cameras

Review: Wosports Trail Camera for Hunting and Wildlife

For the past few years, I've been tweaking a few different camera rigs for wildlife and outdoor photography. I have set up a few different time-lapse rigs using my Raspberry Pis with Pi Cameras, and I've set up my Nikon D750 in a few different ways with its built-in intervalometer, or with a wireless remote.

This is great, but I've always wanted to set up the Pi with an infrared Pi Camera, as well as a motion sensor, so I could capture wildlife at night. I know there are some animals that peruse the seeds in our yard around the bird feeders, but it's well nigh impossible to capture them with my other non-infrared cameras... and they tend to come out when I'm asleep.

Wosports contacted me and asked if I'd like a discount on their 'Trail Camera' to give it a test, and I thought it was a great opportunity to check out the basic/low-end of trail cameras, so I took them up on the offer.

Wosports Trail Camera

Camera and Lens Rentals in St. Louis, MO

For the past few years, when shooting large events in indoor spaces (such as the 2010 Priesthood Ordination Mass), I've rented camera bodies and lenses from BorrowLenses.com, a great online rental store, with pretty much any lens or camera body you'd ever want to use (especially if you're like me and could never justify the cost of purchase!). I highly recommend BorrowLenses (though I have also used and liked LensRentals.com and RentGlass.com).

This year, however, I decided to look into whether it might be more advantageous to use a local camera shop. I found that both Schiller's and Creve Coeur Camera offer camera and lens rentals, but both have more limited selections. However, the lens and camera body I need are usually available at Schiller's, I don't have to pay shipping (pick-up only, but the store is nearby), and I can pay a one-day rental rate for a weekend (most of the events I use the cameras for are on Saturdays).

Review of Nikon D7000 - Almost Complete

Nikon D7000 - FrontSince about a week after it's introduction, I've been shooting with the D90 as my primary camera, and it's been a great run. The D90 is almost the perfect photo-making machine for me. I was thinking of either upgrading to a D300s, or possibly a D700 (all my lenses would work with either FX or DX), but then came the D7000.

I was instantly thrilled with the specs, especially since the D7000 body is almost exactly the same dimensions as the D90 (meaning I wouldn't need to get used to a bunch of new button placements). So, after a little consultation with my bride, I bought the D7000 (it was in stock, momentarily, from Amazon.com).

Review: Canon PowerShot S95 Review

Jeff's Rating: 4/5

tl;dr: A great pocketable camera that shoots RAW, gets pretty good low-light results, and has a sharp new HD video recording mode.

Canon PowerShot S95 on Table

After having used an excellent RAW-capable point and shoot, the Canon PowerShot G11, for about 6 months, I sold it on eBay and bought the new Canon PowerShot S95, the G11's smaller sibling. I had originally been looking into buying the S90 (another excellent camera), but thought the G11's flip-screen and handling would be worthwhile assets.

Unfortunately, I had bought the G11 to be my pocketable 'vacation-cam,' and though it worked pretty well, it wasn't quite pocketable. I had to keep it in its case, and it was another item of luggage to carry around wherever I took it.

The S95's form factor allows me to truly pocket this camera, and not sacrifice the quality of image I can get with it too much. It's a heck of a lot better than my iPhone 4's camera, but still nowhere near as amazing as my D90 SLR paired with a good lens. To better convey a sense of how the S95 works in my life, I'll break down this review into a few relevant categories.

External Microphones for iPhone 5s, 5, 4S, iPad and iPod Touch Audio input

iPhone 5 with Microphones and Input Adapters
A few of the many microphone options to make your mobile recordings better.

Note on iPhone 5: Right now the only confirmed way to record stereo on the iPhone 5 is with the GuitarJack Model 2 and an Apple 30-pin to lightning adapter. All other headset-jack based solutions work as well as the iPhone 4/4S!

