Monday, March 28, 2011

Cambo Wide Compact

I still remember Michael Reichmann's article of the Cambo WDS which he titled "Working with the World's Most Expensive Digital Point-&-Shoot" as this article lead me into the wonderful world of Cambo cameras. I also remember watching a later video of Mr. Reichmann leaning over the side of a rubber boat in the Artic capturing images with the WDS handheld.

Rear View

Fast-forward to the Fall of 2008 and I've just returned from a 30-day shoot in Alaska using my Mamiya 645 and Phase One P30+.  I decided on this trip that I wanted/needed a better system to capture my landscape images and decided on a technical camera.  I contacted my friends at Capture Integration and asked to borrow a Cambo WDS to test.  Everything was going smoothly until just before they were to ship the camera, lens and a P45+ to me; the WDS was now unavailable; however they had a new WRS so it was shipped instead.  I took the WRS, a Schneider 35mm lens and P45+ to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in October of 2008 and within a matter of hours my fate was sealed.  I called Capture Integration and ended up keeping the WRS and lens and trading my P30+ for a new P45+ and have never looked back.  Within 6-months of buying the Cambo I sold all my Mamiya gear to include the body and all the lenses.  Later on I decided to test the WDS against the WRS and was then able to do so and wrote about it here.  Again after testing the two side by side I still favored the WRS.  All this brings us to the Cambo Wide Compact.

Front View

I've seen the Compact advertised on Cambo's website for sometime however while there are page after page of information on the WDS and WRS with just as many images there is virtually nothing offered on the Compact; it's almost as if this camera was more myth than reality. This lack of information and the fact that I've not been shy about promoting Cambo lead me to want to try to get a Compact and see for myself what this camera was all about.

Side View (Rear)

WRS versus the Compact.

WRS 6.10"x6.49" (155x165m) 1.2 kgs (42.32 ounces)
Compact 6.49"x5.90" (165x150m) 700 grams (24.69 (ounces)

The Compact is slightly over 1 pound lighter while being very close to the same physical size.
Top View

There are more differences between the WRS and Compact; the WRS offers both horizontal and vertical shits while the Compact offers none. Both camera bodies use the same lenspanels so lenses with the swing-tilt fit both.

I was very excited to test the camera and looked forward to doing so.

I received the camera last Monday (March 21st) and immediately set about to use it with my Schneider lenses and P45+. I need to step back a moment and explain what I use to capture my landscape images. As the Phase One P45+ needs a wakeup cable to turn on the back, I use a Kapture Group One Shot Cable Release (PHA-001). The One Shot connects the lens to the back and allows me by cocking the shutter and pressing the shutter release to communicate with the P45+ to wake it up for image capture. It's very easy and I've had no problems using this system.

35mm lens with woman's hand for reference
The fly in the ointment is the integrated shutter release that comes with the Compact. It doesn't play well at all with the One Shot. I contacted Capture Integration and Cambo about this hoping that they have another cable that would work and today I received the following.

"The Copal shutter actually needs only a few millimeter to be triggered. The handgrip of the compact has been designed onceto be operated with an internal cable release, operated with a simple short push of an index finger, instead of the long travel of an“original” traditional cable release operated with a thumb. That is what the customer base wanted. The first design was indeed with a normal long cable release, but that is impossible to operate with an index finger, as either you have to reach high to get there first and then have lot of loose travel before final capture, while this way you can have instant capture, as they wished for.
If Kapture-Group has a product that requires much more “throw” than the integrated cable release of the handgrip offers, the only solution is to use this cable outside of the integrated one, but as is, we can not use it internally. You can also ask Kapture Group for a cable release
with a shorter throw. Sometimes designs are what they are for different reasons than applicable for others..."

So, with this news any hopes of a meaningful test are now gone.

All isn't lost however. The rest of the reply from Cambo included this...

"At the other hand, we have just introduced a set of wooden handgrips for the WideRS, which make handheld shooting much more comfortable than with the original aluminium grips. These wooden grips will take the original long-throw cable release also."

35mm lens with my hand for reference

I want to state that if I had been shooting with a Phase One P65 or one of the newer IQ backs I'd have had no problems as neither back require a wakeup and I would have just connected the cable diretly to the lens and off I'd go.

Who do I think the Compact is best sutied for? I'd say someone who has a WDS and wanted a more compact camera and didn't need the ability of shifts.

I want to make it perfectly clear that the Compact is a well made camera and were it not for the problem I have with it not working well with the Kapture Group I'd like even more than I already do. Then again if I had a slightly newer Phae One back I wouldn't even know this was a issue.

The Compact felt very good in my hands and I really like the idea of adding a wodden grip to the WRS. I've asked if the wooden handle will be somthing we might be able to add to a current WRS so stay tuned for the answer.

Even though I wasn't able to actually use the Compact I feel better because there now is at least more information and more images then before.

Please leave a comment if you have any questions.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

NIK Software HDR Efex Pro (64bit)

I've been working with the software for several days on my Dell Precision 690 quad core, 52 GB RAM main studio computer. I'm also running two-Dell 30" monitors on a NVIDA Quadro NVS 450. This should set the stage for the following information...

