Category Archives Photo Gear

Nikon introduced two new cameras today and some lenses:


(1) The Nikon D300s
As expected, it has lots of video features, including built-in HD video capabilities (720p), a stereo mic input, in-camera video editing features, auto-focus, and it has a dual card slot so you can shoot stills to a Compact Flash card, and send your video to an SD card. (Image shown above: courtesy of Nikon).

On the still side: it shoots more frames per second (7 fps, or 8 with the battery grip); it has dedicated buttons for Live View (great for switching to video quickly) and the Info Screen (like some of the Nikon’s recently released models), and a “Quiet Drive” mode for shooting in situations where you want the camera to make as little noise as possible (weddings, wildlife, etc.). Also, the D300s got the same Multi-Selector wheel as the D3/D700, which is a step up, and it includes the Virtual Horizon feature from the D3/D700 as well.

You can resize and process Raw images from within the camera (it comes with four built-in presets), it has built-in sensor cleaning, and a few other bells and whistles.

I don’t know if the noise is reduced yet, but will report as soon as I call my contacts at Nikon (and no—Nikon did not call me with a heads up, or early info on the camera. I read about it this morning along with everybody else).

The Street Price should be around $1,799.

Here’s the link with more details from Nikon USA.


(2) The Nikon D3000
At seems like this is a Nikon D5000 but without the video capabilities, and I believe it looks to be a replacement for the D60, but I haven’t heard anything official on it. (Image shown above: courtesy of Nikon).

The street price will be around $599.

Here’s the link with more details from Nikon USA.


They also introduced two new lenses as well:


The 70-200mm VR II f/2.8
A newly redesigned version of the lens I probably use more than any other. The new VR II is supposed to give you an additional 4-stops of low light hand holding, and it’s supposed to be sharper, particularly at the edges on FX (full frame) Nikon cameras. The lens is a little shorter than the original, and a tiny bit heavier. (Image shown above: courtesy of Nikon).

It’s set to ship in November at a street price of $2,399 [ed note; Yikes!]

Here’s the link with more details from Nikon USA.


The 18-200mm VR II f/3.5 – f.5.6
Another redesigned version of the lens I probably most for travel photography, when I want one lens and don’t want to switch at all. It’s got the new VR II as well, and it addresses the big complaint of the original, which was that the zoom barrel would sometimes start sliding if you were aiming up or down by adding a zoom lock switch on the lens. (Image shown above: courtesy of Nikon).

The street price will be around $850. It’s set to ship in September.

Here’s the link with more details from Nikon USA.

Last week Mark Astmann from Bogen Imaging came by our studios, and showed us one of the coolest, and most anticipated, new battery-powered strobe systems ever, and well…you’ve just gotta watch the video below to see what all the fuss is about (Note: this is the same kit that Joe McNally was using for his shot of the diver in the water last week at his workshop in St. Lucia).

UPDATE: I just learned that the first shipment of these is due to hit B&H photo any day now, and they’re acceptings orders right now. Here’s the link to the “S” head two-head kit I talked about on the video, but you can find all the Quadra gear there by searching for “Ranger Quadra.”


Nikon has just released a new site, called the “Nikon D-Movie Screening Room” that features high-definition video clips shot entirely with their DSLR’s that have built-in video capabilities (the Nikon D90 and D5000 cameras).

I have to say, it’s pretty amazing to see what can be done, thanks to the ability to use Nikon camera lenses (and the shallow depth of field that the right lens can bring), and if you’ve ever wondered what all the fuss is about on putting video in DSLRs, this will make you a believer. Here’s the link—-take two minutes and check it out.


I’m calling this a “First Look” review because I’ve only gotten one opportunity to really work with this pack, but since I did use it out in the field (I did an on-location shoot for a book project), I wanted to give you my first impressions.

