08 July 2011

Yongnuo YN560 (a speedlight NOT worth a look)

**Update - After having 2 of these these for a time, and only using them on a rare occasion  both unit have just stopped working. I wrote Yongnuo and told them what happened, and how they just stopped, and that I rarely used them and they were stored in a climate controlled place, and they emailed back..."what is the problem?" Not helpful at all. Not recommending these anymore. Buyer Beware.

Yongnuo YN560 

With waiting on the release of YN565, I needed to get my hands on a couple speedlights. So I purchased the Yongnuo YN560. This is not an ETTL-flash, and if you don’t mind some manual adjustment, these are nice flashes. When I received them, I was rather impressed by the quality. Solid unit, heavy feel, and doesn’t look cheap. I found mine online for about $63. Now I would have loved to get a few 580ex II, but that was out of my range. I also picked up external battery packs for $20, to allow for extended use. Now the Canon setup  which I have 1, costs about $650 with Flash and battery pack. The Yonhnuo set up cost me $103 with 2700mAh NiMH rechargeable batteries.

Now that I have used them a bit, I like how they work. I plug them into pocket wizards I already own and have no problem shooting at different angles from the flash. They optical trigger works just fine, but for me, I like to know I don’t have to deal with any line of sight issues. So if you don’t have a wireless trigger system, you just need to make sure you have some line of sight to the sensors.  

I do like the manual system. It really puts the ball completely in your game. You have to be aware of everything. With the ETTL system, you get the balance light, and though you can make adjustments, I think getting the full understanding of your equipment, only makes you a better photographer. If you end up in a situation where you get stuck on a manual system, you will have little adjusting to it.  

Now the main question I had is, how does it compare to a 580ex? Well, sadly it doesn’t quite have the punch of the 580, but it still is a powerful flash, definitely more power than the 430ex. The YN560 will mount accessories designed for the 580ex like an omni-bounce The. power packs are interchangeable, and it has a pc port for trigger. The recycle time on the YN560 flash is actually a hair faster than my 580ex. I was quite impressed with the recycle time and pushing the flash a bit to see how it could handle it.  

I have used the flashes both on camera and off. I would recommend the YN560 for those on a budget. I am guessing the New YN565, when released, will be a close comparison to the 580EX II with digital display, and trigger with camera’s like the 7D building trigger function. However, I am sure the price tag on the new YN565 will run a bit higher. I have seen a price range of $150-$250 for the upcoming YN565. So if you are in the market for an inexpensive, but dependable flash look at the YN560.

07 July 2011

Hugin Panoramic Software (Freeware Review)

I have been doing panoramic images for sometime mainly in HDR. The two softwares I have had access to have been AutoPano and PTGui. Both have their advantages. However, this is not so much about those softwares for creating panoramic images. As someone who teaches a variety of workshops, including that for panoramic photography, I thought I should sample software which students could get for free, as with the current economic conditions don’t allow for many to purchase a lot of software. So in my search I came across Hugin Panoramic software.  

If you are familiar with PTGui, Hugin is not a long stretch to learn. The interface looks very similar. It’s as simple as selecting your images, entering the focal length, and the crop factor of your camera. Click align, then create panoramic. Granted, this is if your images have the detail to create control points, which will easily connect the images. If not you will have to go through and add control points. This was, in my opinion, easier than the PTGui interface, and quite straight forward. After you have them aligned you can go to the output to let Hugin know what you are looking for, like a Tiff or Jpg or HDR (which needs work).

Most of my Panoramic images are in HDR. I did have a host of issues, which have never really been a problem with PTGui. I just found I had to process them differently. In PTGui, I stitch together all my HDR images then I tonemap the entire Panoramic. I found the software just kept giving me errors and with no result. So I decided to tonemap the individual images with the same settings then went to PTGui to stitch the Tonemapped Tiff together. Finally, after several hours of not getting anywhere stitching HDR images, this method worked, despite what the software was said to be capable of. It did a fairly good job, just on area in my Panoramic was a little ghosting. I figure with a little more time in making adjustments to the area with the ghosting to check the control points, I might have been able to fix it.  

For free software, Hugin works fairly well and is very close in style to PTGui. If you started out with Hugin, and you found that you wanted to upgrade to a $220 software because you become a panoramic photographer, the learning curve is small. If you were to switch to something like AutoPano, the software is a bit different in the interface. I did use the 64 bit version of Hugin, as the 32 bit crashed pretty quickly. However, I was pushing it with large HDR images, which didn’t have the best contrast. After the images were tonemapped for HDR the software has an easy time finding control points.  

You have to play with the software to get a feel for it, but I would definitely recommend it for those who want to save on Panoramic software. I will be making sure all my workshop students use it if they don’t have access to PTGui or AutoPano.  I will be reviewing some Free HDR software soon  for other workshops I create. As I know software accessibility for some is very limited. I have been finding open source software, which I have been very impressed by. If you have recommendations for any open source software, please leave a comment.  

Furthermore, I would like to let people know who teach workshops, that there is a brand-new  website for posting creative workshops. They are giving away free posting to the first 50 people that contact them directly then they offer a trial of $10 for 6 months which then goes to $15 per month to continue to post. They are looking to build their workshop listing as it is a brand-new  site. I paid the $10 for six months to help pay for the work for them to post. I believe in Donating to a good thing, including Open source software. It can take up to 48 hours to post your workshop, but the great thing is, they don’t take a cut of what you charge for a workshop. I have done tutoring, where the tutoring company takes 40%, ouch! Check them out at ArtsAZ.com. If your cities is not listed, they will add it.