Picking a Good Flash Battery for Your Gear

Eneloop Batteries from Sanyo
Eneloop flash battery
Eneloop flash battery

As with anything, photographers perform a natural progression with their flashes.  We start with the built-in flash, then quickly move to an added flash.  Said flash then becomes external, but still tethered to the camera, until finally we liberate the flash from the camera via wireless triggers and remote control.  Through all of it, we need to fire these flashes with some power source.  Inevitably, the question comes up about what flash battery is best for your gear and needs.

There are lots of flash battery options out there with options in every category from type of battery (alkaline, NiMh, and LiOn) to vendor (Sony, Sanyo, Duracell, Energizer, etc.), milliamps (1500 vs 2000 vs 2400), and then of course the never-ending debate over chargeable versus rechargeable.  As always, your mileage may vary, but I’ve always found some of the best results come from my usage of the Sanyo Eneloop brand.  These are rechargeable batteries and the ones I’ve used are the 1500 milliamp variety.

They’ve  been good, but after a couple years of usage and re-usage, it became time to get a whole new set.  So, I set out to look at how the landscape has changed in the battery realm.  Here’s a couple things to consider:

1.  Normal versus Rechargeable:  This was almost a no-brainer given the cost per battery…go with rechargeable batteries.  After recharging, you can reduce your cost per charge down to mere pennies instead of even a dollar per battery with regular alkaline flash battery options.  The question is really whether you should choose the Nickel Metal Hydride batteries (NiMh) or the Lithium Ion (LiOn).  The difference lies in your intended usage and needs.  The NiMh flash battery apparently charge much more quickly, but also deplete more quickly, and take fewer charges.  Conversely, LiOn flash battery does last longer, but also take longer to charge.  Additionally, you can also likely get more recharges out of these.  Of course, the downside is that the latter are a tad pricier.

2. Brand Stength:  Here I really think it comes down to personal preference.  Just like the Coke vs Pepsi, Ford vs Chevy, Canon vs Nikon, Mac vs PC debates, if you are strongly inclined by one brand or another, there is a battery out there that will work for you.  Pick your poison for whichever flash battery best suits your needs!

3.  Milliamps:  I liken the milliamps (mA) power of a battery to the Megapixels of a camera.  You can never have enough, and the race for more will never end.  Just a few years ago, a AA battery that had 1500 mA was cooking with gas.  Nowadays, that’s pretty much the norm and 2400 or more is desired.  There have been some reports of the higher powered ones overheating and cooking your flash, so I tend to shy away from the onces that are juiced the most.  As always, your mileage may vary.

So, there ya have it – 3 factors to consider when buying flash battery for your gear.  What did I end up going with?  Sanyo Eneloop Pros – the 2000 mA variety:

I got some AA’s for my flashes, and some AAA’s for my wireless triggers…along with the charger and it was less than $40 after shipping…not too shabby imho.  What are your favorite batteries for your gear?

Photography Apps for the Smart Phone, Part 5

Camera+

As you may recall, over the last week or so, I’d been sharing some thoughts on various types of photography-related apps for the smart phone, ranging from how to set up your camera, (SetMyCamPro), setting up the shoot (EasyRelease), editing your photos (ColorSplash), and finally, managing your photos (WiFi Photo).  The one thing I hadn’t mentioned, albeit intentionally, was any discussion of apps that can actually take photos!  I’ve been saving that for the last installment here, because while everyone wants to know about taking better photos, there’s so much more that goes into photography, I felt it important to “set the sage”, so to speak!

