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iPhone Support with Quick Release Plate

It has been a while since my last post.

These days I tend to carry my iPhone around when taking pictures, it’s a very useful thing really. There are a number of interesting apps, many of them free and quite useful for long exposure photography, sooo…instead of fumbling through pockets each time I need it I looked around for some sort of plate/support that could hold it within easy reach of the camera. I did not find anything commercially available that meets my requirements [one came close though] so I decided to make one from bits and pieces of stuff lying around.

Voilà, jorgesantosphotography proudly presents the ‘iPhone Support with Quick Release Plate’…tattaaaa…

iPhone support with quick release plate

DIY iPhone support with quick release plate

The half-plate comes from a camera plate I don’t use anymore. I cut it in half to reduce weight. The small ballhead comes from a Manfrotto 709B table top tripod and the iPhone case is from Griffin. Of course, you case use a cheaper ballhead and iPhone case. I just had this stuff lying around so…here is how it looks when attached to the camera, as I intended it to be:

Attached to the camera L-plate

Attached to the camera L-plate

Yes, you need a sliding clamp such as the RRS B2-Duo or a Novoflex Q=Mount [better choices then the expensive and bulky FAS Clamp shown]. The small Manfrotto ballhead allows you to position the iPhone as you want [portrait/landscape, whatever] and has enough clamping power to hold it in place even if you are running around with the camera with the iPhone attached. I have been using it for some time and I still have a working iPhone…You can take it apart for packing too, here:

Taken apart

Taken apart

A couple of things, don’t use an iPhone plastic case that has a rubber coating! since the round camera base is glued to the back of the iPhone case with Epoxy it will separate from the case quite easily because it is actually glued to the rubber coating. Also, use some coarse sandpaper on both surfaces [case and round camera base that comes with the ballhead] before applying a thin layer of strong Epoxy. Optionally, you can also put a screw through the cut-off Arca Swiss plate preventing the base of the ballhead from rotating in relation to the plate [red circle]. Put a drop of thread locker glue [Loctite blue for e.g.] in all the threads just in case [like the back of the case to the ballhead if you want, it packs quite nicely even when not taken apart].

Hope you find this DIY project useful in some way, I did at times.

15/10/2011 Posted by | Photo Equipment Reviews, Tips | , , , , , | 2 Comments

To stack or not to stack Nikon Teleconverters

I never contemplated stacking teleconverters because of the loss in picture quality associated but since I just got the new TC-20EIII…why not do some quick comparison shots? The stacked combo of the TC-20EIII plus the TC-17EII gives you a 3.4x factor meaning that a 70-200 mm f2.8 becomes a 238-680 mm f9.5 on a FX body and a 357-1020 mm f9.5 on a DX Body. On a 200-400 f4 lens the stack gives you a 680-1360 mm f13 on a FX and a 1020-2040 mm f13 on a DX body. Truly impressive focals no? It will cost you a 3.5 stops light loss and AF capability at least.

Due to the optical design of the teleconverters the TC-20EIII can be used on top of the TC-17EII [but not the other way around!!] without the optical elements touching but to do this one has to remove an annoying tab in the female bayonet of the TC-17EII first. It is quite a simple procedure though, locate the 4 screws on the female bayonet of the TC-17EII [the side where your lens attaches to the tele], remove the screws and remove the bayonet with care. If you do it properly you won’t even disturb the position of the spring that is under the bayonet [note the position of the spring, just in case!]. There is only 1 correct position for the bayonet because of the lens release pin, it is really that straightforward.

Needless to say that you do it at our own risk!! It will likely void the manufacturer’s warranty and if not done properly can damage the teleconverter. If you feel uncomfortable trying this on your own go to an authorised Nikon repair center and ask them to do it for you. Many UK repair centers will remove the small tab for a small fee.

Bayonet screws on lens attachment side of the TC-17EII

Bayonet screws on lens attachment side of the TC-17EII

Locate the small tab that is almost aligned with one of the screws [see pict A below]. Take a smooth flat or half-round needle file and carefully remove material from the tab until it is almost flush with the inner part of the bayonet [see pict B]. To avoid making scratches and cuts on the bayonet surface while using the file, cover the areas next to the tab with electric insulation tape. Remove the tape when finished, place the bayonet back in the teleconverter and tighten the screws [be careful to align the threads properly! don’t force the screw in! if it offers resistance then it either the threads are not properly aligned or the spring under the bayonet is not in the right position!].

The annoying tab that needs to be removed on the lens attachment side of the TC-17EII

A - The annoying tab that needs to be removed on the lens attachment side of the TC-17EII and B - how it looks after removal if done properly

That’s it! The TC-20EIII can now the stacked on top of the TC-17EII.