To dramatically increase the quality of the sound you record on your iOS device, you should use an external microphone or mixer, or a direct line input.

You can use external microphones/inputs with any of the following iOS devices:

  • iPad (audio recording), iPad 2/new iPad/iPad mini (audio or video recording)
  • iPhone 3G, iPhone 3Gs, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5 (audio or video recording)
  • iPod Touch (3rd/4th/5th generation) (audio or video recording)

Skip to: Recommendations | Details

Video: iPhone External Mic Comparison

(See also: iPhone 4/4S External Microphone Comparison, listing of mics and adapters used in this video)


My Recommendations

Software - App Recommendations

  • iPad: Use GarageBand. It's not expensive, and is awesome for recording and editing.
  • iPhone/iPod Touch: Use FiRe, FourTrack, or even built-in Voice Memos.
  • Camera/iMovie (Built-in) - Quick and simple to use, can lock focus, but has very few settings/features. Handles different audio inputs, but without much configuration or level control, and no monitoring.
  • For Video: Although the built-in Camera app is pretty good, I prefer FiLMiC Pro, which allows focus, metering, and white balance lock/unlock, and has a built-in audio meter. No audio play-through yet (as far as I can tell).

Simple, one-mic setup (podcasts, one-person interviews)

Buy a RØDE smartLav, and plug it into your iPhone. If you need more than about 5' of cable (so you can record an interview with the iPhone's camera, for instance), buy a 2m TRRS extension cable as well.

Another option, which allows you to have a more flexible mic setup so your mic can be used with other equipment, is to buy a microphone and adapter to use together:

For better quality recordings

This setup will allow you to record a little nicer quality sound, especially since the VeriCorder cable or Tascam adapter boosts the signal a bit so it comes into the iPhone at the right level for more clarity and amplification:

For wireless mobility and great quality

Another option, for more freedom of movement, a perfect recording level, and much more flexibility with one mic (this is the kit I use most often now - plug the line/headphone output on the wireless receiver into the KVConnection line-level adapter):

For multiple-mic interviews/recordings

Buy a Dual 1/8" Microphone to iPhone adapter from KVConnection, and plug one Audio-Technica ATR-3350 into each jack. (If you use XLR mics, get this adapter instead).

Another couple of options include:

  • The GuitarJack Model 2, into which you can plug a stereo input source (or two microphones that go one in left, one in right channel).
  • You can get a Monster iSplitter and plug a lavaliere microphone into each side, then plug this into a KVConnection mic adapter. (See example video).
  • The Fostex AR-4i works great for the iPhone 4/4S (put one lavaliere microphone in on the left channel and one on the right), but doesn't work with the iPhone 5.
  • The Line 6 Mobile In, which also has a stereo input like the Guitar Jack.

For recording loud music, concerts, environmental sound

Right now, there aren't a lot of out-of-the-box options for recording sound in high SPL situations (loud rock concerts) or other environmental sounds. However, there are three solutions I recommend:

  1. The Tascam iM2 - a great stereo mic for the iPhone 4/4S/5 that provides a simple AB-pattern stereo microphone (that can handle up to 125 dB).
  2. The GuitarJack Model 2 (read my review of the GuitarJack Model 2) allows for padding and relatively high sound level input.
  3. A preamp or mixer in-line before the iPhone. This is more clumsy/less portable, but if you simply plug the output of a mixer or preamp into the iPhone (or a product like the AR-4i or GuitarJack), you can handle as loud of sound levels as your mixer/preamp can handle.

For line-level inputs (Guitars, Mixers, Sound Systems)

One option right now is the Apogee Jam, a nice interface for guitars and other 1/4" plug line-level inputs, that works through the Dock connector, and is specifically advertised for use with GarageBand on the iPad. Another simple option (if you want a little nicer build quality than the KVConnection adapters) is the iRig from Amplitube. Another inexpensive option is the iJAM cable from Ampridge.

