T R I E D - A N D -T R U E T R I O

Pho­tog­ra­pher Leon Rose heads out on a shoot with three ver­sa­tile pieces to his kit — a tried-and-true trio that al­lows him to stay ag­ile while re­main­ing pre­pared for any pho­to­graphic con­tin­gency

New Zealand D-Photo - - GEARDUCATED -

No mat­ter how well you may plan or try to con­trol a sit­u­a­tion, there will al­ways be an el­e­ment of the un­ex­pected in pho­tog­ra­phy. That’s one of the big ap­peals to many pho­tog­ra­phers. With the right kind of a gear, you can be ready to take ad­van­tage of those un­fore­seen mo­ments and de­liver great im­ages no mat­ter the con­di­tions. But you can’t carry ev­ery­thing. So, I’m look­ing at three pieces of gear to see if they can do the job of many oth­ers — that is, clever and ef­fi­cient equip­ment that won’t over­bur­den my kit bag.

ONE-STOP POR­TRAIT GLASS The first thing I no­ticed when I un­wrapped the Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art lens was the 1130g weight. It boasts a lot of glass — 13 el­e­ments in 10 groups — and it feels like it. This is a big plus for me. I have al­ways loved heavy kit, be­cause I find it eas­ier to keep steady. But if you are a smaller pho­tog­ra­pher do­ing a lot of lo­ca­tion por­traits, you might find this lens a bit heavy for hand­held work over long pe­ri­ods. Es­sen­tially, this is a por­trait lens with a lovely abil­ity to per­form bokeh ef­fects. Ad­mit­tedly, it’s very hard to fault. To my sur­prise, I found it can also shoot close to macro, with the clos­est focal dis­tance be­ing 87.5cm. I did have to ad­just to a dif­fer­ent way of work­ing be­cause of its fo­cus-lim­iter switch when shoot­ing close up. The fo­cus-lim­iter has three op­tions: 0.875m to in­fin­ity, 1.5m to in­fin­ity, and full range — a great func­tion once you get your head around it, al­low­ing for faster, more ac­cu­rate fo­cus­ing. The an­gle of view at 135mm is per­fect for por­traits — and this lens is pin-sharp. On my first test day, I shot a se­ries of por­traits and still-life im­ages at a mag­nif­i­cent English-style gar­den at River­head. Not only is the lens ex­tremely sharp, but its fo­cus speed and ac­cu­racy are also very im­pres­sive. I tested it through its aper­ture range of f/1.8–16 suc­cess­fully. How­ever, you just can’t help but open up and use that beau­ti­ful bokeh ef­fect. I also tested the lens’s abil­ity to han­dle back­light by shoot­ing straight into the sun and found that it coped ex­cep­tion­ally well, both in fo­cus­ing ac­cu­rately and de­liv­er­ing ac­cu­rate light me­ter­ing from my point of fo­cus. I rec­om­mend this lens, es­pe­cially if you are a por­trait shooter and not afraid of heav­ier kit. I’m think­ing I might part com­pany with my 85mm f/1.8 and my 100mm L-se­ries macro and step up to one of these.

A STA­BLE EN­VI­RON­MENT For an all-in­one tri­pod with a ball-head op­tion for great flex­i­bil­ity that’s small and light enough to take any­where, the Van­guard Alta Pro 2 263 AB100 tri­pod is worth a look. I car­ried out two test shoots with the AB100: some close-ups of flow­ers and leaves at the gar­den in Al­bany, and a stu­dio test, us­ing the over­head po­si­tion. The tri­pod is an alu­minium build and the weight (7kg) is per­fect for ease of use on lo­ca­tion and dur­ing travel but not so light as to be a dan­ger to your equip­ment. The cen­tral col­umn of­fers as many op­tions as you could want to po­si­tion your camera in. Us­ing just one tight­en­ing knob, you can po­si­tion your camera from 0- to 90-de­grees above or be­low the cen­tral col­umn po­si­tion, and, us­ing the cen­tral col­umn ad­just­ment knob, you can freely ro­tate any­where in a 360-de­gree ro­ta­tion. The ro­ta­tion knob is firm and easy to ad­just. The ro­ta­tion guides (in 2x180-de­gree in­cre­ments) would be very use­ful for

panoramic stitches, but, when us­ing the tri­pod on lo­ca­tion, I was al­ways try­ing to use the wrong knob to re­lease the ball and read­just. Al­though this is some­thing that I would get used to, the ten­sion ad­just­ment felt un­nec­es­sary and con­fus­ing. The not-so-sim­ple three-legged de­vice of­fers mas­sive ver­sa­til­ity, par­tic­u­larly due to the build of its legs, which have three sec­tions with two ad­just­ment locks. The rub­ber lock turns eas­ily and firmly with a good grip and only re­quires a 90-de­gree turn to lock and un­lock. This is, by far, the best lock­ing sys­tem that I have used. It’s com­fort­able and locks into place firmly and eas­ily. If you are look­ing for an all-in-one pack­age that suits lo­ca­tion and in­door pho­tog­ra­phy, the AB100 is a great op­tion.