Stacked TC-20EIII with TC-17EII

Quick Stacking Comparison Tests

D700, manual exposure 1/80 sec, f/11, ISO 800 with a 70-200 f2.8 VR I at 200mm with VR Off. Shots without any tele, with the 17EII, with the 20EIII and with stacked 20EIII and 17EII combo. Shots taken on a sturdy tripod with remote release and mirror-up. Blow ups of the frames taken without teleconverter, with the 17EII and 20EII were resampled in Photoshop using Bicubic interpolation to match the magnification of the stacked shot. Default Adobe Raw conversion settings [no sharpening applied], no further processing. Click on the thumbnail to download a higher resolution version.

Quick Comparison Shots

Quick Comparison Shots


Although the tests were not extensive they nevertheless show the superior quality of the TC-20EIII. The blow-up of image with the TC-20EIII is actually sharper and more contrasted than the one taken with the TC-17EII alone. Between the images taken with the TC-20EIII and with the Stacked teleconverters, I actually prefer the one with the stacked teles [despite the lower contrast] but Photoshop Bicubic interpolation is not the best interpolation around. If I would resize the TC-20EIII image in ImageMagick with the right filter settings I’m sure that the differences would be minimal or non-existent and I wouldn’t need to lose an extra 1.5 stops and give up AF altogether during shooting. You to decide…

27/05/2010 Posted by | Photo Equipment Reviews, Tips | , , , , , | 9 Comments

The best Lowepro camera bag for airline carry-on?

I love Lowepro bags and I own several of them, but in Jan this year I had to return my Computrekker AW Plus for a small repair to one of the zip pockets inside. Sadly 2 months after! I was told by the distributor that the bag was discontinued and they didn’t have a replacement bag in stock neither the new bag [Pro Runner 450 AW] that is supposed to replace the Computrekker AW Plus. So I started looking at the new range trying to find out a suitable replacement for a carry-on bag.

Below is a comparison between the old and the new bags that are a close match to the maximum carry-on dimensions that most airlines use.

Interior Dim. Exterior Dim. Int. Capacity Linear Ext. Laptop Com.

Weight Width Height Length Width Height Length
(W+H+L) Width Height Length
Computrekker AW Plus (disc) 2.75 33 13.5 48 35.6 23.1 50.3 21384 109 29.5 4.75 47.5

6.06 13.0 5.3 18.9 14.0 9.1 19.8 1305 43 11.6 1.9 18.7
Computrekker AW (disc) 1.54 28 12.5 38 34 21.6 45 13300 101 30.5 4 38

3.4 11.0 4.9 15.0 13.4 8.5 17.7 812 40 12.0 1.6 15.0
Omni Trekker (disc) 2.45 33 13.5 44.5 34.5 16.5 45.5 19825 97 no
5.4 13.0 5.3 17.5 13.6 6.5 17.9 1210 38 no
Pro Runner 450 AW 2.7 31 17 47 34 29 50.5 24769 114 31 4.5 39.5
5.95 12.2 6.7 18.5 13.4 11.4 19.9 1511 45 12.2 1.8 15.6
Vertex 200 AW 3.32 30 16.5 44 32 26 47 21780 105 30 5 42
7.32 11.8 6.5 17.3 12.6 10.2 18.5 1329 41 11.8 2.0 16.5
Vertex 300 AW 3.7 31 16.5 52 33 26 55 26598 114 30 5 50
8.16 12.2 6.5 20.5 13.0 10.2 21.7 1623 45 11.8 2.0 19.7
Metric (cm,kg,cm3) Note: Although the Omni Trekker does not have a laptop compartment you can still squeeze a 13” screen laptop in the harness compartment.
Imperial (in,lbs,in3)

The increase in height [from 23.1. to 29 cm] in the Pro Runner 450AW means that it is above most airlines limits, although in linear cm/in it does meet the maximum linear dimensions [see below]. The height issue also applies to the new Pro Trekkers 300 and 400 AW and this is why they were not included.

Both the Vertex 200 and 300 AW are good matches [height slightly above the limits, but I am sure they can be squeezed in]. The Vertex 300 AW also meets the maximum linear dimensions.

The now discontinued Computrekker AW Plus is nevertheless lighter than any of the Vertex bags and it is slightly wider which allows you to pack a Nikkor 200-400mm f/4 on the middle of the bag and still have space on both sides to pack the bodies and lenses, it is a tight fit but I have done it. The same packing will not be possible with the Vertex bags since they are 3cm/1.2in smaller in width, although the extra length of the Vertex 300 will compensate to some extent.

What the manufacturer does not tell you is that most mountaineering backpacks out there offer much better load distribution and comfort than any of these camera backpacks on medium/long treks. If this your case buy a backpack that provides easy access to the middle of the pack [like some rescue mountaineering backpacks] and fit a smaller camera bag inside the backpack if you want.

