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Thread: Tech cam: one year after

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    Tech cam: one year after

    Hi,

    It has been almost a year since I got my tech cam (Arca Swiss Factum, plus 3 lenses, all Rodenstock: 32mm, 50mm, 90mm and an IQ160). All in all, I am very happy with theis system, but I thought I would summarize here what worked, what didn't, what surprised me, what I am still working on...

    First of all, the image quality is fantastic. The camera is very nice, I like the handling and tactile sensation when using it.

    - Shift on Factum can slide: on the Factum, the shift movement can slide from its reference position when the camera is in the bag. That's a bit annoying, since you have to remember to check every time you take it out of the bag, it's at zero (assuming you want no movement). I still keep forgetting that, since most of the time, it is at zero. Except when it's not. Grrr.

    - LCC: take them often is the lesson learned ! Once it happened that there was shift on the camera and I didn't notice it. I made a nice rotational panorama and forgot to make an LCC. Boy is that color cast + vignetting (on the HR 32mm) a PITA to correct without LCC. I spent hours in photoshop (I'm not very good with PS) trying to get rid of it, whithout too much success. Any tips for this ? ("replace colors", was an avenue I explored trying to get the green and magenta colors in the sky to be blue, like they should, but it's not that easy to get a seamless result).
    I tried to make a library of LCCs (for different shifts), but for the moment, I haven't found the one that would solve my problem. I'll keep trying...

    - Framing is easy ! No need for an external viewfinder, contrary to what I initially thought. Just put the lens to f/32, go to live-view on the IQ, frame, and voila ! Really simple. I never used the viewfinder that I bought, thinking framing would be hard. Even eyeballing it with a wide lens is pretty easy.

    - Focusing. I thought I would suffer for this. Well it turns out most of my pics until now are done with a focus at infinity. So no problems there...
    I have the Leica Disto 5, but it has been sleeping in my bag for a while, not much use at all.

    - Copal shutters: I like them in principle, work fine for me. It just would be nice to have 2 and 4 seconds shutter speeds. The B setting is not very accurate - which is needed when shooting panoramas.
    I have not yet tried to increase the ISO from 50 to get around this (and go to an exposure of 1s) but I will.
    There are no mirror vibrations like on an SLR, so the tripod doesn't need to be extra sturdy (unless there's wind), which is a very nice plus when hiking.

    - Wake-up cable + shutter. That's a bit annoying I have to say. Wake-up the back with one button and then trip the shutter with another, within 4 seconds. Especially when doing LCCs, it seems I am always missing at least one arm to do this. But no, I refuse to pay 300 Euros for the Kapture group contraption-cable that does this in one single press.

    - Processing: I am using LR (I did not want to learn C1, despite many people pushing me towards it), because I know and like the LR workflow. I find is useless to learn another software, when LR does basically the same thing (yeah yeah, C1 is better for IQ160 images, yada yada yada). In addition, it pisses me off that Phase One, which loves to underline it makes backs for other mounts and is "open", doesn't support Pentax 645 (even DNGs!) or Hassi backs. Not very open, in the end...
    With LR, I manage to do everything I need, even though the workflow with LCCs is a bit clumsy since it only supports DNG files - C1 is better for that). I have made a few tries with C1, and haven't seen a huge difference - it's there, but for the moment, I'm ok with LR.

    - White balance and colors is something that I hadn't thought about at all when getting the tech cam! This is for me perhaps the most surprising drawback of a tech cam. No WB sensor, so you are at the mercy of your eye and presets. And this turns out to be a bit tricky. On an SLR, the white balance sensor allows you to get "pretty close" to something pleasing. On the tech cam (after making a profile with a Passport card), getting WB to look right is still more work now. I sometimes even take a picture with my Sony A7R, just to use that as a reference for WB and colors. Weird. I think my eyes still need a bit of training on this front.

    - Rotational panoramas are easier than I thought, even without entrance pupil (nodal point) slider, because camera and lenses are short (no morror box, mildely retrofocus lenses), and so the nodal point is already very close to the center of rotation of the camera. For the moment, I have not needed the panorama plate (that would allow to move the camera backwards).

