The Gorillapod

Occasionally I will write about interesting gadgets to help improve photography…today I introduce the Gorillapod.

Joby Gorillapod

A camera support is an essential piece of kit to prevent camera shake, which would result in blurred photos. Tripods ( a large stand with three legs) are common among enthusiast photographers, but they are bulky and often heavy. So manufacturers produce small alternatives, in the form of miniature tripods, pods, clamps, beanbags, spikes etc.

The Gorillapod from Joby is a unique version of a mini tripod. Yes it has three legs and can be used in the conventional tripod way , but the Gorillapod has a unique leg design made of several stacked ball joints that bend, allowing total flexibility.

Joby Gorillapod

The design made from a gripping type of plastic means it’s not only good on a bench or table, but also on uneven surfaces and, thanks to the bendy legs, it can also be wrapped around a table leg, or tree branch to provide support in many versatile ways.

Joby Gorillapod
The one I’ve illustrated here is the compact model. It weighs just 45 grams so you’d hardly know you have it with you.  It will support a compact digital camera or phone, but not an SLR. Joby also make larger versions for SLRs.

Check out other camera supports here


Improved Olympus OM-D flash

The small FM-LM3 slip on flash supplied with the Olympus OM-D E-M5II is a really useful addition for close up shooting, but the light can be very direct and harsh resulting in strong defined shadows.
Olympus FL-LM3

I found a way to improve it using a gadget sold in the 70s called the Rima Blitz Flash Converter.

Rima Blitz Flash Converter

This handy gadget was designed for use with a small flashgun mounted on a film camera, but can also be used on the Olympus FM-LM3 flashgun. It splits the flash beam into two giving a wider spread of light almost like a really expensive macro flash set up.

You can find them occasionally on eBay and they original came in a box with some colour filters, a mounting adaptor to hold the converter securely on the flash and a right angle shoe adaptor for flashguns without a bounce facility.

Rima Blitz full kit

The mounting adaptor doesn’t work with the FM-LM3 so you need to hold the Rima Blitz converter in place unless the camera is level and then it will rest on top without need of any support.

Rima Blitz Flash Converter

The camera’s flash output is reduced due to the bouncing of light inside the converter but the camera’s automatic exposure system compensates for the change in flash level so photos with the Rima Blitz in place will be correctly exposed.

Here are two examples of the Rima Blitz Flash Converter in use on the Olympus OM-D E-M5II’s FL-LM3 flashgun

Straight flash without Rima BlitzPhoto without Rima Blitz

Flash with Rima Blitz attachedphoto with Rima Blitz
The main difference here is there’s less reflection on the camera’s silver coloured front plate and there are two soft shadows behind the camera on the surface.

Straight flash without Rima Blitz
Flash without Rima Blitz

Flash with Rima Blitz attachedFlash with Rima Blitz attachedHere the shadows have lost their hard edge under the spout and plunger when the Rima Blitz is attached.

Rima Blitz Flash converter for sale here: Rima Blitz Flash Converter kit


Why a Ring flash could be better

Many of us have a need to photograph small objects for inclusion with auction posts on sites like eBay, or on shops such as Etsy, or  to show your products on you own web site.  There are also many who have an interest in photography of insects and other close up subjects from an artistic perspective.

Often the available light isn’t good enough in such situations so you resort to the built in flash of your DSLR, or slide the hotshoe mounted one to the camera. And that’s where you may find you have a problem.

When shooting close ups the lens is often so close to the subject that it obstructs the flash and results in a shadow of the lens cast over the subject. A ring flash is attached onto the lens. It provides a circular light that results in shadowless illumination. This is ideal for small items, and the light wraps around 3D items so you get a more even tone.

You can buy ones made by your camera’s manufacturer, but these tend to be very expensive so it’s worth looking around for an independent model, and some great older ones can be picked up for much less money. The manufacturers’ ones and some of the more expensive independents have TTL (through-the-lens) exposure so they adjust the flash output and compensate automatically for close up extensions and filters. But as most cameras used now are digital it’s easy enough to use an older manual ringflash and check the result on the LCD display.