Of course there is still the question of the weight with the bag loaded [which will for sure exceed the maximum allowed in most airlines]. The following tips will also help for a trouble-free check-in:

  • Wear the backpack casually on one shoulder. It gives the impression that is light and you are less likely to be asked to put it on the scale [this is also why I do not travel with roller bags for carry-on];
  • Wear a photo vest under your jacket. If they ask you to weight your backpack you can always transfer a considerable part of the heavier stuff into your  jacket and photo vest pockets, hopefully meeting the limit;
  • If you still don’t meet the limit, kindly argue that you are carrying valuable, delicate equipment and point out that the European Directive [in Europe, obviously] foresees such exceptions;
  • If the ignominious bastard still insists that you check the backpack, ask him if it is possible to hand it in at the gate [of course, get rid of any bag tag he might have put in between];
  • If the above doesn’t do the trick and you are still being asked to check it in, as a last resort ask him to call the airline person responsible, get the names of both bastards [no, you can not kill them! It’s against the law, although it shouldn’t be] , take as much as possible of the valuable gear with you, file a written complain to the airline and take them to court if any of your checked gear gets damaged or disappears.
Exterior Dim. Linear Ext. No. of pieces [Economy]

Weight Width Height Length (W+H+L) (basic or no Freq. Flyer card)
British Airways Not Specified 45 25 56 126 1 + Laptop or other small item

17.7 9.8 22.0 50
United Not Specified 35 23 56 114 1 + Laptop or other small item

13.8 9.1 22.0 45
KLM 12 35 25 55 115 1 + Laptop or other small item
26.46 13.8 9.8 21.7 45
Finnair 8 45 25 56 126 1 + Laptop or other small item
17.64 17.7 9.8 22.0 50
Singapore Air 7 40 25 50 115 1 + Laptop or other small item
15.43 15.7 9.8 19.7 45
Lufthansa 8 40 20 55 115 1 carry-on
17.64 15.7 7.9 21.7 45
Emirates 7 38 20 55 113 1 carry-on
15.43 15.0 7.9 21.7 44

Note: The table above only applies for international flights from Europe.

In Conclusion:

  • The Computrekker AW Plus [if you can still find one] as well as the Vertex bags are, as far as I am concerned, the best Lowepro options for carry-on if you are planning to take a reasonable amount of gear.
  • Whenever possible opt for a friendly airline [like BA, United, KLM and others like them], one that is less likely to hassle you at check-in with carry-on and excess luggage charges.

PS: In the end I decided that my Computrekker AW Plus was still the best option for me, succeed in tracking a shop with one in stock, informed the Lowepro distributor and got it as a replacement.

14/03/2010 Posted by | Photo Equipment Reviews, Tips | , , , | 3 Comments

One more close up of the defect on the Nikkors 70-200 VRII

Another close-up shot of the defective internal part in the new Nikkor 70-200 VRII.

Nikon Service feedback is that it does not affect overall optical performance. Maybe true now, who knows in the future but that’s hardly the point Nikon!


Close up showing clearly some loss of material in the controversial part

16/01/2010 Posted by | Photo Equipment Reviews | , , , | 4 Comments

Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8G ED VRII aka “The Dandruff Lens”

When I was just going to repeat the test between the old and the new Nikkor 70-200 VR, I noticed that the lens seems to have a lot of particles?? inside!! My old 70-200 f/2.8 VR I, even after years of use and abuse in very dusty environments, is squeaky clean compared with the new lens. I am not sure these are actually particles, they seem constrained to the optical elements. Can someone competent in optics clarify what is/could be the cause of this?

Is this dandruff? Not using Head & Shoulders regularly?

On a closer look, I also noticed some parts that appear to be damaged or in the process of disintegrating altogether with countless fractures all around the element. Some areas like the one shown in the image below seem to be missing some material actually.

Nikkor-70-200VRII-Dandruff-Lens-part2 v2

The image shows what appears to be disintegrating and/or damaged plastic parts inside the lens system

I’m not an happy camper right now, that much is clear. I think this is unacceptable for a lens that costs a premium and that is supposed to be a pro lens! It also gives a all new meaning to quality control and quality assurance, isn’t that right Nikon?

I am contacting Nikon Support about the above and share whatever feedback I get from them.

Feel free to add your own experiences with new Dandruff Lens from Nikon.

11/01/2010 Posted by | Photo Equipment Reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Upcoming hands-on review of the new Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR Ⅱ

Due end of next week, an hands-on review and comparison of the new Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8G VRII with the previous version of the same lens. Is it really worth the money?

07/12/2009 Posted by | Anouncements, Photo Equipment Reviews | Leave a comment