    - Long lenses are a bit of a pain ! I have the 90mm, with the extra spacer for the back. That is so annoying, when you can't decide between a 50mm and a 90mm composition. Taking it off and putting it back on is a bit stressful (still!) since you have to take off the digital back and put it back on again. The spacer also takes a bit of room in the bag. Oh well.
    This is the reason I haven't bought a 120mm or 150mm. It's yet another spacer to put in the bag, and to swap around once in a while. It would be nice to have shorter (tele) lenses for tech cams, but I think that is never going to happen.

    - The Arca system lenses are heavier than I thought. There's a lot of metal tubes in the bag now. I guess for this, Alpa mounts are a bit more lightweight.

    All in all, I'm a very happy camper (except for that missing LCC on those panoramas. Grrrrr. There's a lesson for me there !). What do you think ? What still annoys you on your tech cam ? What have you learned ? What's easier / more difficult than you thought ?
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    Re: Tech cam: one year after

    IQ180 with Arca Swiss and Rodenstock lenses 23, 70, 120 and 180. Image quality is king. The frustration is the 23 lens, my favourite field of view. Not sharp in the corners at close range, flares like crazy (gaps in foliage in forest scenes), and effectively no movements. Rise and fall especially missed. For all that, still brilliant and if those issues were resolved it would be perfect all round.

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    Re: Tech cam: one year after

    Got my Arca rig from Digital transitions NY on May 2013. Initial setup is: Arca RM3Di, Phase IQ160 back and Rodenstock 40mm HR-W lens. Added the RotaMount (awesome no need to remove back for vertical or horizontal orientation) and the 70mm HR-W lens a bit later (really good lens, no need for spacers).

    Initially took me a few outings to get used to setting the camera up with the cables and also working the copal shutter and focus scale plus making the LCC exposure. Now it is pretty much automatic. Thanks to the Arca focusing mechanism infinity focus is spot on after a few test shots. I recalibrated for infinity when I added the rotamount and it continues to be spot on.

    The Sharpness of the 40mm HR-W is stunning. Edge to Edge it puts SLR lenses to shame. Also the lack of CA's even in VERY high contrast situations is a huge plus. Distortions are also very very low. Have not had flare problems even in tough light situations.

    All set up with the 40mm lens on the Arca rig is pretty compact and light compared to say a D800 w/ a 14-24mm.

    The malleability of the IQ160 file on C1pro still surprises me. Stunning file quality. Specially the way it handles highlights. Wow.

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    Senior Member Jamgolf's Avatar
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    Re: Tech cam: one year after

    Miska:

    I am expecting to receive my first ever tech camera some time this week, so I read your post with a lot of interest and really enjoyed reading it. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    A couple of questions for you...

    I will have to remember your points about LCC and WB.
    For WB, do you have to take a reference picture with a color-card?
    So essentially each photograph is a 3 step process:
    (i) you take an LCC picture (ii) then take a WB reference picture and (iii) finally the actual picture?


    Which one of your lenses do you use and enjoy the most?
    You mentioned longer lenses are a bit of a pain with their spacers etc. Is the image quality of the 90mm HRSW worth the price and the added hassle?
    If you had to buy again, which lenses would you buy?

    Thanks again.
    -Jawad

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    Re: Tech cam: one year after

    Hi Jawad,

    Quote Originally Posted by Jamgolf View Post
    Miska:

    For WB, do you have to take a reference picture with a color-card?
    So essentially each photograph is a 3 step process:
    (i) you take an LCC picture (ii) then take a WB reference picture and (iii) finally the actual picture?

    Which one of your lenses do you use and enjoy the most?
    You mentioned longer lenses are a bit of a pain with their spacers etc. Is the image quality of the 90mm HRSW worth the price and the added hassle?
    If you had to buy again, which lenses would you buy?
    Actually, if you are sure there is no movement, then a single LCC per aperture setting is enough. If you always use the same aperture (say f/8), then just having one taken at any point will do. But since at the beginning you will be experimenting, taking a picture and then an LCC with exactly the same settings is probably useful. That LCC stays valid until you change something in the setup (aperture, movements, perhaps even focusing point, but that's a stretch). As time goes, you will see when it's 100% necessary, and when you can do without.