LIGHT­WEIGHT LIGHT Last, but ab­so­lutely not least, I played with one of my long-time favourites: the Lume Cube — a fan­tas­tic piece of kit to have on you at all times. I al­ready own one of these and have been plan­ning to get a sec­ond one for a while. It looks like a small LED in a cube shape, but it does so much more. With a 1.5x1.5-inch LED, it boasts an im­pres­sive 1500-lu­men out­put and Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity — but its real trick is act­ing as both a con­tin­u­ous video light and as a flash. The cube weighs only 100g, is shock­proof and wa­ter­proof to 30m, and throws light out in a 60-de­gree beam. The real tech­nol­ogy is ac­cessed via the cube’s app: there is a free ver­sion and a pro ver­sion, which gives you con­trol of up to five units at a time. With the app, you have con­trol of the power out­put in bright­ness and the du­ra­tion of the strobe, from 1/8000 of a sec­ond to 30 min­utes. Also, you can set it to con­tin­u­ous or 0.5–10Hz out­put. The app also gives the abil­ity to turn each unit on or off sep­a­rately, and you can also use red-eye mode and turn the Opto trig­ger on from here. The Opto trig­ger can sense an ex­ter­nal flash-head fir­ing and uses its strobe func­tion as a slave flash, al­low­ing you to carry a Speed­light and a Lume Cube or two as a light­ing kit any­where you go. The cube has a built-in lithium-ion poly­mer recharge­able bat­tery, which is charged via

USB. You will get about 40 min­utes at full power, or two hours at 50-per-cent power, but I found that if I pow­ered them off small power banks, the time was un­lim­ited. The thing I love the most about these is their size. You can take them any­where and al­ways have a light source. If you carry a power bank around with you, it’s an easy process to recharge, even with­out AC power, thanks to the USB recharge port. I bought my first Lume Cube to help me shoot a food event where the client spec­i­fied keep­ing the moody look of Clooney restau­rant. I popped the Lume Cube on my camera via a hot-shoe at­tach­ment and shot on 2000 ISO, wide open all night. The im­ages looked great and no hard flash was re­quired. All in all, I think these lit­tle guys are a must-have in­no­va­tion. They are not ex­pen­sive and can get you out of some re­ally tight spots. All three of these pieces of equip­ment were a great com­ple­ment to my all-round shoot­ing style, al­low­ing me to shoot with ver­sa­til­ity in a range of sit­u­a­tions, from out­door still life to stu­dio pho­tog­ra­phy. IM­AGE 1 CANON EOS 5D MARK III, SIGMA 135MM F/1.8 DG HSM ART LENS, 135MM, F/4.0, 1/500S, ISO 200

IM­AGE 2 CANON EOS 5D MARK III, SIGMA 135MM F/1.8 DG HSM ART LENS, 135MM, F/1.8, 1/640S, ISO 125

CANON EOS 5D MARK III IM­AGE 3 CANON EOS 5D MARK III, SIGMA 135MM F/1.8 DG HSM ART LENS, 135MM, F/1.8, 1/100S, ISO 200

SIGMA 135MM F/ 1.8 DG HSM ART LENS IM­AGE 4 CANON EOS 5D MARK III, SIGMA 135MM F/1.8 DG HSM ART LENS, 135MM, F/1.8, 1/2500S, ISO 1000 (PRO­CESSED WITH NIK COLOR EFEX PRO 4)

LUME CUBE IM­AGE 5 CANON EOS 5D MARK III, SIGMA 135MM F/1.8 DG HSM ART LENS, 135MM, F/2.8, 1/30S, ISO 800, WITH LUME CUBE

VAN­GUARD ALTA PRO 2 263 AB100 TRI­POD IM­AGE 6 CANON EOS 5D MARK III, SIGMA 135MM F/1.8 DG HSM ART LENS, 135MM, F/5.6, 1/60S, ISO 320, WITH LUME CUBE

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