With the stage set, here we are in the final installment – Part 5 of Photo Apps for your Smart Phone

The funny thing about this one though, is that I am going to cover a number of apps here collectively, because there are some commonalities that we can look at across the board.  After all, it’s the same camera, right?  The same lens, the same aperture and shutter speed capabilities, right?  It’s really all about the different options that photo apps can give you, so let’s just take a look:

Common Features:

  • Shutter Release – across the entire gamut, the shutter release is a big dot in the lower center of the screen – a common setup, so there’s really no need to discuss positioning because it’s the same across the board.
  • Tap to Focus – Another common feature is that you can simply tap the area of the screen you want the camera to focus on.  Not saying that all touch screen functions are consistent across all apps (for instance, pinch and expanding to zoom and go widescreen are not native to all photo apps), but the simple tap to focus feature appears to be a constant.
  • Sharpness – How sharp the photo is really depends on whether you select the right area or not, and whether the camera is capable of focusing at that particular point, along with a number of other human factors, which really take us out of the “apps world”, so I’ll save that discussion for elsewhere (such as here).
  • Camera Selector – Because most smart phones have both a front and rear facing camera these days, another standard feature is the ability to toggle between the two options, and this is available across every app I’ve looked at.
  • Flash – Again, a standard feature for the phone camera.  I almost never use mine though just because it’s such a horrible quality and strength of light, that it almost always makes a scene worse rather than better.  About the only time I’ve used an onboard phone camera’s flash is when I’ve stuck my phone behind a server rack and tried to get a pic of a server serial number that I needed for warranty service.

The Native Camera (iPhone demonstrated):iPhone 4s

For those that wish to gripe about me not featuring an Android phone, I’ll beg out of the Apple versus Android discussion by simply saying that to test all android camera phones would have been cost prohibitive, so I just excluded the category.  If you want reviews of Android phone cameras, ask my good friend Kerry Garrison over at Camera Dojo – he’s an Android user.

That point aside, let’s take a look at some of the native feature sets on the iPhone.  You can see the shutter release front and center, as well as the photo gallery on one of the lower sides, which of course, is common.  To the left is the toggle between photo and video capture.  Still…pretty straightforward.  But when you move to the top center, you get the unique options for the native app – the grid overlay, HDR, and Pano mode.  I’ll look at each briefly:

Grid Mode – Simply put – this makes an overlay of the Rule of Thirds grid on your screen – this can help for those learning composition.  ‘Nuff said…

HDR – This saves your images in the equivalent of a bracketed exposure – I’ve still not found a time when I’ve felt the need to take a smart phone photo off the camera and develop it using the wider dynamic range of the HDR version.  Not sold on the feature, but it could be simply because I’ve not used it.

Pano – Probably my favorite feature in the native app is the panorama feature.  Allows me to take panorama photos and usually does a decent job at covering tonal and brightness ranges across the wider area, which is often trickier to manage in your own pano stitched efforts.  You also will pleasantly find that lines seaming things together are virtually non-existent. Check out a few of my own personal pano photos here

Next up, Camera Infiniti…

Camera Infiniti

Camera Infiniti is different from other apps in that the functions are all compacted around the shutter release.  The dial gives you the option to toggle between a timed release, a standard photo, a burst of photos, and an audible trigger release (by far the coolest feature for my two ¢!)  The settings menu is rather limited otherwise to removing ads, writing reviews, and buying other apps from the developer (Agemarks).

There’s no pinch to zoom or gestures built in here nor is there an interface option that I could find to do this, so was not a fan of that.  Also, the highly visible ad at the top of the screen prompting me to buy Candy Crush I found a bit obtrusive…but I guess developers need money too…

Next up, Camera!

Camera!Camera! comes to us from the folks at Smugmug.  Again, nothing too drastic here, except the options have again shifted a little bit.  You can select the options from the arrow button to the left of the center shutter release.  On order, the functions are standard photo capture, image stabilization, a big button (for easier capture I guess…not sure about the rationale here), a slow burst option, high burst option, and then a timer, and last but not least, an intervalometer (taking a picture every X seconds, or at standard intervals).

There’s an option top center to adjust other settings as well, ranging from location, pinch to zoom, sounds, and several others.  Perhaps the most impressive consideration here is that you have the option to configure your photos to either auto-export to your library or stay within the app (every other one makes an assumption here…)  You can also set up sharing services to places like (surprise), Smugmug, Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, Flickr, Picasa, Photobucket, and YouTube.

