Thursday, January 7, 2016

The KPS T5 Geared Ballhead

A short time ago a good friend of mine Ken Doo wrote an extensive review of the T5 on his blog titled, “The KPS T5 Geared Ballhead: In Search of the Elusive White Unicorn”  I suggest that you read this at some point.


Up until several months ago I had been shooting the majority of my landscape work with a technical camera; one that demanded precision in every aspect of setting.  During this same period I used an Arca Swiss Cube with great results.  The Cube allows for quick, easy and precise adjustments with a load capacity of 85 lbs. (38.5 kg)  The only downside was the weight and physical size.

One other downside to the Cube is that due to its form, I used it primarily for landscape and nature; while it could be used for wildlife in a pinch you’re much better off with a ballhead. I quickly ordered a geared Arca-Swiss d4 shortly after it was released thinking that it would be a great companion head to the Cube that would allow me the quickness of a ballhead and geared movement of the Cube.  Sadly it didn’t work out for me and I quickly sold it. The d4 was replaced with a Really Right Stuff BH-40 Ballhead having a load capacity of 18 lbs.(8 kg) that has remained my principal ballhead for any quick movement photography.

I ended up selling the Cube shortly after I sold the technical camera and reverted to using the BH-40 for all my tripod work however I found I missed being able to set the level adjustments quickly and began rethinking a geared head for my Phase One XF.  Ken had attempted to get me interested in the KPS T5 last year at our annual workshop however at the time I was still using the tech camera and Cube and figured that if it wasn’t broke why fix it.  This was also before Phase One released the new and improved XF body which made me rethink my shooting gear.

I contacted Legio Aerium late last year in an attempt to try their T5 however I quickly found that they didn’t have any in stock and as a matter of fact the T5 was being tweaked for a new, updated design.  I was however informed that I would be able to try out the new design as soon as it became available; which is now.

The rest of this will be my initial thoughts of the T5.

I received the T5 yesterday and due to other commitments haven’t had a chance to really try it outside of the studio.  That said, I like it.  A lot.

I installed the RRS TH-DVTL-40 Round Dovetail Plate to the bottom of the T5.  This plate allows me to quickly attach a head to my tripod and something I have on all my tripods and bottom of all the heads.

After installing the plate I also installed a RRS B2-AS-II lever-release clamp on the top.

KPS offers a wide choice of ballhead setups and I chose the KPS T5 Geared Ballhead (without clamp) as I already had a RRS clamp that I’ve been using with great success.

The photo at the beginning shows a side by side comparison between the RRS BH40 and KPS T5 both of which are set up the way I will be using them.  The only thought is that I might also add a RRS PC-LR panning clamp as I’m use to that particular workflow.

Did I mention I like the T5?  Well in case you missed it I do.  It’s slightly taller than the BH-40 and weighs a couple ounces more with a load capacity 0f 88 lbs. (40 kg) however what it offers over a regular ballhead is immense. While I’m still getting used to it I see a vast improvement of leveling over a regular ballhead.  Trying to get a precise level with a regular ballhead can take 2-hands (one to hang on to the camera while the other attempts to find a level without jerking the entire system) and several minutes.  The first time I placed the Phase One XF on the T5 I felt that it was very sturdy (the same as the BH-40) however the difference came in leveling.  I found the leveling aspect very similar to the Cube and achieved perfect level in seconds; plus I wasn’t worried the camera would fall over in the process. I see the T5 becoming my primary head as it more than satisfies the dual role of quick action ballhead and the precision needed in landscape.

This will become the first part of a multi-part blog regarding the KPS T5 as I’m heading to the Salton Sea area in a couple weeks which is where I’ll get a great chance to kick the tires and really try this ballhead out.

Did I mention I like it?  And yes, barring any unforeseen issues I plan on not sending it back and will in fact buy it.

Now go read Ken’s blog on the KSP T5.



I had thought that I would have to wait a couple of days to really put the T5 to a test however I found myself using it the day after I wrote the above.  I ended up shooting an interior and used the T5 with my Phase One XF.  Without any thought of what I was doing I set the camera up much as I would have when I still used the Cube.  Very simple and without any real effort.  It wasn't until an hour or so later that it dawned on me what I had done and just how easy it was.
The sign of a great piece of gear is the ability to use it with little to no concern and get the shoot.  Which I did.
You can guess the rest.  I ended up asking for an invoice which I promptly paid.  The T5 is now mine.  Yes, it's that good!




Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Winter at the South Rim with a Sony A7rII

Same image
FE24-70 at 35mm
f/10 1/400 ISO 50
We recently spent several days visiting the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Late December and we were blessed with heavy clouds, dense fog, extreme cold, snow and we can’t forget about the high winds.  Most, if not all conditions for great landscape photography.

We’ve shared what Don was able to do with the Phase One XF, IQ180 medium format system he uses, this will highlight what the new Sony A7rII can do. 
Don standing on the edge near Mather Point
FE24-70 at 37mm
f/8 1/400 ISO 50
Sandy standing at the Abyss.  The fog and clouds rolled in as well as the wind.
Phase One XF, IQ180, Schneider LS35mm
The first couple days were so socked in that we began to wonder if we’d see the inside of the Canyon.  While we couldn’t see the Canyon we did experience several locations in the trees where the combination of snow and fog made for near perfect shooting conditions and couldn’t pass it up.

There’s a stand of trees at the intersection of South Entrance Road and Desert View Drive (actually on Desert View Drive).  The Park Service did a prescribed burn several years ago and we’ve been watching as it comes back to life.  Conditions were near perfect this trip with dense fog shrouding the trees.
 As shared on Instagram f/4.0 1/160 ISO 50

FE24-70-at 24mm f/4 1/160 ISO 50

FE 90mm f/4 1/160 ISO 50

Enjoying what we did at the burn area we decided to venture into the forest that is near the Canyon and weren’t disappointed. 