I've been working on images we've shot of the 2011 Ford F150 SVT Raptor and in some of the images I've been using the HDR Efex Pro. My best workflow I've developed is to open the image from Bridge into ACR the into CS5 (the images were shot using either a Canon 1DsIII or Leica M9). Once the image is open in CS5 I clean-up any dust spots I find then add a layer prior to going to "Filter", "Nik Software" and opening "HRD Efex Pro". Once in HDR Efex Pro I find the best suitable preset and begin working on the image then hit the "OK" button. Once the software gets done churning it opens in the layer. Working in layers is best for me as I can then tweak the image to suit where it wants to go.

Once you press the OK button you get a "Saving image" dialog that runs across the screen where the image once was. The process of saving takes several minutes and I've been curious as to what resources are being used while this is taking place. So, using Windows Task Manager I found that while for most of the time the CPU Usage stayed around 30% the closer it got to being completed the more resources it needed until a peak of 98% was shown. The Physical Memory Usage History remained somewhat level peaking at close to 9GB. This is for a 20x30 (300 ppi) image.

Just wanted to share my unofficial findings; let me know if anyone has any questions. I've included a copy of the image I tracked.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

We're Back!

After being down for a week while the studio flooring was laid we are now officially operating again.

We've started working on the images from our latest trip to Yosemite and Death Valley where we had snow at both places!

We're also starting to take images of Ford's new kick-butt truck, the 2011 F150 SVT Raptor. While not strictly photo gear (it does have a backup camera and can qualify as a camera bag) you nevertheless need a vehicle that will get you "out there" and back. I thought the Jeep Rubicon was good however I'm now having second thoughts so stay tuned for a brief review and images.

We've got a lot of work ahead in the coming weeks and the plan is to start posting our trip and gear results shortly so please stay tuned.

Things to look forward to are images from Yosemite where I used the Lee Filter 75 system there to shoot a small waterfall. Death Valley where we had a mini blizzard at the Race Track. And of course at least one post of the Ford F 150 SVT Raptor. I'll also be testing the Cambo Compact which if it turns out as well as I expect I will buy it.

I've got a trip planed for June to shoot in and around Comb Ridge near Bluff Utah before meeting Ken Doo at Page for Slot Canyons and more fun.

I want to mention that Capture Integration is planning a full-day training on "Capture One 6 Pro and Technical Fundamentals of Photography" across the country this year and will be in Phoenix AZ May 12th. Visit Capture Integration's website for further information.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Canvas Wrap Preparation

I like the looks of a gallery wrap for my canvas images and have gotten requests to explain the process so I thought I'd post it here. Although there are several actions available to do this I've found that I get better results and more satisfaction doing it my way. Your mileage may differ..

I use either heavy duty or medium duty stretcher bars depending on the image size. The heavy duty wrap adds approximately 5" to the image size while a medium duty adds approximately 4". I also cheat. If I have an image that's 30x20 (9000x6000 at 300dpi) I first increase the size to 30.15x20.1 (9045x6030 at 300dpi). I want that slight increase in image size to allow for a better finished image after stretching; besides I'll be using Glamour II to protect the canvas and there's some slight shrinkage and this just helps.

Father Crowley Point, Death Valley

The next step is to increase the canvas size to the size needed to accommodate the stretcher bars; in this case we'll use medium duty as an example. The 30.15x20.1 needs to be increased to 34.15x24.1.  Click on Image, drop down to Canvas Size making sure that Relative box is checked and add 4" to both the Width and Height.  You should now have a 2" border around the image.

I need to stop here and explain this is the very last thing you've done prior to the actual printing thus you need to begin this process with a flatten image file.

Okay back to the process...

Your background image in layers should now show the image with the white border which is the same as you working image. Drag the background image down to the icon directly to the left of the trash can which will add a second layer named "Background copy".

I normally work top and bottom then left and right.

Going to the tools pallet click on the Rectangular Marquee Tool. Using this tool go to the top of your image and dropping down ever so slightly, begin to open the box from left to right the full length of the image and approximately 2" down. Next go to Edit, Free Transform and click in the lower middle of the box dragging it upwards. You should see the image being moved in a mirror effect toward the top. Click on the check mark to okay the move. Click Control D (I'm on a PC) to deselect the tool. Do the same for the bottom opening the Rectangular Marquee Tool along the bottom then using the top of the box in Free Transform move the selection down into the white border and click okay. If you end up with a thin white line between the image and what you just mirrored redo your Rectangular Marquee Tool to just slightly inside the image and try again.

By now your background copy image should show the top and bottom being mirrored and you're left with the left and right white borders. What you need to do is one of either next step. The choice is yours. You can either flatten the image or going to Image and Duplicate, duplicate the image. I've done both. Either way you need to flatten the image to work on the sides.

Once you're ready to work on the sides you should again have a flatten image and just the background image showing. Duplicate the background making a copy of it.

The process of adding to the image is the same as what you've done to the top and bottom. By the time you're finished you should now have added a mirror 2" border all the way around your image and your image size should be 34.15x24.1. You should see some mirroring effect to the image however that shouldn't be a problem as you're looking at the side where the image is wrapped. If the mirror effect is bothersome then you might need to do a little cleanup using cloning or other effects.

Finished image
You might see a thin white line where the image wasn't copied onto the mirror side. This can be easily fixed using either a clone or fill action or left alone if it'll be on the rear of the image after stretching; this is where your experience will come into play with the more you do it the more you'll know.

As I said in the beginning, this process has worked well for me and I print over 80% of my images on canvas using an Epson 9800.

I hope this helps.