Good Things – Small Packages

I recently became aware of an intriguing new product; one which was perfect for use with my Leica M9 as well as both the Sony NEX and Micro 43rds systems – lens pouches for small lenses!

Small, Medium, & Large Pouches
(35mm Summilux shown for size comparison) 

I already have pouches for all of my Canon lenses. In fact, Canon supplies them with most all of its high-end lenses. However, the ones Canon supply offer little to no protection, so when I travel with my Canon gear, my lenses are well packed into a padded case.

With smaller systems such as Leica, NEX and m43rds, the use of a large travel case tends to defeat the purpose of the system. So, along comes the Micro Lens Pouch; a smaller, extremely well-padded pouch designed for smaller system camera lenses.

Alright, let me start out by saying that I procrastinated before ordering these.  After all, the Leica lenses all come with very nice zippered cases.  Why buy something else?  Well, after a strong push from another photographer, I decided to take the plunge (after all they are not expensive to try out).  Boy, am I glad I did.

You see, the cases which came with my lenses are MUCH bigger than the lenses themselves; and while they protect the ends of the lens, they are rather weak in the middle.

These new pouches are made from two layers of thick neoprene and are quite form-fitting.  Not only do they protect your lenses extremely well, but they do so while adding as little bulk as possible.

Why is this important?  One of the main benefits of the mirrorless camera is its portability.  The Micro Lens Pouch enhances this even further by allowing you to easily carry your lenses with you.  In fact, what I love most is that I can now carry my extra lenses just in the pockets of my cargo pants.  Now I can have an entire kit available without needing to carry a large and obvious camera bag.

The pouches come in three sizes Tall, Grande, Venti (just kidding), Small, Medium, and  Large.  They are available on Amazon sold by Cheaplights, Todd Hatakeyama.  Each listing on Amazon comes with a guide to their sizing regarding which lenses should work with which pouches.  The only problem I had is that the small pouch size is recommended for the Leica 35mm Summilux.  While it does fit, it is a little too tight for my taste.  So, I exchanged it for the medium, and it works perfectly.  50 Summilux – Small, 35 Summilux – Medium, 90 Summicron – Large: Perfect!

If you shoot with a mirrorless camera system and want the best way to carry your lenses with you, I Highly Recommend the Micro Lens Pouches.  They really free you up and allow you to carry as little as possible, and as inconspicuously as possible.

As for me, I plan to order an additional Medium and Large pouch for the NEX lenses once I return from my current photo assignment.

You can find these on Amazon:

Small Micro Lens Pouch
Medium Micro Lens Pouch
Large Micro Lens Pouch
Two Pack (Small and Medium) Micro Lens Pouches
Three-Pack (Small, Medium and Large) Micro Lens Pouches

Fotodiox – A Trip to the Candy Store (part 2)

Today we continue our trip report to Fotodiox, the photographer’s ultimate candy store.

Walking through the aisles of the Fotodiox warehouse reminds one of wandering through your neighborhood Costco, but for photographer’s only.  There is everything here, arranged neatly into racks, bins, boxes, etc., all ready to be shipped out to photographers world-wide.  This is an extremely professional organization, and one which is expanding rapidly as the market for photo accessories grows.

Today, Fotodiox carries a dizzying array of tools, accessories, bits and pieces.  In fact, I would say that if there is some item that you feel you need, either for digital or film, you are best checking them out before trolling all over the internet.  I bet they have it.  However, in the future, expect to see more and more “specialty” products from Fotodiox.  They are hard at work researching and designing new, exciting, unique products for the market.

Their current “hot-seller” was designed and developed in house.

Nikon 14-24mm Filter Adapter 

One of Nikon’s most highly regarded lenses, the 14-24mm, has a built-in hood and design which has precluded the use of filters.  While an amazing lens, this design limits the options open to the serious photographer.  Thus Fotodiox steps in.  They have designed an add-on collar for the lens which is quite ingenious, providing a 145mm filter base for the lens (they also manufacture a wide range of filter options in this size as well).  This not only provides additional protection for a very expensive lens, but offers many creative options as well.

Fotodiox has also been at the forefront of the DSLR video revolution as well.  In addition to all of the standard tools a videographer would be look for in terms of mounts, reflectors, etc., Fotodiox stocks a large selection of LED based “hot” (in this case “cool”) lights.  You can buy LEDs in every size imaginable; from small, rechargeable battery-powered units to fit into the hot-shoe of your DSLR to large, floor-standing units to light up your set.  These are proving to be extremely popular in that you can “dial-in” your desired color-temp on the light itself (which uses an array of varied LEDs) and set your camera, and go.

