Monday, March 31, 2014

Tethering a Surface Pro 2 to a technical camera

Fire Wave Pano, Valley of Fire State Park, NV
Simply stated, tethering refers to connecting one device to another.  In this case using a Microsoft Surface Pro 2 and a Phase One IQ160 tethered together using a USB3 cable with the IQ160 connected to a technical camera; a Cambo WRS. 
On June 18, 2012 Steve Ballmer announced a new tablet from Microsoft called either the Surface RT or the Surface Pro.  Both tablets ran a version of Windows and were offered either with a ARM CPU (Windows RT for the Surface RT) or Intel Ivy Bridge CPU running Windows 8 on the Surface Pro.  The Surface Pro has a screen of 10.6 inches (27cm) with a 16.9 aspect ration and offered a 1920x1080 display.  Both tablets have Gorilla Glass screens which are scratch and crack-resistant.  The Surface Pro also came with 4-GB dual-channel DDR3-1600 RAM and weighed 2-pounds (910 g).  It also came with 1-USB 3.0 port.
Getting it all set up

My good friend and fellow photographer Ken Doo and I began talking about the new Surface Pro and how we could use it with our Phase One IQ digital backs.  Ken and I are both long term users of Phase One digital backs with me dating back to 2007 with a Phase One P30+ and currently using a IQ160.  Phase One released the IQ series in 2011 with the promise that we'd be able to tether using either IEE1394b Firewire or USB3.  We'd be able to use Firewire for many years and were looking forward to the use of USB3 as well.   To make a long story short, USB 3 while offered was not available for close to 18-months after the initial release of the IQ Backs. 
The delay of Phase One to offer a mature firmware update including the ability to use USB 3 worked out in our favor.  Phase One as a company failed to recognize that including USB 3 in their advertizing lead many to believe it was ready out of the box.  Sadly it wasn't.  The good news was that Phase One kept working on the issues until they were certain what they would offer actually worked.  And it does.
In the meantime Microsoft wasn't sitting idle either.  The new Surface Pro 2 was released October 22, 2013 offering a dual-core 1.9 GHZ Intel Core i5-430U CPU with a selection of either 4 or 8 GB RAM (depending on storage size).   The new Surface Pro 2 is not only faster it offers more memory and a larger storage with either 256 GB or 512 GB disks (there are much smaller/slower available).  The Surface Pro 2 weighs 1.984 pound (900 g). 

While 4 GB RAM might work both Ken and I saw the immediate use of 8 GB and focused our attentions there.  Our conversations normally went like this, "8-GB RAM, either the 256 or 512 disk with the USB 3 tethered to our IQ back (Ken has an IQ180 while I have an IQ160).  The reasons included the ability to run Phase One Capture One software while tethered to a technical camera (we both have a Cambo WRS) that would allow a much larger screen than the IQ has plus the ability to better see the subject with focus-mask and double tapping the screen (both of which we can do on an IQ with a much small screen).  

Ken got his Surface Pro 2 before I had a chance to and has a well documented blog on it here.  I got my just last month. 
Checking the capture
I took the Surface Pro 2 with me to Jackson Hole WY where I thought if conditions were right I'd try it there; sadly they weren't.  Stopping in Valley of Fire and hiking out to Fire Wave proved excellent conditions to try the new tethering system out.  And as Ken has stated this is a real game changer.