The final note here is to not lose sight of some hidden gems.  You can switch a compositional grid on and off from the options in the top menu, add filters natively, and even toggle on a leveling function that helps you keep horizons straight.  Very cool!

Next up, Photosynth

Photosynth

There’s not much to Photosynth but I did feel it is worth mentioning here because I sung the praises of the built in pano feature to the iPhone.  Photosynth from Microsoft does just this – panos!  What’s handy here is that when you press start, it will take one picture, then the frame will help you align the next portion up, and you can keep going up to an entire 360 degree circle if you want.

Photosynth 2

Not much in the way of settings – just the ability to sync photos to your various Social media accounts (with your Microsoft account listed first of course), an exposure lock, sound, and hints. One thing worth mentioning here is that you do also have the option to toggle saving panos created directly to your camera roll…something most other apps lack.

Finally, my default photo app of choice – Photo+

Photo Aug 07, 3 53 32 PM

First off, don’t confuse Photo+ with Photo Plus (further up) – these are two different apps, with very different feature sets. The Photo+ app is so cool, I don’t want to wax on too much, but the host of features available are impressive:  normal capture, stabilizer, timer, burst, zooming options, and then inside the menu, you can toggle other things like volume snap, the grid overlay, the horizon level, geotagging, sharing services, and best of all – you can choose whether your photos are saved in the app for further editing, or photos are exported to your camera roll – or both!

In addition to all these functions, the editing capabilities of this app are pretty amazing as well.  You can crop, add borders, adjust lighting (white balance), and of course, apply filters.  The best part…if you make an edit to a photo, then want to apply another effect, you can press and hold the save button to get yet another sub-menu to save and remove from the app (export to camera roll), save and keep, Save without edits (clear all the edits out), or Commit Edits.  This last one is pure genius, because then you can go to town with any of the other editing functions of the app.  Well worth the price of admission of 99¢!

So, there you are – the final installment of the Camera Apps articles.  Apologies for not getting this out on the normal schedule, but better late than never, right?  Don’t forget to share your own thoughts, and comments on the various apps down below.  Which ones have you used?  Any apps that stand out for your work flow?  Sound off in the comment section, and don’t forget to check out the other app articles!

Happy shooting!

We have the Tech Table Winner!

techtable


As you may recall, last month, we announced a comment contest for December where a lucky participant had a chance to win a Tech Table from Savage Paper. To enter in the giveaway, all you had to do was make a comment in the post to be entered.  Now that December has gone into the record books, the much awaited drawing for the Tech Table Contest Winner happened last week, and I am pleased to announce that the winner is – Peter M.!

After getting a total of 13 entries, we went to www.random.org and it kicked out lucky #7 – which was the entry for Peter M., so Peter, congratulations on winning the Tech Table!  Please contact me via email (jason <AT> canonblogger.com so we can coordinate shipping!  Thanks to everyone for participating, and special thanks to the folks at Savage Paper for their generous contribution.

For those of you that didn’t get a chance to participate, please do take a minute to look at this really cool table – it’s probably one of the best tables available for everything from product demonstrations to tethered shooting, and much more!  Here’s the video again in case you missed the review the first time!

In other news, I have a new eBook coming out in another week or so.  The final touches are in progress, but this is still tightly under wraps.  About the only thing that I can share right now is that it is coming.  Some more news should be coming out shortly, announcing the topic, and giving a little sneak peak on what you can look forward to in this latest eBook.  For now, if you’d like to browse through my current offerings, check out the library here.

The New Years Special that’s going on right now is a promo where you can get both of the 49 Photo Tips – (Vols I and II), for a discounted price of $10.  You can also use this special Buy Now button below if you want to just check out from here:

 Buy Now

Until tomorrow – Happy New Year and happy shooting!