At photographyattic we have a small selection of used models and really like the Sunpak GX-8r because, unlike others, the batteries are in a separate power pack…and that means the flash unit attached to the lens is much lighter. This is an important consideration as it puts less strain on the lens mechanism. There’s a review of the Sunpak GX8r here

sunpak-gx8

For those on a budget, check out the Centon MR20. It does have batteries in the flash, but just two AAs so its not too heavy. This flash unit was also made for the Vivitar, Starblitz and Cobra brands too. Doi also made an interesting unit for those who don’t have a flash sync socket on their camera, this one had the battery pack that slides onto the camera’s hot shoe.


Digiscoping – bird photography with spotting scopes

Wildlife photographers often wish they owned a longer lens of 500mm or so to taking close ups of birds and other smaller creatures. And often they may  already have such a lens in the form of a spotting scope. By attaching the camera to the rear end of the spotting scope you create a lens with a similar  magnification to that of around 800mm
This technique is referred to as digiscoping.

camera on spotting scope

You need to buy an adaptor to attach the camera to your spotting scope. These are often specific to the spotting scope and with the exception of a few

camera brand adaptors, they usually all have a T2 mount thread at the camera end. So you buy the adaptor, attach it to the scope and then screw in a T2  adaptor that’s specific to your camera mount. We have the T2 camera mounts here at PhotographyAttic

Camera specific scopes such as the Pentax PF80D need the PF-CA35 which has a direct camera mount.
The Nikon Fieldscope range including the EDIII A need the FSA-L1. Nikon also produce the FSA-L2 for exclusive use on EDG Fieldscopes

Opticron have a wide range of scopes and several adaptor combinations all requiring a T2 mount at the camera end.  See the Opticron Telephotography and Digi-scoping page for more details

Swarovski also have a range of scopes and a really informative page on digiscoping: Equipment – spotting scopes, cameras, etc.  You need a T2 mount with their systems

Barr & Stroud supply a spotting scope adaptor for their Sahara and Bresser Safari spotting scopes. T2 mount required. This adaptor also fits some Helios, Bresser,  Meade and Praktica spotting scopes.

Leica’s DSLR Photo-adaptor allows T2 mounted SLRs to be attached to the Leica Spotting scopes

T2 adaptors do not have any form of electrical contacts so you have to use your camera’s manual or aperture-priority mode.  As the spotting scope doesn’t  have apertures you just point and shoot and the camera will set the correct shutter speed. You could use the ISO setting to adjust shutter speed and increase the ISO for a faster shutter speed.

Focusing is manual. Focus the scope like you normally would but take more care on accurate point as the lack of depth of field will mean you have to be spot on to get a sharp photo. Also the increased magnification will make it difficult to hand hold so it’s better to use a tripod.

Further reading
Peta Pixel have an interesting article comparing the use of a Spotting scope against a Canon Super telephoto


Hoyarex Filter System Guide

Hoyarex filters were arguably the best filter system made. Optically superb, several made from glass, solid filter holder, brilliant adjustable rubber hood for wide or super telephoto, and a useful range of filters.

hoyarex filter system

Hoyarex was a filter system developed by Hoya. Hoya was the big name in optical filters and then French manufacturer Cokin appeared with a system that would revolutionise the filter world.

Hoya reacted fast but not fast enough. Cokin had soon taken hold of the filter market with serious and special effect filters. Photographers were no longer buying one or two filters they were investing in cases full.

The Hoyarex system emulated what Cokin had done, but in our opinion did it better, some filters were glass, others had frames around them so handling was better. The holder was more flexible and had a more versatile lens hood. The filters slotted in more comfortably and the adaptors clipped in easier.

But they were too late and Cokin won the battle. Hoyarex disappeared as quick as they came.

You can still find remnants of the system sold in the second-hand sections of various photographic retailers, and there are many here on PhotographyAttic.

The illustration above shows the filter holder with an adaptor ring (available in sizes from 43mm up to 77mm) and the wonderful rubber Pro hood that clipped on the holder and had a variable extension.

Two filter holder can be clipped together and rotated when special effect filters were inserted.