When using a technical camera you're faced with several choices on how you might capture an image.  Set the system up and shoot blindly checking the result on the screen on the back; much like hunt and peck which has served me well for many years.  Another option is much slower and can offer some danger.  Using a groundglass you must remove the digital back replacing it with the groundglass.  Using the groundglass you then can focus and frame the shot.  You then need to remove the groundglass and replace your digital back; slow and in some cases if there's high winds dangerous to both the digital back and the rear element of the lens.  Actually for this reason alone I don't use my groundglass when faced with high winds or inclement weather like rain/snow/dust.  The third option is tethering.  Tethering is often used inside a studio where the camera is connect to either a studio computer/monitor(s) (mine weighs close to 40 pounds) or a laptop (mine weighs close to 5 plus pounds).  In the field such as Fire Wave, tethering to either type computers is just a non starter.  Until Microsoft introduced the Surface Pro and in turn Pro 2 there wasn't a system available offering either Firewire or USB 3 that was small enough to fit the requirements. 
Sitting down on the job
I found setting up the camera much the same as I normal would.  Open the tripod, locking the camera on it.  Setting up the Surface Pro 2 took slightly longer (first time in the field) however it was much faster than if I were using the groundglass.  Once I had everything set up it simply took me turning on the Surface Pro 2 then the IQ and waiting a couple seconds for both to connect.  I then framed the shot and closed the shutter and within 5-seconds I had the image displayed both on the IQ as well as the tablet.  The huge difference was the screen size.  I later decided to move to another location several hundred feet away and simply picked up the tripod holding the camera and tablet and moved to the new location and within seconds was able to capture another image. 

First capture

Sitting down
One additional thought; Phase One recently announced a firmware update allowing live view via USB3.  This allows you the same ability of live view when tethered.  While live view is still quirky with medium format; mainly due to the senor type it does offer some advantage and using it on the Surface Pro 2 was much better than viewing off the much small LCD of the back.

Fire Wave Pano was captured after I moved several hundred yards and sat down; its a 3-shot pano all captured tethered using the Surface Pro 2 and Phase One IQ160 digital back.
Ken and I will be working on refining the tethering process in the coming months with Capture Integration looking over our shoulders. I recommend staying tuned to Ken Doo Photography, Capture Integration and of course here for more updates.
Thanks for visiting and please stay tuned for more updates.





Sunday, March 16, 2014

Jackson Hole Wyoming in March

Phase One DF/IQ160 240LS

Phase One DF/IQ160 240LS

Sony A7r 24-70 (44mm)

Sony A7r 24-70 (45mm)
This is the first time Sandy & I have visited Jackson Hole in March having been here in early January and February.  We've come to the conclusion that this time of the year is more a "black and white period" than anything else.

Sony A7r 24-70 (60mm)

Sony A7r 55mm
We've been here a week and have seen very little wildlife and what we've seen is just too far away to photograph. So we're left with landscape which isn't bad by any means.  The skies have been cooperating with blues and white clouds.  Looking closer to earth we have snow.  Lots of snow.  The trees are bare with the exception of a coating of snow and in many ways the scene looks monotone.
Sony A7r 24-70 (70mm)

Sony NEX7 18-200 (200mm)

Sony A7r 24-70 (70mm)
We aren't complaining by any means because the past week has been enjoyable visiting locations that have become our friends.  Kelly, Shadow Mountain, Moran, Moose, Alpine, Wilson and of course Grand Teton National Park.
Sony A7r 24-70 (70mm)

Sony A7r 55mm

Sony A7r 55mm
This past week we've been fortunate to see the snow covered Tetons on both clear and cloudy days, watching as the clouds move across the peaks.  We've also been able to sit and watch the snow as it blew off the peaks making what looked like smoke signals.
Phase One DF/IQ 160 240LS
Last time we were here Don was attempting to make up his mind on whether or not the new 240LS lens and 2x converter fit in his shooting style (it does and he now owns both).  Likewise Sandy took delivery of the new Sony A7r along with the FE 55mm lens.  Since then she's added the new 24-70 lens.  Surprisingly, Don liked the Sony so much he bought one for himself as a small walk-around and using both the FE55mm and FE35mm lenses.
Phase One DF/IQ160 240LS

Phase One DF/IQ160 240LS

Sony A7r 24-70 (70mm)
So while we've been here a short 7-days we've accomplished much.  Landscape photography will always be our first love and we've been able to embrace that feeling throughout our stay so far.
Sony A7r 24-70 (36mm)

Sony A7r 55mm

Sony NEX7 18-200 (140mm)
We also have some good news to report.  Our very good friends at Capture Integration, Dave & Christine Gallagher are now Sony dealers!  If you think you want the new Sony A7 or A7r or any of the new full frame lenses that Sony/Zeiss has for this camera (remember it works equally well with Nikon, Canon and Leica glass) we recommend contacting Capture Integration.
We're here for another week or so so stay tuned for more.
Sandy & Don