Ever wonder what was around the next bend in the road?  So did we….
As shared on Instagram
FE24-70 at 59mm f/4.5 1/160 ISO 50
As shared on Instagram
f/6.3 1/160 ISO 50
As shared on Instagram
f/6.3 1/160 ISO 50
The fog lifted, the snow stopped and the clouds parted to show the Grand Canyon in all her majestic beauty. 
Hopi Point Overlook
FE16-35 at 35mm f/13 1/200 ISO 50

As shared on Instagram
The Abyss
FE24-70 at 24mm f/11 1/320 ISO 50
Grand Canyon Storm
Hermit Rest Overlook
FE24-70 at 70mm f/11 1/320 ISO 50
On the Edge
FE24-70 at 24mm f/8 1/400 ISO 50

Four days at the South Rim experiencing just about every type of winter weather and we couldn’t ask for better.
We’ve met so many people while working at the South Rim that were disappointed because they couldn’t see into the Canyon.  Don’t be like these people, if you can’t see inside the Canyon look for the beauty that’s just outside the rim.  Also if you plan a winter trip expect to run into snow, dense fog, road closures etc.  If you can try to spend a little extra time just in case; there’s nothing worse than having to leave hours before the show begins.

This was our last trip of 2015.  We’ve got several neat trips planned for 2016 among them the Salton Sea, California Redwoods, Valley of the Gods and Monument Valley as well as Sedona and a month shooting in Montana, so stay tuned.
Happy New Year to everyone and we hope you have a safe enjoyable year.
Sandy & Don 


We wanted to wrap this post up with a few thoughts on the Sony A7rII.  First we like it. A lot. The camera performed flawlessly both at the Grand Canyon and the previous month at Bryce.  Both trips we encountered extreme cold and in some cases very unpleasant shooting conditions.  Battery life was more than good.  Likewise autofocus using a battery of lenses ranging from the FE16-35, FE24-70 and FE90 all worked as advertised.  We often gave out way before the camera did due to the extreme conditions.  There were a couple instances where the battery was exhausted and shut the camera down however this was due more to a human error of not watching the level than to a technical error.  There were no malfunctions during either trip.  And Sandy found that due to the ergonomics of the camera she was able to work and handle the camera much easier than the older A7r. In short, the Sony A7r II is a great addition to our kit.  





Saturday, January 2, 2016

Shooting the Schneider LS 35mm lens

Along Mather Point Rim
f/4.5 1/100 ISO 35
First a little back ground – I used a Cambo WRS technical camera for over 8-years as my primary method of capturing landscape images.  I also supplemented the Cambo first with a Leica M9 before switching back to a Phase One DF until the new and greatly improved XF body was released.  Phase One has upped their game with the release of the Schneider LS 75-150 and 40-80 zoom lenses that offer great image quality (both of which I now own).  I don’t want to forget about the 240LS nor the older 28D which I save for special occasions.
f/3.5 1/125 ISO 50
My primary lens on the Cambo WRS was the beautiful Rodenstock 40mm HR with tilt/swing.  I felt I would be using this combination for years to come; that is until the release of the Schneider LS 35mm.  This lens was a game changer for me.  While it lacks tilt/swing the image quality is as good as any technical lens I’ve used in the past.
f/3.5 1/200 ISO 50

The 35LS is so good I used the Cambo to finance buying it; so now I am only using one system to capture landscape, the new Phase One XF body and a choice of superior lenses.
As seen on Instagram
3-shot panorama on tripod
f/8 1/15 ISO 35
The above image has been printed at 40x60 and is stunning.
I had the opportunity to really put the 35LS through its paces in December during a weeklong shoot at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. While I also carried the 40-80 and 75-150, the lens I used the most was the 35LS.  And rightfully so as the Grand Canyon screams for wide angle. (all images posted here were captured using the Schneider LS 35mm.)
As seen on Instagram
f/3.5 1/100 ISO 50

Let me address one thing.  Yes I also have the 40-80LS which by itself is a beautiful lens that comes at a cost.  Weight.  The lens weighs 4.1 lbs 65 oz (1860g).  Compared to the 40-80 the 35LS is a lightweight at 3.02 lbs (1370g).  The 35LS has the same filter size, same dimensions, yet is slightly faster and weighs almost a full pound less.  The slightly wider angle of coverage and lighter weight make this a great walk around lens.  I used the 40-80 in Bryce Canyon walking/hiking there for several miles and at the end of the day felt it.  Using the 35LS in the Grand Canyon and again walking/hiking several miles per day I could tell the difference.
As seen on Instagram
f/4.0 1/200 ISO 35
Talking about how much the individual lens weighs is okay but I’d be more interested in how much the XF, IQ180 and lens weighs so I weighed them.  The XF and the IQ180 weighs in at 5 pounds (2.26kg); put the 40-80LS and it weighs 9.2 pounds (4.17kg) while the 35LS weighs in at 8.2 (3.71kg).  The weight difference might not seem like much but after 2-miles it adds up.

As seen on Instagram
3-shot panorama
f/8 1/100 ISO 35
The above image is now the largest panorama we’ve offered at 80x40 (203x101 cm).
The 35LS is a welcome addition to my kit and will be used when I need to go wide and fast as well as when I need it walk around.
I wish to thank a good friend Dave Gallagher CEO of Capture Integration who has helped me keep my dream alive.  You can look however you'll not find a better camera dealer.
Happy New Year to everyone.