    As for WB, I did a shot of a grey card once for all (in the shade and in full sunlight - I actually made a full color profile with the Adobe tool). That gives already a pretty good starting point for WB. LR also has several presets, that can be useful. The problem is in situations with very red light (a sunset) for example. Shooting a WB in that light and applying it will neutralize the nice sunset color, so that's not necessarily what you want. Using the pre-shot WB also doesn't necessarily completely work. So I think it's really a matter of experimentation in PP, and figuring out what you want the picture to look like. It's just that the starting point is usually further (with the canned WBs) from what looks pleasing without a WB sensor.

    As to the lenses, I like them all ! The 32mm is really nice but has a lot of vignetting (I finally bought the $$$ center filter to solve that), and really requires an LCC - after that it's fantastic ! The 50mm and 90mm are both razor sharp and don't need the LCC (without movements). The spacer, well, eventually I'll get used to it I think. Anyway, you don't buy a tech cam to shoot fast.

    I don't think I regret any of the lenses, really. I bought the kit mostly for sharpness and movements. First pictures I took with the tech cam (with the first lens that was delivered, the 50mm), blew my socks off ! It's sharp in the corners, so much detail that any Canon lens I had used before now looks like a coke bottle...
    Right now, my coverage in terms of focal lengths is quite good. I am debating if I should get a ~150mm to complete the kit. I don't think I would use it that much so for the moment, I haven't bought it.
    As to wider as the 32mm - there is the 23mm, which is a bit tricky (flare, not much movements etc), and making panos with the 32mm is also very effective. So I have not much motivation to do that.

    One question is how many lenses you want. Some cover their range with just 2: 40mm and perhaps 70mm. I chose 3 (32, 50, 90) but some prefer even more range (like 23mm, 40mm, and 70 or 90). To each his own, everybody has a different shooting style.

    Hope this helps...
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    Senior Member Jamgolf's Avatar
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    Re: Tech cam: one year after

    Miska

    Thanks for your helpful reply. It sounds like some experimentation will be in order to get the hang of LCC & WB issues.

    I am getting the 32mm to start with. I am not getting the CF at the moment, but based on what you said it seems it might be necessary after all.

    After that, based on how quickly (or slowly) I get used to the tech-cam process I'll probably add one other lens. I am thinking it might be the 90mm HRSW and thats why I asked you.

    Cheers!

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    Re: Tech cam: one year after

    LCC - every time. If you have any sensor dust, a contemporaneous LCC will get rid of it in C1.
    WB - almost never. Process to taste.

    The LCC gets you back to a neutral place, even if you prefer the natural vignette. If you do any cropping, you'll want to put the vignette back on the cropped rectangle.

    Best,

    Matt
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    Re: Tech cam: one year after

    LCC becomes almost like second nature; shoot LCC then shoot image and repeat. I have found the 40HR to be forgiving to the point I almost never shoot an LCC unless I shift to the extreme.

    The hardest part I found when starting out wasn't focusing or LCC. What I found was remembering to take the lens cap off and cock the shutter; one or the either. Of course now days I shoot a black screen before I shoot a series of movements I know I want to stitch then shoot a black screen at the end to act as a bookmark.

    It does get easier the more you use it and once you get into your own workflow. I often find working with a tech camera to be relaxing since I'm taking my time setting everything up and pre-planning the shoot as I set up. Remember slow is fast.

    Nice one-year write up by the way.

    Forgot to mention WB. I used to worry about however don't now unless I'm shooting IR which is a whole different thread...

    Don
    Last edited by Don Libby; 29th December 2014 at 15:24. Reason: white balance
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    Re: Tech cam: one year after

    I wouldn't worry about the CF for the 32mm just now. See if the vignetting is disturbing or not. It corrects very well in post-processing.
    I was having difficulties in some situations. For example, close to sunset, doing a panorama, I was forced to set the exposure time shorter than I wanted, because the vignetting caused large intensity variations across the frame. That adds to noise.
    But it could be a rare situation, so save the money for now, and see if you really need it.

