Occasionally I will write about interesting gadgets to help improve photography…today I introduce the 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.
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.
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.
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.
I found a way to improve it using a gadget sold in the 70s called the 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.
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.
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 Blitz
Flash with Rima Blitz attached
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 with Rima Blitz attachedHere the shadows have lost their hard edge under the spout and plunger when the Rima Blitz is attached.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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
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.