Here in numeric order is the entire range with links to buy individual used filters at photographyattic.com

Filter model More info Buy
Hoyarex 011 Skylight 1B Skylight 1B Hoyarex 011
Hoyarex 021 UV UV Filters Hoyarex 021
Hoyarex 031 Sepia Hoyarex 031
Hoyarex 041 Yellow Hoyarex 041
Hoyarex 042 Orange Hoyarex 042
Hoyarex 043 Red Hoyarex 043
Hoyarex 044 Green Hoyarex 044
Hoyarex 052 NDx4  ND Filters Hoyarex 052
Hoyarex 061 81 Warm Hoyarex 061
Hoyarex 065 85 Orange Hoyarex 065
Hoyarex 071 82 Blue Hoyarex 071
Hoyarex 075 80 Blue Hoyarex 075
Hoyarex 081 FL-Day Magenta Hoyarex 081
Hoyarex 121 Soft Spot Hoyarex 121
Hoyarex 131 Soft Spot G (Grey) Hoyarex 131
Hoyarex 132 Soft Spot B (Blue) Hoyarex 132
Hoyarex 136 Mist Spot E Hoyarex 136
Hoyarex 138 Mist Spot O Hoyarex 138
Hoyarex 139 Mist Spot R Hoyarex 139
Hoyarex 152 Splitfield Hoyarex 152
Hoyarex 161 Technical Mask Hoyarex 161
Hoyarex 162 Black Plain Mask Hoyarex 162
Hoyarex 171 Vignetter Hoyarex 171
Hoyarex 181 Double Mask Hoyarex 181
Hoyarex 182 Dual Image Hoyarex 182
Hoyarex 212 Fog 2 Hoyarex 212
Hoyarex 216 Fog Half Hoyarex 216
Hoyarex 222 Diffuser 2 Hoyarex 222
Hoyarex 242 Softener (A) Hoyarex 242
Hoyarex 243 Softener (B) Hoyarex 243
Hoyarex 324 Star 4 Hoyarex 324
Hoyarex 326 Star 6 Hoyarex 326
Hoyarex 328 Star 8 Hoyarex 328
Hoyarex 413 Multivision 3 Hoyarex 413
Hoyarex 415 Multivision 5 Hoyarex 415
Hoyarex 521 Gradual G2 Hoyarex 521
Hoyarex 522 Gradual B2 Hoyarex 522
Hoyarex 523 Gradual T2 Hoyarex 523
Hoyarex 524 Gradual M2 Hoyarex 524
Hoyarex 525 Gradual P2 Hoyarex 525
Hoyarex 526 Gradual E2 Hoyarex 526
Hoyarex 527 Gradual Y2 Hoyarex 527
Hoyarex 611 Linear Polariser Hoyarex 611
Hoyarex 621 Circular Polariser Hoyarex 621
Hoyarex 702 Diffraction 2x  Diffraction filters Hoyarex 702
Hoyarex 704 Diffraction 4x Diffraction filters Hoyarex 704
Hoyarex 708 Diffraction 8x Diffraction filters Hoyarex 708
Hoyarex 718 Diffraction 18x Diffraction filters Hoyarex 718
Hoyarex 736 Diffraction 36x Diffraction filters Hoyarex 736
Hoyarex 748 Diffraction 48x Diffraction filters Hoyarex 748
Hoyarex 799 Diffraction Halo Diffraction filters Hoyarex 799
Hoyarex 811 +1 Hoyarex 811
Hoyarex 812 +2 Hoyarex 812
Hoyarex 813 +3 Hoyarex 813
Hoyarex 814 +4 Hoyarex 814
Hoyarex 911 Gelatine Filter Holder Hoyarex 911
Hoyarex 912 Universal holder Hoyarex 912
Hoyarex 921 Lens Shade Hoyarex 921

UV Filter Guide

UV Filter
The Multi-purpose UV is similar to the skylight, absorbing the ultraviolet rays which often make scenic shots hazy and indistinct. Moreover, the UV, especially when used with black & white film, increases contrast, reduces haze and generally improves the “sharpness” of your photographs

Many photographers buy a UV filter for each lens and leave them screwed on to protect the lenses’ front elements.

UV filters are available in round type that screw into the lens in ever size imaginable.

UV Filters available here

They were also made by Hoyarex for their square filter system.

Links to buy
Hoyarex 021 Filter


Pro 4 Hood Guide

The Pro 4 Hood was a  unique design that allowed four effects filters to be loaded up and quickly flipped over the lens before taking a shot.

Each of the four flaps has a clip frame  to hold a Cokin A series or other 67mm square filter.

Benefit as well as speed is once the filters are in place you don’t have to handle them so they don’t get marked as easy.

The hood was popular with medium format wedding and portrait photographers, but can also be used on 35mm and digital cameras.

You can buy one here: Pro4 Hood along with various size adaptors.

Here’s a video of how the Pro 4 Hood works.