    > I am thinking it might be the 90mm HRSW and thats why I asked you.

    The 90mm is really, really good. You won't regret it, it's that a focal length you like.
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    Senior Member dchew's Avatar
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    Re: Tech cam: one year after

    That darn dust cap inside the lens used to drive me crazy, along with the next several minutes trying to figure out what is wrong with the digital back! It's been almost 4 years and I think I've finally trained myself to take that thing off.

    These cameras are all about "systems". How do you carry it; in what order do you assemble it; optical viewfinder, iphone, live view, surface pro, ground glass or seat of the pants? Cock the shutter right after the last shot or right before you trip the shutter? Etc, etc. I think half the fun of these cameras is figuring out your system, which will be as different as your photos are from the next tech camera shooter. That's what makes us learn so much from each other, and at least for me why it feels sort of nostalgic to shoot these things. I think we all get a little excited when someone posts like this that they are getting into a technical camera. I know I do. And not just because it helps me justify the crazy expense.

    In regards to WB I just leave mine on daylight all the time unless I'm indoors, then I shoot a WB card or Passport.

    Miska, you shouldn't give up on trying the longer lenses; the sk150 is a favorite of mine, and I bet it is my lightest lens. Sounds like the AS is different, but I need the same adapters for the other lenses so no extra weight or length there, and there's not much glass in an f/5.6 150mm lens.

    Dave
    Last edited by dchew; 30th December 2014 at 07:35.
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    Re: Tech cam: one year after

    It's been a little over a year since I bought the A-S Factum, the Rodenstock 23mm and 32mm lenses and the Schneider 60mm and 120mm lenses. I later added the Rodenstock 90mm and the e Module Cloud and have just got the Rotaslide. I already had the IQ260.

    The reasoning behind all this was a feeling that I needed to slow down and think more about the images I was making and get away from devices that seemed to want to take the picture for me. I'm also speniong much longer exploring a location and noit rushing into things so much.

    A year or so later I have a set of images that I am very happy with. I don't think it's the lenses or the back though they are wonderful. I feel that the camera requires a workflow that makes me think harder about what I am doing and why. There's simple pleasure from selecting a location and composition, assembling the camera and following a workflow with a modicum of discipline. These are things that are so easy (for me anyway) to overlook with complex, automated cameras. Just back to the basics of our craft and thinking through composition, focus, ISO, aperture and shutter speed. Yes, I'll miss images at times but I think we all miss images in order to make other ones.

    Some points for others on this or parallel paths:-

    Thank-you for the suggestion about using Liveview at f32. I haven't tried this yet. I do use an iPad and WiFi to review shots and adjust the composition and this now works pretty well.

    I bought but don't use the A-S finder. Not only is it fiddly but the back tends to get in the way of the eye . The Rotaslide may create an option here as you can slide the back out of the way (but not on the 23mm).

    I haven't yet found a really satisfactory bag. I use the P3 from Bruce Laughton's Photobackpacker.com into which I can pack a fully assembled camera unit but it is too large to carry on to an aeroplane. I'm very happy with the f-Stop Tilopa but I can't put an assembled camera/back lens into it without taking up too much space. I can take an XL Pro ICU onto a plane and check the Tilopa into the hold. MF oriented ICU's from f-Stop would be good to see.

    I mostly use the 32mm and 60mm lenses. Next would be the 90mm. The 120mm is light if bulky with the spacer. I would prefer not to have to unmount the back when changing lenses. As has been well documented on this forum the 23mm is tricky but adding the lens, centre filter and/or wide angle lens hood adds a good deal of space in the backpack as well as extra weight to it. In the right conditions it is amazing but if i need to save weight and space that is probably the one to be left out.

    Focussing is becoming easier and often f11 or f16, focus at infinity plus forward tilt (and fall if necessary) works pretty well. I've had some fails with the 90mm ( eg when the foreground is sloping downwards) and need to work a bit more on getting the best out of this lens.