The Problem
If you wanted to take studio lightning on location, you could do it but there two problems:

1. You had to buy special strobe heads that were designed to work with on-location battery packs

2. Good quality location kits are VERY expensive (you were lucky to get a decent single head and a battery pack for around $1,200).

The Dream
Use your own existing regular studio strobes and take them on location. Unfortunately, monoblocks (also called monolights) are strobes that are designed to be plugged right into the wall like any other appliance, so they don’t have a way to plug into a battery pack, so you can’t take your regular studio gear on location, unless there’s a power plug right nearby. The dream is to have your regular gear, anywhere you want it—out on a boat, at the beach, on an island, in the middle of an airplane hanger, on the roof of a hotel, etc.—places where wall plugs aren’t usually found.

The Solution
The solution we found comes from Innvatronix in the Explorer XT Battery Pack, which lets you plug in most regular monolight studio lights right into the pack. That saves you from having to buy special strobe heads to work with your battery packs. In fact, the reason we chose Invatronix was that we read that they work with Elinchrom strobes, which is all we use.

The Test
So we took one of our regular Elincrhom BXRI 500 monolights out to a nearby beach, and we put the Explorer XT on a rock nearby (we didn’t want to actually set it in the sand, though you probably could). We plugged the BXRI in (it has standard 110v sockets) and it worked first time (it supports up to two strobes). It worked great throughout the entire shoot, and recycled very fast. We were relieved it worked as well as promised.

What it Needs Next
Although it worked great in our somewhat limited test (we only did one shoot, and only used one studio strobe), there are two things it really needs to be a success:

  1. It really looks awful. It’s as if no thought whatsoever was given to how the unit itself looks, but to creative people looks matter (I would be somewhat embarrassed for a client to see me show up with one of these).
  2. It’s name, “The Tronix Explorer XT Pure Sine Wave Inverter,” needs some serious work and while it may be a perfectly descriptive name for what it does, it only appeals to Stephen Hawking. You’d have to really be looking for this unit to find it with a non-descriptive name like that

Other than that—-so far, so good.

Where it Totally Rocks
The price. It’s only $394. I know–that rocks!

The Bottomline
I know there are other units showing up on the market, but some want you to use their specific strobes and only warranty the units if you use their strobes, so we were excited when we found these that would specifically work with Elinchroms.  As I use it more and more on upcoming jobs, I’ll let you guys know if my opinion on the Explorer XT changes, but for now it let us do what what we were hoping it would do—-let us use the same studio strobes we’re used to working with day in/day out out on location, and it did it well.

Here’s the link with more info from the Innovatroix Web site.


I’ve been wanting to try out Lastolite’s new Kickerlite ever since I read about it back around the Photokina time frame, and while doing some shoots for my Digital Photography book, Volume 3 , I finally got a chance to use it, and I have to say, it’s surprisingly sweet (and a lot better than I thought it was going to be by just looking at it and reading the description of what it’s supposed to do).


So, here’s how it works: it sits on the floor in front of your subject (as seen above—photo by Brad Moore) and it’s in the shape of a wedge aiming up at your subject (kind of like a vocal monitor for all you rock heads out there) and it kind of looks like a softbox.

There’s a horizontal H-shaped pole and flash bracket in the back where you mount one of your existing strobes on it. Then you aim the strobe down into the kicker light wedge at a 45° angle, and that light hits an angled reflector inside and that light is bounced back up toward your subject, and it creates a wide, soft, flattering fill light on your subject (it diffuses the light from the strobe by two stops).

What makes this different than a standard reflector is that a standard reflector can only reflect light coming from another strobe. The Kickerlite actually has a light inside it (well, you add a light to the back and it aims inside) so you have full control over the amount of light that it creates. This does an amazing job of evenly lighting your subject, minimizing shadows under the chin, eyes, and hair, and it almost gives your subject’s face a glow (as seen in the image below).


Here’s the shot (above) I took using the set-up you see above (the main light is an Elinchrom RX-600 strobe with a Beauty Dish Attachment on it, and the strobe on the kicker light is an Elinchrom BXRI-500. However, you could also attach an off-camera flash like an SB-800 or a Canon 580EX II there instead.

