but it didn’t make my lens-teleconverter test easier.  So, the softness and slight blur in these images is likely due in part to the expected loss in image quality associated with a teleconverter, but then magnified significantly by camera shake (remember I am posting the best example of each).  I think these results do bring up a valid argument of why one should NOT rely on the 200-400mm f4 to be a consistent performer with the 2.0x teleconverter.    Anything less that a brillantly bright scene will leave you with either extremely slow shutter speed camera shake artifact or high ISO graininess, since you are stuck with a maximum aperture of f8 with this combo.  Based on these findings, I personally don’t consider the 200-400mm plus 2.0x teleconverter a realistic option for use in the field for my purposes.   I would have no reservations about using it with the 1.4x teleconverter however.   I am kinda neutral on the idea of using it with the 1.7x teleconverter, though I don’t think I would if I had other options (which I do).  I spoke to the owner of the 200-400mm f4 lens that I borrowed and shared these findings.  She agreed with my observations and added that she only uses the 1.4x teleconverter with this lens for her photography.  Overall, she found the results with the Nikon 200-400mm f4 VRII with the 1.7x or 2.0x teleconverters to be too inconsistent and require too much light for proper function.

Anyway, this is my impression but don’t take my word for it.   See the results for yourself.  Click on the photo to enlarge and click a second time to view at 100%.  I have also added a few high power crops to give you an idea of the detail preservation at higher magnification without the need open the picture fully.

(Below)  Nikon 200-400mm f 4 VRII  at 200mm , f4, 1/60 sec – NO TELECONVERTER

 

(Below)  Nikon 200-400mm f 4 VRII  at 400mm , f4, 1/80 sec – NO TELECONVERTER

 

(Below) Close Crop –  Nikon 200-400mm f 4 VRII  at 400mm , f4, 1/80 sec – NO TELECONVERTER 

(Below)  Nikon 200-400mm f 4 VRII  at 560mm , f5.6, 1/50 sec – WITH 1.4x (TC-14EII) teleconverter

 

(Below) Close Crops-   Nikon 200-400mm f 4 VRII  at 560mm , f5.6, 1/50 sec – WITH 1.4x (TC-14EII) teleconverter

(Below)  Nikon 200-400mm f 4 VRII  at 560mm , f8, 1/25 sec – WITH 1.4x (TC-14EII) teleconverter

 

(Below) Close Crops-   Nikon 200-400mm f 4 VRII  at 560mm , f8, 1/25 sec – WITH 1.4x (TC-14EII) teleconverter

(Below)  Nikon 200-400mm f 4 VRII  at 680mm , f6.7, 1/15 sec – WITH 1.7x (TC-17EII) teleconverter

 

(Below) Close Crops-   Nikon 200-400mm f 4 VRII  at 680mm , f6.7, 1/15 sec – WITH 1.7x (TC-17EII) teleconverter

(Below)  Nikon 200-400mm f 4 VRII  at 680mm , f8, 1/15 sec – WITH 1.7x (TC-17EII) teleconverter

 

(Below) Close Crops-   Nikon 200-400mm f 4 VRII  at 680mm , f8, 1/15 sec – WITH 1.7x (TC-17EII) teleconverter

(Below)  Nikon 200-400mm f 4 VRII  at 800mm, f8, 1/40 sec – WITH 2.0x (TC-20EIII) teleconverter

 

(Below) Close Crops-   Nikon 200-400mm f 4 VRII  at 800mm , f8, 1/40sec – WITH 2.0x (TC-20EIII) teleconverter

(Below)  Nikon 200-400mm f 4 VRII  at at 800mm, f10, 1/20 sec – WITH 2.0x (TC-20EIII) teleconverter

(Below) Close Crops-   Nikon 200-400mm f 4 VRII  at 800mm , f10, 1/20 sec – WITH 2.0x (TC-20EIII) teleconverter

Here are a couple of links to some more detailed reviews on this lens if you are interested:

Feel free to share your own experience with the Nikon 200-400mm f4 VRII with teleconverters.

-KSQ

http://ksqphotography.zenfolio.com/

https://ksqphotography.wordpress.com/

Categories: My Equipment Review

Nikon 300mm f2.8 VRII with TC-20EIII teleconverter – Big Cats June 2011

July 7, 2011 2 comments

Nikon 300mm f2.8 VRII with TC-20EIII teleconverter – Big Cats June 2011

Now that I have completed my boards exams, I finally have had the chance to actually get out of the house to take some photos.  I only made it 5 miles down the road the our local zoo, but still it’s better than nothing.  Plus, I have always loved big cats, and the Houston Zoo has a decent collection.  These sample photos were taken with the Nikon 300mm f2.8 VRII lens, and show results both with the Nikon TC-20EIII teleconverter and without it.  I did bring my tripod with me this time and this resulted in fewer downright unusable photos as compared to the previous trip without a tripod.   The results at 600mm with the 2.0x teleconverter are still very good in my opinion, especially for “normal” viewing or printing.  I am sure some of you “pixel peepers” will notice that there is some softening and minor loss of image quality associated with the teleconverter that is noticable at full magnification.  But overall this combination continues to produce quality results and I have no regrets about the lens or teleconverter purchases.

