Thursday, May 27, 2010

Batteries for the 7D

Although Canon's LP-E6 battery for their 7D appears to be a really good one, it is expensive. Seems like an extra OEM battery was about $65 when I got the 7D in October 2009 but now is nearly $100! In fact, there were few OEM LP-E6 batteries to be had in late April and early May. Apparently Canon has made (or bought) a fresh batch as batteries are now readily available.

Shown in the picture above (L-R) are my original Canon LP-E6, a newly purchased Canon LP-E6 and a copy labeled “Premium Tech”. Also pictured is the Canon charger on the left and the Premium Tech charger on the right. The Canon box for the latest issue LP-E6 is in the middle. The Premium Tech charger can be powered by either AC or automobile battery; the Canon charger is AC only. Both chargers accept 100-240V, 50/60 Hz AC. The new Canon LP-E6 has identical specifications to the one shipped with my 7D but slightly different markings. All three work fine with my 7D.

I subscribe to the battery management policy of “One in the camera, one in the case and one in the charger”. This means having a handful of batteries. In the past, I’ve used non-OEM batteries along with the OEM originals in my G3, G9, 20D and SD800 Canon cameras without any real problems. I do suspect that the non-OEM batteries may not accept as many recharges as do the OEMs; in fact, two went bad within a few months. Anticipating such problems, I’ve simply bought an extra battery or two – after all, the non-OEM battery is very inexpensive (OK – cheap!).

Because Canon's spare battery was so expensive, I naturally bought a non-OEM spare (only one) along with my 7D. The few times I’ve used it, the non-OEM LP-E6 seems fine and I’m glad to have it. The non-OEM must be recharged in its own charger; I think battery plus charger was about $25.

As I’m beginning to use the 7D for video, another battery seemed to be a good idea (remember that my philosophy calls for three batteries). After reading a few reviews of non-OEM batteries on Amazon, I decided to get Canon’s OEM battery. To my surprise, none were available; however, the supply has now been replenished – but at a higher price. The disparaging reviews on Amazon and discussion forums emphasize that the non-OEM battery cannot be recharged in the Canon charger and that the 7D displays a warning and does not indicate the remaining battery power with a non-OEM battery. Now I have two Canon LP-E6 batteries and a cheap clone.

Last year, I began to write the date of purchase on all my rechargeable batteries, even taking a guess at the older ones, but I’m hoping not to need this information for a long time!

Thursday, May 13, 2010



At the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canon Canada gave photographers a replica of the Canon EF 70-200mm L lens in the form of a thermos jug. Although I wasn't there, I read about it on the Internet so it must be true. Along with perhaps thousands of other photographers, I immediately wanted one and began a search to buy my own 70-200mm “thermos”. Sure enough, since demand creates supply, opportunities to “pre-order” the thermos soon appeared on eBay. Although tempted, I decided to wait a while.

It also occurred to me that I'd really like to have a coffee mug as well as a thermos. Still searching, I soon discovered Apparently this site was created solely to sell the Canon lens thermos. They also offer a 24-105mm coffee mug. Until recently, these products were not in stock and available only as a pre-order but when I checked in early May, the thermos and mug were listed as being in stock. Although still skeptical – not to mention wanting a lower price – I placed my order. To my surprise, both thermos and mug arrived today – seven days after placing my order.

CanonMugs claims that the thermos is exactly the same as given away in Canada and cautions about cheap copies. Although both thermos and mug are plastic, the interior of the thermos is stainless steel. The interior of the mug is plastic. Both thermos and mug have black rubber grips around the exterior. Only the thermos comes with a lens cover (lid). A cautionary note is included warning about putting carbonated beverages inside and also about washing in a dishwasher. Apparently, dark roast Louisiana coffee is OK.

Although believable at first glance, a second look easily reveals that these are not real lenses; however, the shock of that first glance is well worth the effort. I intend to use mine.

(Note: I have no affiliation whatsoever with I bought these products and paid full price. I've not tested or even seen any other versions of replica lenses as thermos or mug.)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Shoot through umbrella or bounce?

I have a Wescott 43” white satin umbrella with removable black cover and have always used it in the “shoot through” style. Although “always” is the correct word, actually I've not used it that often. At the wedding of my niece, I noticed that the photographer was using two large umbrellas but in the “bounce” style. I began to wonder how my own little umbrella would do if used as a bounce surface.