    I generally take the Sony RX-1R as a companion camera and have used that successfully when it is raining hard or when getting into tricky situations - slippery rocks with an incoming tide for example.

    I read somewhere that Copal shutters can be damaged by changing the shutter speed after cocking the shutter. So I tend to leave this to the last moment and only cock the shutter prior to pressing the wake-up cable and shutter release.

    The magentic shutter releases supplied by A-S seem to work fine on the Rm3Di but are not held in place on the Factum and keep detaching from the lens. So I use a traditional screw-in cable release.

    I won't go into them here but I have had a few issues with the camera and I think it is important to realise that A-S are an artisan camera maker and might perhaps be thought a little eccentric. The user will need to work at it and to have a supportive dealer. But all my issues have either been explained or fixed.

    My next step is to think through whether I also really need both Phase One and Nikon systems in future. The answer likely depends on the next bodies from Phase and Nikon and the evolution of the Fuji system. What is not in doubt is that the A-S system is central now to my photography but i do need something that is a bit more 'walk about'. Especially when photogrpahy is incidental rather than central to a trip. I suspect the next generation of CSC's may provide the answer.

    Sorry for the length of this post but I think this thread is opening up some great discussion.
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    Re: Tech cam: one year after

    I was in the White Mountain a couple years ago; very carefully and deliberately setting my camera up for a shot of a fallen tree and wildflowers. Back turned on and connected, focused, set the f/stop, set shutter speed, cocked the shutter and remembered to remove the lens cover. Then disaster hit. I couldn't for the life of me take the picture! Nothing I did worked. Switched out cables. Nothing. After spending several very frustrating minutes attempting to figure out what was wrong and fearing I broke something I began to pack everything up. Then I noticed it. The lever that open and closed the lens for live view had moved ever so slightly from the closed position. Closed the switch, reset everything up again and took captured the image.

    Needless to say I now check that damn switch several times a day and always at the beginning! And yes, this is a true story.

    Happy New Years to all.

    Don
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    Re: Tech cam: one year after

    The bag / tech cam transportation is indeed a bit awkward. I tend to carry the whole thing assembled: digi-back, camera, lens, lens-cap. I do remove the cables so they don't bend the ports. This allows for a very fast setup once the location is found.
    The problem is Arca Swiss does not have a lens cap for the camera (!) (although I have heard legends of such a thing existing, but being only produced and sold if you sacrifice enough chickens). So you can't just take the lens off, without leaving the sensor exposed to the gremlins living in the camera bag. You can of course take the back off though - but then the back of the lens is exposed. You can put the back-lens cover through the camera, but that is a bit unpractical.
    That's a pity, because it makes the full assembled camera strangely shaped (very fat in the middle, as the camera is like a relatively big square - especially if the spacer is left on!), and not like an SLR (for which camera bags are designed).

    Yes the magnetic cable release does tend to come off more often than it should. Oh well...

    The thing that is not perfect on the camera is the Hassi-V adapter for the digital back. It's not 100% snug, despite tinkering with the screws. A/S promised me to let me try another one, but I have to call them again. Yes, they are very small company, but for the moment, my contact with them (well, Martin) has been excellent.

    I agree that I cannot have only this camera. I need something faster on occasions, and that's for me Sony Alpha 7R + Canon lenses.

    And yes, I have also left the back-lens cap on (once the camera is mounted, it's really well hidden !), and wondered why my images were all black :-)

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    Re: Tech cam: one year after

    Jack once recommended a pinch lens cap: http://www.getdpi.com/forum/349123-post12.html

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    Re: Tech cam: one year after

    I too generally keep the lens attached to the WRS and am fortunate that the plastic cover for the DF also fits the back of the DF. If I'm really in an anal mood I'll also put the rear lens cap on (I took a small piece of gaffers tape and made a pull tab so removal is very easy).