I thought I’d show a quick comparison of the difference between using a reflector, and the same set-up using a Kickerlite instead (see the images below), and that pretty much tells the story right there.


The Bottomline
I initially thought this thing might be a bit gimmicky, but after trying it we were not only pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to set-up and use, it had a bigger effect than we thought it would. It was a little weird using it at first because I’m not used to having much control over the light from what would normally be just a reflector, so I never had to make a decision about how much light should come from the reflector. I guess having that option of how much light you want from where a reflector would normally be is actually a good thing. It works well for lighting everything from beauty-style portraits to full length shots because of the large soft wrapping flow of light.

It does seems a tad expensive since you have to add your own light (I would think the pricing sweet spot for something like this would be in the $150 range, where it would be a no-brainer). I also think the name “Kickerlite” may cause some confusion because at the end of the day, its not a light; it’s a softbox (well, at least until you add a light inside it). Those two minor quibbles aside, it’s pretty a pretty clever unit all the way around and you can’t argue with the results.

The 3′ x 4′ Kickerlite comes with the softbox, the flash bracket, and a carrying case (it folds down to about 1/3 its size) for around $207 over at B&H Photo (here’s the link). You can learn more about it over at


Think Tank’s Airport Security 2 Gets a “Scott Thinks It’s Hot!” Award
My recent trips to Birmingham and DLWS in the Other Banks totally cemented it—-the Think Tank Airport Security 2 is the rolling camera bag of my dreams. It has totally replaced my beloved Lowe Pro Pro Roller 1, which served me well for the past two years, but this Think Tank rolling bag is truly that next level of bag, and now there’s no looking back.

I’m still amazed at how that bag holds as much as it does (I load mine with a 200-400mm f/4 lens, a large 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, a large 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, two full-sized camera bodies, an Epson P-7000, two chargers, a monopod, an SB-900, multiple filters, a Di-GPS unit, and loads of little gadgets that wind up in our camera bags). Besides what it holds; it’s very cleverly designed, well-built, and it’s just a smart bag all the way around (from it’s built-it security cable, to it’s built-in emergency backpack conversion, to it’s hidden ‘secret compartment’).

Think Tank really understands photographers, and what we need, and that’s why I’m giving the Airport Security 2 my “Scott Thinks It’s Hot!” Editor’s Choice award. Here’s the link to their site with all the details. (Note: They have an International version, which conforms to Int’l carry on restrictions, but I only have the US edition. If you travel internationally, here’s that link).


Just got my copy of David DuChemin’s New book, “Within The Frame”
When I got to my office yesterday morning, a copy David DuChemin’s just released new book, “Within the Frame” was sitting on my desk. I took it home last night and just couldn’t put it down! There’s nothing like a photography how-to book with stunning photography to inspire you, but his book goes way beyond just inspiration, and teaches you how to think about creating captivating images, and I think that’s why this book is going to be the next big thing. Hats off to David (who is my guest blogger for tomorrow) for creating a very special book (here’s the link to it on Barnes & and Way go go, man!


Adobe deal: $25 off Lightroom 2 until May 31st.
I saw where Adobe has a $25 off deal on Lightroom 2 running until May 31st. Here’s the link to their online stores (including Int’l) to take advantage of the deal.


Photos From my DC Seminar
Vithaya Photography attended my DC Photoshop Seminar/Audiofest and they were kind enough to send me a link to a gallery of images they took from the day (photo above by Vithaya Photography). Here’s the link to see a gallery of some scenes from the event. My thanks for Vithaya Photography for coming to the seminar, and for being so kind to share these images with my readers.

That’s it for today folks. Don’t forget to check out David’s guest blog tomorrow, and we’ll see you here on Thursday for a photo I’m sure will make me shudder (along with other news bits and stuff).