Once again I called on Hannah for modeling duty -- she's so patient. Leaving the black cover on the umbrella, I set it up to bounce the light from a single SB-24 flash. The flash was about 8 feet from Hannah so the umbrella was roughly ten feet away from Hannah. The SB-24 was triggered by the RF-602 wireless trigger. After a few trial pops, I set my Canon 7D for ISO 400, manual exposure of 1/125 and f5.6. With this setup, the SB-24 could be set for ½ power and therefore recycle faster than if at full power.

Somewhere I'd read that a single RF-602 receiver could trigger two flashes: one from the hot shoe and another using a PC connecting cable. This turns out to be correct – just hook 'em up and it works! I added another SB-24 to the same RF-602 receiver, set both to ¼ power, and took another shot. As expected, the shot with two flashes at ¼ power looks about the same as the shot with one flash at ½ power. The difference is that the flashes recycle faster.

Next, the black cover was removed and the flash stand rotated 180 degrees so that the two SB-24s were shooting through the umbrella. Of course, the umbrella had to be tilted downward. The flashes were the same distance from Hannah as for the bounced shots but the umbrella was closer. Leaving the SB-24s set for ¼ power, I took another shot. To my surprise, the result was a slight overexposure, perhaps a half stop; somehow, I'd expected an underexposure. At that point, I noticed that the SB-24s were set to match a 35mm focal length; that is, slightly zoomed in. I zoomed out to the maximum of 24mm and took another shot. This last shot was not quite so overexposed.

Later, using Photoshop to process the RAW files, I estimated that, for the way I did it, the shoot through method gained about a quarter of a stop of flash power. Had I first shot using the shoot through umbrella, I know I'd have adjusted the exposure downward by about a half stop based on chimping the 7D LCD. As it turns out, the resulting exposure would have been a little underexposed.

Aside from exposure, what were the differences between shoot through and bounce? Well, just look at the two shots of Hannah. Oh, the one on the left was taken using bounce and the shot on the right was taken using shoot through. Both were processed from RAW using identical ACR settings except for exposure. There is a slight difference in color although the white balance was identical in ACR. It seems to me that the picture using shoot through is slightly more softly lit. I think I'll be staying with the shoot through style.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Mastering Canon EOS Flash Photography

As I began my learning experiences in flash photography, I came across a very interesting and useful web site, PhotoNotes, by NK Guy.  Because I use Canon equipment, I was especially pleased to find that  a comprehensive section on Canon cameras and flashes was part of the site.  This section reads like a book so I was not surprised when NK Guy's book, "Mastering Canon EOS Flash Photography" was published this year.  I knew that this would be a good book; the only question was "Why buy it?".  Surely the book would be the same material that I was reading for free on his web site.  Well, it is and it isn't.  In the end, I actually bought the book for convenience and as salve for my conscience.

I'm glad I bought the book.  This 419 page book is by far the most comprehensive book that I have on flash in general and Canon flashes in particular.  In his book, NK Guy expands greatly on the information in his web site and illustrates it profusely.  Virtually every page in the book includes at least one photograph or illustration and usually more than one.  Plus, it's a good read -- just finished it. 

Although "Canon" is included in the title, the book also includes a chapter on studio flash, a chapter on flash accessories including various light modifiers, various flash triggers and even third party small flash units.   Of course, the Canon products are described and explained in the most detail.  More than an equipment book, NK Guy also included chapters on basic and advanced flash and lighting techniques.

This is a good book and especially so if you use Canon equipment.

(I bought my own copy and have no affiliation whatsoever with NK Guy -- just liked the book and thought you might like it too.)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Blogger in Action: 7D triggers handheld 580EXII

The popup flash of the Canon 7D can trigger an external Canon flash in slave mode . This is a very handy feature although I've found that the external flash must really be able to “see” the popup flash. For example, I had high hopes of using a 580EXII mounted in a Stroboframe above the 7D as a bounced light triggered by the 7D popup flash. That configuration doesn't work – the 580EX sensor just can't see the 7D popup. As shown below, there is a workaround.

Yes, that is your blogger and uncle of the bride getting snapshots at the reception. As awkward and fearful as I looked, it worked! That is, it worked so long as I was close to the subject; that large hall was as dark as a cave in places and had a high ceiling as well. The little 7D popup often was just not powerful enough – even for direct fill. (The photo of me was made by my wife using a 20D with direct flash from a 580EX.)