Click on the photo to enlarge and click a second time to view at 100%.  I have also added a few high power crops to give you an idea of the detail preservation at higher magnification without the need open the picture fully.

NO TELECONVERTER – Nikon 300mm f2.8 VRII lens only

(Below)  300mm, f2.8, 1/200sec:

(Below) 300mm, f3.2, 1/200sec:

(Below) 300mm, f3.2, 1/200sec (100% crop from upper portion of the above tiger photo):

Another high power crop below to show the detail captured by this lens…

(Below) 300mm, f4, 1/250sec:

(Below) 300mm, f4, 1/320sec:

(Below) 300mm, f4, 1/320sec (100% crop from upper portion of the above cheetah photo):

WITH TELECONVERTER – Nikon 300mm f2.8 VRII with TC-20EIII (2.0x)

(Below) 600 mm (300mm + TC-20EIII), f5.6, 1/125sec:

(Below) 600 mm (300mm + TC-20EIII), f6.3, 1/100sec (notice the point of focus is the nose):

(Below) 600 mm (300mm + TC-20EIII), f8, 1/180sec (notice the point of focus is the nose):

(Below) 100% crop of the nose from the photo above:

(Below) 600 mm (300mm + TC-20EIII), f5.6, 1/125sec (notice the point of focus is the nose):

(Below) 600 mm (300mm + TC-20EIII), f6.3, 1/200sec (great detail in the teeth and jaw):

(Below) High power crop from the photo above…

(Below) 600 mm (300mm + TC-20EIII), f6.3, 1/125sec:

MORE PHOTOS TO BE ADDED SOON…

Categories: My Equipment Review

Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VRII with TC-17EII and TC-20EIII teleconverters

June 22, 2011 1 comment

Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VRII with TC-17EII and TC-20EIII teleconverters – June 2011

I finally had a chance to take the Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VRII lens out and do some more test shots with both the Nikon TC-17EII (1.7x) teleconverter and the Nikon TC-20EIII (2.0x) teleconverter.  ALL of the photos below were shot handheld, and the best photo out of about five shots was selected to post.  Overall, the final results are good with both of these teleconverters and the 70-200mm f2.8 VRII, but not perfect.  Perhaps some “pixel peepers” will not be happy with results from these combinations but overall, I think they do a fine job for the money, compared to larger and more expensive glass.  The photos that were not selected for posting are variable in quality, with most suffering from camera shake artifact since I was shooting handheld in only moderate light.  I will likely repeat these tests again at a later date with a tripod to eliminate camera shake from the equation.  None the less, I was able to get results that I was happy with, even wide open, with both teleconverters.  You can be the judge for yourself.  Also, all photo are UNEDITED, straight from the camera (except watermarking) unless otherwise stated. 

 (BELOW) Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VRII WITHOUT teleconverter:

(BELOW) 200mm f2.8, 1/320sec (Wide Open)

(BELOW) 200mm f4, 1/200sec

(BELOW) 200mm f6.3, 1/80sec

 (BELOW) Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VRII WITH TC-17EII (1.7x) teleconverter:

(BELOW) 340mm f4.8, 1/125sec (Wide Open)

(BELOW) 340mm f4.8, 1/125sec – SHARPENING ONLY

(BELOW) 340mm f5.6, 1/100sec

(BELOW) 340mm f6.3, 1/80sec

 

(BELOW) 340mm f8, 1/50sec

(BELOW) Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VRII WITH TC-20EIII (2.0x) teleconverter:

(BELOW) 400mm f5.6, 1/100sec  (Wide Open)

(BELOW) 400mm f5.6, 1/100sec – SHARPENING ONLY

(BELOW) 400mm f6.3, 1/80sec

All photos at 400mm equivalent over f6.3 suffered from significant camera shake and were not included.

Below are some additional photos with the 70-200mm f2.8 VRII and teleconverters…

(BELOW) 400mm f8, 1/60sec

(BELOW) 400mm f7.1, 1/100sec

(BELOW) 400mm f7.1, 1/100sec

(BELOW) 400mm f5.6, 1/100sec – SHARPENING  (Wide Open)

(Below) 200mm f2.8, 1/250sec – SHARPENING (Wide Open)

Categories: My Equipment Review