A kind friend of mine who lives in Italy sent me a collection of shells that her and her daughters had collected on their shores.
They’re incredibly intricate little shells and a good subject on which to test the detail of the FujiFilm X30 lens with B&W 10x Diopter fitted.
If you have a ring like this in the family then take out your compact camera and you’ll see what I mean about this being a tough model! I probably put 200 actuations on my poor X30 getting this shot and the last couple when with my D300S I’d have accomplished the same in 20 actuations, I believe. Either way, whilst not perfect, I’m starting to enjoy the images flowing from my X30. This challenge made me laugh! Why? Well, a photographer from Belgium suggested this on one of the forums I sometimes frequent:
“Just an idea…
try throwing some light through the ring from the back using
a gridded snoot for transparency and a main light source from
the front… this may be shot over a black black BG of empty
space instead of material (inverse square law)!”
Gridded snoot? OK, I know what one is but I’m at home in my bungalow in Surrey and using my conservatory as a “studio”. “Snoot”? I looked around the house (after all, this is the point of this challenge! Compact camera and rudimentary kit..) and found the attachment my wife uses on the hoover for cleaning our sofas. Next i needed a grid surface that would allow light through? Hmm.. hang on! The back of my wife’s hairdryer comes off! And those were the ingredients for this shot. One of my cheap Chinese photo lights turned upside down, my wages hairdryer back sat on the bulb and a black piece of cloth hung from the window in the background. Perfect? No! Decent shot? Well, I like it!
I must say, going from a Nikon D300S with 70-180mm Micro-Nikkor lens to a FujiFilm X30 has been a steep learning curve when it comes to macro photography. Street photography, travel photography, middle of the day and plenty of light, no problem.. But macro photography is a whole different ball game, especially in the confines of a fairly dimly lit conservatory! My first attempts at jewellery photography with the X30 and my late Mum’s sapphire and diamond ring were quite deplorable. However, the love of a challenge has meant spending some hours with the X30, getting to know it’s nuances and limitations and finally I’m starting to get the hang of it. Now I’m not saying this is the most wonderful jewellery shot ever; it’s not. But I’m finally at a place where I can step back and enjoy the created image and laude the merits of the X30 instead of bemoaning it’s limitations when compared to a DSLR. It’s actually pretty darned good!
The first one above was shot using a B&W 10x Diopter Lens. (Camera data)
This one was shot without the diopter lens. Notice the difference in colour range. The post processing was virtually identical. In fact, I had to inject a little red into this last image to warm it up a tad. That said, it was shot about 15 minutes after the first and the sun position may well have changed some. (Camera data) Finally, below is the same shot using the diopter but with multi-focusing instead of spot. (Camera data)
I was slightly dubious about this one but the acquisition of the FujiFilm X30 convinced me to take a punt. One of the main differences in macro focusing with DSLRs and compacts is your closeness to the subject. In order to macro focus with a Nikon 70-180mm Micro-Nikkor you might be 50-75cms away from the subject. With a FujiFilm X30, for example, you’ll be as close as 1cm.. That can sometimes be tricky and it also means that moving 2mm closer to the subject can make a big difference. In order to use the macro function of the X30 you need to keep the zoom lens at it’s widest point so no matter what you do you are never going to be more than a few cms away. Moving the camera and tripod back and forth accurately is nigh on impossible so you’re probably going to want to get some sort of slider rail. Hence, the Velbon SuperMag arrived at my door!
For the price (I bought an ex-demo unit off eBay for £40 ($60)), it’s a decent piece of kit. It’s magnesium and plastic construction keep it light but solid enough to not feel cheap and nasty to operate and it should last. The first thing I did was add a lever quick release clamp to the upper end and a plate to the bottom. For using with a compact you’ll want to reverse it on the tripod, as shown in the pics above and below. Normally you’d use it the other way round with a DSLR and macro lens but if you do that with a compact you simply won’t get the camera close enough to shoot. You wouldn’t want to try using it this way round with a DSLR as the whole lot would likely tip over but with a smaller camera it works fine and remains perfectly stable. That said, you are balancing on the end of a levered rig here, so a cable shutter release or remote shutter release is a must. Once set up, the SuperMag will allow you to move the camera back and forth and side to side in small, smooth increments, literally allowing you mm perfect framing, which is exactly what’s needed on super-macro mode.
OK, in these two shots I’ve experimented some more with the ring. I really liked the last shot (post below) but the stones were rendered (too) dull by a tad much light diffusion and some post processing effect. The result was pleasing if you wanted a fairly dour finish to the image. This time I’m trying to bring out the true reflections of the stones and make them pop a bit more. The first one was done with straight Photoshop CS4 processing. I have to say, I admire jewellery photographers because these shots are not easy to get right in the first place and the post processing is a nightmare x 2. Note that the 10x Diopter Filter was not used in either of these shots but a B&W Polariser was. This is the exact same image with Topaz Labs Creative Detail I filter added as the last part of the processing.
The difference is subtle but it’s there and the ring just pops a tad more with the introduction of the Topaz filter. The grey parallel lines in the background are the clamp which held the ring where I wanted it in relation to the light. I quite liked the effect so I left it in the image but used PS “Lens Blur” to create the kind of DOF I was looking for. ISO 100, Shutter Speed 1/15, f/9, Focal Length = 7.1mm.