KVConnection provides two nice adapters, though, which I use because they're cheap and reliable: Line-level 1/4" adapter w/ attenuation ($28), and Line-level 1/8" adapter w/ attenuation ($28)


The Details

I'll run through most of my kit for mobile recording, following along with the picture below:

Mobile iPhone 4 3G/3Gs video and audio external microphone podcasting kit

  1. iPhone 3G/3Gs/4 Tripod (instructions for building the tripod mount)
  2. Crown Sound Grabber II PZM Boundary microphone ($80)
  3. Audio-Technica ATR-3350 Powered Lavaliere Microphone ($20)
  4. KV Connection microphone-to-iPhone audio adapters (read more about them, and about available alternatives below)
  5. Spare batteries - you can never have too many
  6. Sony WCS-999 Wireless Microphone Adapter ($100 - Note: Throw out the included mic, and use the ATR-3350 with this. Only good for 10-50 ft., but nice and cheap, that's why I'm recommending it.)
  7. (NOT PICTURED: The following items have been added to my kit since I wrote this article)
    1. Rode VideoMic shotgun/condenser mic ($150)
    2. VeriCorder XLR Adapter Cable ($70)

One option for easy external audio in a pinch is to plug in your headset, hit record, and voila! You have a much better sound-isolating mic than the iPhone's built-in mic (especially over distance). The disadvantage here is that the iPhone's headset cable is pretty short.

Review: Phottix MB-D80 (D80/D90 Battery Grip)

Jeff's Rating: 4/5

tl;dr: You can (and should) pick up one of these things if you have a D90 or D80, and shoot vertically or need extra juice for the camera. The Nikon MB-D80/OEM model is a bit more solid, but you can't beat the Phottix's price!

Phottix MB-D80 Vertical Battery Grip

Take a look at what's hanging on the neck of almost any professional photojournalist, wedding photographer, or camera guy—you'll almost always see the tank-like and bulky body of a Nikon D1/2/3/X-series or Canon 1D-series SLR. The Phottix MB-D80 takes your D90 (in my case—it also works on the D80, though) and gives it three of the tank-like bodies' functions:

  1. A vertical shutter release/controls: When shooting portraits, this is immensely helpful.
  2. Double the battery life: You can stick an extra Nikon EN-EL3e battery in the grip (bringing your total to 2 batt's!).
  3. Look like a serious photographer: 'Nuff said.

The battery grip performs great, it can take a beating, and the shutter release and controls feel almost as good as using the controls on the camera body itself!

Nice! (Two Cameras and a Killer Lens Combo)

The kit I'll be wearing at the Deaconate Ordination Mass this coming Saturday. Afterwards, I'll run to the back chapel, where I'll snap some shots with the D3 and a nice kit of SB-26 remote flashes!

Nikon D3 and D90 with 70-200mm VR and 50mm 1.4

Is anyone selling a used D3 for cheap? I gotta get me one of these cameras!

Gear pictured above:

  • Nikon D3 (rented from LensRentals)
  • Nikon 50mm f/1.4 AF (my own)
  • Nikon D90 (my own)
  • Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 AF-S VR (rented from LensRentals)

I'm going to use the 70-200 on my D90, as the D90 has a smaller image crop, meaning the 200mm will be more like 300mm in practical use. The D3 + the 1.4 lens is a killer combo for in-the-dark shooting (the Cathedral is very dimly lit). I can still get 1/100 shutter speed at ISO 1600 and f/1.8!

Review: Nikon D90 SLR

Jeff's Rating: 5/5

tl;dr: The Nikon D90 DSLR is one of the best 'prosumer' digital SLRs produced in 2009. It's low-light performance is exception for the price, and it can work well as a backup body to a camera three times as expensive. The HD video mode, a first for digital SLRs, is half-baked at best.

Nikon D90 with 18-70mm lens

(Above: The D90 with my favorite walk-around lens, the AF-S 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5).