LED Lighting Kit (Multi-Temp) 

LEDs are the next wave in lighting for both the photographer and the videographer.  They use little power, offer amazing control, and unlike strobes, provide an “as you see it” approach to lighting.  One of the benefits of working with Fotodiox is that they are extremely knowledgeable in all of the products they sell.  If you have a question about exactly which product would be right for you and/or your situation, call them – they are there to help.

Walking through the warehouse, I was struck by all of the possibilities one could put together with all of the products at our fingertips.  Turning to Jeff, I asked him to see “how crazy” we could get with some combinations.  He looked at me and said, “wait here” and disappeared down an aisle.  He came back moments later with a large wooden tripod under one arm and a selection of bits and pieces in a box under the other.  He motioned, “follow me.”

We walked outside to the parking lot and he began to set the tripod.  From out of the box came a view-camera and lens, then a back-plate for it, then a Canon lens adapter, then a Sony NEX to Canon adapter.  “Hand me your NEX-7,” he instructed.  I complied and he bolted it directly into the monster in front of him.  “Let’s see what we can do here.”  He focused the construct until a car in the lot came into clear focus.

The Monster (NEX-7 Attached to View Camera w/Canon Adapter) 

He explained, “Now, this is a bit of an extreme situation, but that’s what you asked for.  However, think of it.  You now have full tilt-shift and swing control using a state-of-the-art camera and sensor.  What’s better yet, due to the crop factor of the system, you are only using the center of the lens, thus the sweet-spot which is extremely clear and bright.  All of this captured at 24 mp.  You asked for it.”

We played with the system for about 15-30 minutes, pointing it at about everything we could think of.  It was a lot of fun.  Essentially, we had turned the Sony NEX-7 into a digital back for a view camera.  The only problem was that rather than being in the Swiss Alps photographing majestic peaks, we were in an industrial parking lot on a grey day photographing minivans.  Oh, well.

Let me end by once again thanking Jeff for his kind hospitality and tour of Fotodiox.  It is an amazing place.  This is one company to keep an eye on as they work to fill-in the cracks of the photographic industry, providing both much needed products at very competitive prices, as well as things neither you nor I could have thought of.

Fotodiox – A Trip to the Candy Store (part 1)

Fotodiox Logo2012 has been a banner year for the Mirrorless Camera market. The NEX-7 from Sony is finally readily available and in people’s hands and both Fuji and Olympus have stepped up with the X1-Pro and OM-5 respectively. Many, many choices.

One of the greatest appeals of the mirrorless camera is its ability to seamlessly use legacy, manual-focus lenses with the use of an appropriate adapter. One of the largest manufacturers of such adapters is Fotodiox ( Thanks to Jeff Holland (in-house photographer and head of support) at Fotodiox, we were able to spend some time at their Illinois facilities and learn more about the company and its products, which covers A LOT more than just lens adapters (though they are currently their best-selling product segment).

Since Jeff was so generous with his time, we were able to cover quite a lot, more than I could cover in a single piece, so I will be splitting this article in to two parts. First, let’s talk to Jeff and cover who Fotodiox is, and what they do.

Peter Sills: Jeff, thanks for making the time for us. I understand things are quite busy.

Jeff Holland: No problem. Things are always busy, but I’m happy to take the time.

Fotodiox Warehouse

PS: So tell us first how Fotodiox got started.

JH: Well, we literally started in a garage, though it may have been a basement, selling smaller photographic bits on eBay. You know, lens caps, hoods, small accessories, etc. This was about 2002. Things went very well, andwe incorporated in 2004. Since then we have grown quite a bit and with our rapid expansion we are now on our third location in this huge warehouse you see us in today. In fact, things have moved so fast we haven’t even had a chance to unpack everything from our last location.

PS: So after starting with the simple accessories, what are your biggest sellers today?

JH: Clearly our lens adapters. Our #1 best-seller is our Nikon lens to EOS camera adapter. Since many Nikon lenses still have aperture control rings, they can be easily adapted to work on Canon’s EOS line of cameras. Many people love the advanced video capabilities of cameras such as the 5D MkII and are always looking for additional lenses they can use on that body.  We also have an adapter for the Nikon G line of lenses (which have no aperture ring).


Lens Adapters

Next are our mirrorless camera lens adapters for the Sony NEX and micro 4/3rd cameras. There are somany different combinations of lenses and cameras that can be used. We manufacture just about 200 different camera/lens adapters for all type of combinations. I think about 7-8 of our top ten best-sellers are lens adapters.

PS: Besides all of the mirrorless lens adapters, what else does Fotodiox produce?

JH:We sell it all. Right now LED lighting is extremely popular. These are great for both the photographer and the videographer and provide clean consistent light in a nice and portable package. We manufacture these in a variety of sizes for a variety of uses.