Not too long ago I lost my Mum. I kept those things that I remember her wearing and this is one of those things. She was an elegant woman, admired by many men and this ring, as I recall, was given to her by my Father when he worked in Saudi Arabia. I’ve not really dabbled in jewellery photography before but thought I’d try my hand. This was really a multi-experiment of macro with the FujiFilm X30, testing the B&W 10x Diopter Filter and processing a jewellery shot in Photoshop CS4. All in all, I’m fairly happy with the result. I could have probably squeezed a tad more detail using my ex-D300S and 60mm Micro setup but at this size image it’s tough to be disappointed with the IQ. Shot at ISO 100, fully manual mode and F10. As usual, click on the image for a full size 1024 pixel version.
The setup was very rudimentary. An iPad in my conservatory provided the reflective back-drop. 3 lights from left, right and above provided the lighting and a U shaped piece of perspex diffused the light.
My wife’s Grand Father’s brail watch. A special piece and a real beauty with emotional history. Love it!
If you’re about to head off on your travels, you’re going to want to take photo equipment with you to record your journey. Likewise, if you’re considering street photography in the downcast areas of any city in the world, you’re going to want to be a tad “street-wise”. Walking down the street with a photo rucksack is going to attract a lot of attention and most of it will be un-wanted. But what if you need a decent protective bag in which to keep your newly acquired (FujiFilm X30 or similar) safe and sound at the same time as not really wishing to be mugged multiple times, 5 minutes after you step off the bus? The answer? De-beautify a Domke bag. Domke bags were created by a photojournalist who wanted a bag that didn’t look like it contained expensive camera equipment. I bought a Domke F-5XB Rugged Wear bag to accommodate my now sold X100 plus a few necessities and reviewed it here. It was actually the perfect bag for the X100 so why not for the X30? The only thing I wasn’t too happy about was it looked a tad “posh”. The “rugged-wear” finish was nice but it still looked like a bag that housed something worth more than the average East European car. The big “Domke” label was the first thing to get binned; if I’m going to provide a company with advertising all round the world I’m not going to pay them to do it! I also prefer “black” bags to “fawn” coloured bags so maybe it was time to fiddle with the aesthetics? Tesco supermarkets in the UK sell a black dye that can be thrown in any washing machine together with the object in need of a dye and lo and behold, two hours and £8 later the deed is done. That’s exactly what I did with the F-5XB and strap and was very pleased with the outcome. Due to the finish of the rugged-wear material (impregnated) the dye doesn’t sit perfectly but that’s really the point.. It now looks “beat-up” and old and not the kind of bag you’d put something expensive in, whilst still protecting your camera like a Domke does so well. So whilst my camera bag now looks like my Chihuahua peed on it, curious eyes don’t give it a second look. That makes it travel-ready in my book!
Went out and did a quick shoot with my 7 y/o son today. I took the FujiFilm X30 with to do some test shots. Quite enjoyed the one above for no particular reason at all.. Shot in colour and then PP’d in Photoshop.
Here’s a quick pic of the RRS BH-30 again, this time with the correct B2-40-LR Lever-Release Clamp. As you can see, this clamp is probably half the size of the B2-LLR-II and works better.
Finding a good tripod and ball-head for a compact camera is not the easiest thing to do. There are simply so many choices on the market today and without handling the things it’s difficult to get a real feel for their size and weight. If you travel with your camera you may well want to have a tripod with you but you sure as heck won’t want a heavy one. Small cameras also don’t handle well on large tripod and ball-head setups so it’s always worth matching your equipment carefully. The G1098 weighs in at 810 grams and is 36cm long with a max height of 130cm. It’s rated for 2KG though it feels sturdy enough to support more. The RRS BH-30 is actually not the smallest ball-head the company make but it’s the smallest that features a panning lock, which is something I always want on a ball-head. It’s 75mm high, 40mm across the base, weighs 218 grams and is rated to 6.8 KG. One thing I like about the RRS ball-heads is they suffer from ZERO slippage. I’ve had much larger ball-heads that always slipped a bit but the BH-30 is solid as a rock when locked. You’ll need a quick release clamp to quickly attach and release the camera. I use an RRS B2 LLR II but only because I already had one. You would normally use a much smaller one and there’s no reason not to purchase one of the cheaper versions sold from China. The combo, then, gives you a very sturdy tripod setup with a total weight of around 1KG and a size small enough to pop in your day-pack. Indoors for studio type work it’s steady enough for a compact camera like the FujiFilm X30 but be sure to use a cable release or wireless release. I have both the JJC ES628F3 and the JJC MA-R. The last thing you’ll want to look at is a base plate or L plate. I prefer an L plate, personally. This is the one I use and how I modified it to better work with the FujiFilm X30. Here’s a better shot of the RRS BH-30 ball-head.
Over the next few days I’m going to experiment with this combo of 40-52mm step up ring and 10x B&W Macro filter with the FujiFilm X30. It’ll be interesting to see what this can produce!
Shot 1 – (POUND COIN – FujiFilm X30 With B&W 10+ Diopter Filter – 28mm – Auto-Focus)
Shot 2 – (POUND COIN – FujiFilm X30 – No Filter – Same Settings & PP)
I’m just preparing to sell my beloved X100, having decided to exchange it for an X30. I took a set of 3 images of the camera and I have to say, I just marvelled at the sheer beauty of it.
There aren’t many digital cameras that make me swoon at their stunning aesthetics but the X100 (and to a slightly lesser degree) the X30 are two of them!
Here’s a better shot of the 70s Zippo case which now serves as a strap pouch for my X30’s spare battery and SD card.