We also sell studio lights, backdrops, anything and everything the photographer could possibly need. As a photographer myself, it is a bit like working in a candy-store. If you need it, we probably already make it (with the exception of lenses, batteries and memory cards – but who knows what the future holds).

We also design some very interesting and unique products. One of which I am quite proud, just started shipping and has already sold out its first run. I’m looking forward to showing it to you later.

PS: Sounds intriguing. I’m looking forward to learning more about it. So, what is Fotodiox’s take on the mirrorless camera market?

JH: We have seen a tremendous acceleration in our business since the introduction of the mirrorless camera. First it was the micro 4/3ds cameras from Olympus and Panasonic. We now sell more adapters for the NEX system than micro 4/3rd. My guess is that this is probably because there are fewer lenses for the NEX system currently. The NEX system is great! You can adapt practically anything to it.


Pro Adapter (with Aperture Control)

For some combinations of lens and camera we manufacture both a Standard anda Pro adapter. The difference is that our Standard adapters just allow you to mount the lens to the camera platform of your choice. With our Pro adapters we go one step further. Some incorporate “Optical Glass” to enhance the image quality or focal length performance of the adapter. Others, such as our Proadapters for the Canon EF line, compensate for the lack of an aperture control, but incorporating an iris in the adapter itself. While this allows you to control the light, it also allows you to control the image vignette as the iris is placed much closer to the imager than the one in the lens. Sort of a trade-off, but it is nice to have the option.

We also manufacture lens adapters which contain auto-focus confirmation chips in them. This allows the camera to alert the photographer as to when the camera is in focus, while using manual focus to capture the image. We can now, even provide the focus confirmation chip specific to a single focal length, so the focal length is recorded appropriately in the EXIF data in the image.


Confirmation/EXIF Lens Chip

PS: One issue that comes up a lot is “Infinity Focus” and whether an adapter allows for infinity focus or not. Can you explain what this is, and how Fotodiox’s adapters handle this?

JH: Sure, infinity focus is the point at which the lens obtains its greatest depth of field and all objects from a certain distance to infinity are in focus. The problem in creating a lens adapter for a camera is that this was never the intention of the camera manufacturer. I am sure no one at Canon ever planned on accommodating a Nikon lens on their cameras.

Each camera and each lens has its own set of tolerances. These are different for both the camera manufacturer and the lens manufacturer. So, in order to allow our customers the greatest latitude in putting these combinations together, we design our adapters to allow a little “slop”, going just beyond infinity focus. This is to ensure that any lens, from either a primary manufacturer such as Nikon or a third-party company such as a Tamron, lenses will work on the system you choose. The amount of the overage will depend on the lens/camera combination you choose. This is basically the same reason that camera companies now offer electronic lens adjustment features in their bodies, as no one setting is going to work perfectly with all possible combinations of lenses and body.

PS: So, with all of this rapid growth, where is Fotodiox heading?

JH: Well, I think we are going to move away from the “Grocery Store” approach to our products and move more into the specialty products which are unique to us. One of which is this new product I want to show you. It took us three years to fully develop and it is truly unique.

I think we bring a lot to the party with some products which we do extremely well, such as our lens adapters and our lighting kits. We are always working on new things, (Jeff shows me some work in progress prototypes – which I can’t show you yet) things like these. Pretty cool, huh?

We’ve got some great stuff we’re working on.

PS: Excellent. Well, that sounds like a great place to end the interview portion. Thank you.

Next, Jeff takes me on a tour of Fotodiox. We get to look and play with some really interesting products.

We also get to see an outstanding product they have been working on for the last couple of years, which just came to market.

More next time…

We’re Back!

As you may have noticed, it has been a while since our last post.

Well, let’s see.  First there is the harddrive crash which took a lot of data with it.  That has now returned from the Data Recovery Experts, and I am happy to report that they were able to recover all of the important data for the piece on Fotodiox I was working on, plus all of the photos.

Next, there is the health and medical issues which have been engulfing my family.  My son had extensive back surgery for Scoliosis this Spring, and is now about 80% recovered, and will be graduating High School next week.  Glad that we are through that!

Lastly, well lastly is work.  Been extremely busy with everything going on here and shooting and traveling, and everything in between.

Well, after next week I should be able sort out all of the bits and pieces and post my report on my visit to Fotodiox, maker of every accessory a photographer could ever want!  An amazing place with some amazing toys!

It is good to be back!

Cuba Portfolio

I have received numerous requests for additional photos from my Cuba travels.  While I am planning to return and add to this body of work, I thought I would upload the “work in progress” and share it with those interested in seeing more.

Thank you again for all the kind words and posts regarding these photos.  Cuba is an amazing and magical place, and I plan to get back as soon as possible.

You can view about fifty additional photos via this link to the gallery on my web-site Digital Focus.


Eduardo Garcia – Inside Cuba

As you know if you’ve been following this Blog, I recently had the opportunity to travel to Cuba.  Since returning, I have met many photographers who have had a desire to go.  All I can say is, if you can go – GO!

Anyway, one of the most memorable aspects of my journey was meeting and partnering with a local Cuban photographer, Eduardo Garcia.  Eduardo was my guide for a day as we visited the dilapidated factory town of Hershey.  Not only was he an excellent guide, but as I later found out, an amazing photographer.

Eduardo’s work has been described as “getting inside the skin of his subjects.”  This is very true.  As a native Cuban he is extremely adept at approaching people and making immediate friends.  He does not start off taking photos, but slowly, as he gets to know someone, will he begin to further explore them and their surroundings with his camera.

He has produced some of the most astounding work I have seen in some time.  I hope that by showcasing some of his work outside of Cuba, he will begin to get some of the recognition I believe he has earned.

So, without anything further from me, here is some of the work of Eduardo Garcia…

Additionally, Eduardo has put together a brief video of his work.  It is available to view HERE on YouTube.

It is my hope to get back to Cuba as soon as I can.  It is also my plan to spend additional time with Eduardo and learn more about him and his work as he shows me more of this amazing country.

10 Firmware Update Suggestions for the NEX-7

Having a bit of Sony’s ear, I thought it might be a good idea to compile a short list (and the list is short) of suggestions for improvements to the firmware in the Sony NEX-7.  Don’t get me wrong, I still think the NEX-7 is a great camera, but there is always room for improvement.

Having used the NEX-7 “on the job” so to speak, I have run into a few “glitches” which I would personally like to see addressed in a future FW update.  I have also read other’s reports on the camera, and have tried to incorporate their suggestions here as well.

Since it is my hope to get Sony’s attention, I would appreciate any additional suggestions and/or recommendations be made in the comments section of this article.  Note: there is no order or priority to these suggestions.

Here we go…

1. Please increase the steps between EV settings for both bracketing and Auto-HDR.  Neither .3 or .7 EV increments is enough for serious work.  It would also be valuable to choose from either 3, 5, or 7 exposures.

2. The review modes need to be consolidated.  There should not be separate modes for stills and video.  This leads to confusion as to what is in storage as well as how to switch easily between modes.

3. There needs to be a way to prevent the eye-switch from disabling the cameras “sleep mode”.  The simplest way to do this would be to remove it from the list of actions which wake the camera, relying only on a button press to reawaken.  Without this, it is possible to very rapidly drain the battery unknowingly.

4. There should be an option to either simply disable the Record button and /or to reassign it to another function.  It is far too easily pressed when trying to take a shot, thus causing the photographer to not only miss the shot, but to struggle to put the camera back into still image mode.

5. The “Menu” and “Focus” buttons need to be swapped.  The menu button is right under your finger, while the focus button is at the bottom of the camera.  This is awkward as you need to access the focus button often, and the menu button infrequently.  While the menu button is fixed, the focus button is a “soft button.” This should be an extremely easy fix.  I could find no way to reassign these buttons in the menu, though many others could be.

6. The Jpeg processing could use some serious improvement.  Allowing for noise reduction to be turned off entirely would go a long way from eliminating the “smearing” seen in the Jpegs from the camera.

7. Image controls are needed for the adjustment of the image in the EVF.  At least a “contrast control” is required to allow the user to adjust the display to match the actual scene.  Sharpness controls would also worthwhile.

8. Personally I would also like to see the addition of the option to set the ISO range from which auto-ISO chooses.  Currently you have no control over this when you set the camera to Auto-ISO.

The last two suggestions are courtesy Michael Reichmann of the Luminous Landscape web-site.  Since Michael says it so much better than I could, I quoted him here.

9. As good as Sony’s new interface on the NEX-7 is, there is one major omission. That is, there is no way to group all of the camera’s settings into what some camera makers call My settings, or have on the Mode dial as C1, C2, etc. This is, in my view, a huge hole in all NEX camera’s user interface, and is particularly glaring in its absence on the NEX-7 because it is a camera aimed at the advanced amateur and Pro.”

10. Regarding the EVF display… There is a gottcha with the Settings Effect “OFF” mode though. It’s intended to show you a bright visible image, regardless of the cameras settings, and that includes exposure. When OFF, if you’re over or underexposing, deliberately or otherwise, the screen will always show you a decent image for framing and composition (except in manual exposure mode). But, if you have the histogram feature turned on the histogram does not show you a graph of the exposure that is set, but instead shows you a perfect histogram of the image that is being displayed.”

That’s it then.  Hopefully when Sony releases a FW v1.1 we will see many, if not all of these implemented.  If you have other suggestions, or recommendations which can be implemented in the FIRMWARE, please sound off in our comments section.