    I sold my Mamiya/Phase body and lens within 6-months of buying the Cambo as I simply never used it. Of course several months/years later I began the quest for the ultimate companion camera settling on a Leica M9 until I noticed I couldn't print as large as I liked. Then it dawned on me. The ultimate companion camera was a body that took the same back I was already using and returned to using a Phase One DF, switching the back between the Cambo and DF allows me the freedom of choosing fast or slow. Yes, many of you know I also have a Sony A7r converted to shoot full spectrum however as nice as that camera is, I don't consider it a full companion to the IQ back. Maybe I'll pickup a used P45 or 65 and have it converted to full spectrum and sell the Sony.

    Just my closing thoughts of the year....

    don
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    Senior Member dchew's Avatar
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    Re: Tech cam: one year after

    Don,
    I too sold my DF soon after I bought it as a package with the DB. I actually bought the Alpa before I had a back, then went to PODAS. Kevin Raber and his close cousin Dante saw me coming 2,500 miles away. The DF eventually funded my sk150.

    I also have the a7r, and try to think of it as a backup in addition to a walk around. It's really not, but it's much cheaper to think that way.

    I am always waffling back and forth with storing the camera in the bag. I have an F-Stop Loka, and normally carry everything in the Large ICU; plenty of room. My problem with attaching the lens is I always seem to have to remove it and put on a different one for the next shot. Alpa has a front cover that costs just slightly less than a set of tires, so I attach the back but not a lens. Interesting that Alpa advised me to leave the back slide on the STC disengaged because the weight of the back can sometimes cause problems with the mechanism as it bounces around in the pack. That was back in October when I went to visit them. It seems odd to have it sliding around all the time, so I still lock it in place but have a divider folded at the bottom to support the back on the camera.

    As far as framing, I've come full circle. I started four years ago using the optical viewfinder, but gave up because the frame lines didn't match my 40/70/100mm lenses. For years I just pointed on the cube and adjusted. Then after getting into stitching more I got the ground glass and Alpa loupe. I made three masks: 40x54, 54x76 (max V shift - 5x7), and a 40x90 (max H shift - 4x9). That works pretty well, but I gotta admit it is often faster just to shoot and adjust. Where is that 54x40 CMOS for effortless live view??? Yeah that's gonna cost more than a set of tires.

    Now that my lenses are 40/60/90/150, the viewfinder frames actually line up perfectly for the 60 and 90, so I'm back to carrying the viewfinder around! Check back in 6 months...

    I do use the Leica Disto, but I don't bother with a light meter. Sometimes I carry around an old GE exposure meter, but that's more for fun than anything else. It's not a very good meter.

    Spare parts, spare cables, filters, tools, the usual filters, batteries and more batteries rounds out the kit. As I mentioned in another thread, I don't have a hood. That's probably next on the list.

    Dave

    PS: I find the cube and/or D4 a real necessity. When you are without a viewfinder, trying to loosen a ballhead and move it slightly in one direction without affecting the other will put you on the edge of madness. Even with a viewfinder and/or live view, these cameras need a head like the cube in my opinion.
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    Re: Tech cam: one year after

    So what kind of spare parts do you guys carry around ? For example, have you ever had problems with the P1 wake-up cable ? That's a single point of failure, and I am wondering if I should get another (backup)...

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    Senior Member dchew's Avatar
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    Re: Tech cam: one year after

    I would definitely bring a spare cable. I have spares of:
    Obviously batteries (4) and cards (2).
    Alpa sync cable
    Alpa sync release switch (mounts on the lens shutter release)
    P1 basic cable in case the back wigs out and won't listen to the Alpa wake-up signal
    RRS screw for the adapter plate
    1/4 x 3/8 adapter
    Hex key for the adapter plates
    (2) lens cloths

    I also carry a few tools (not spares):
    Hex key for every size needed for the tripod and head
    Flashlight
    Reading glasses
    Alpa screwdriver toolkit that comes with the camera
    Ziplock bags
    Garbage bag
    Space pen / paper
    Sharpie
    Headlamp
    3mm chord
    Pocketknife
    Lighter

    Those last two not so much any more. I can't tell you how many times I've waved goodbye to them at airport security because I forgot they were there. I've pretty much given up putting them in the bag.

    Dave
    How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains! - John Muir

    davechewphotography.com
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  19. #19
    Senior Member stephengilbert's Avatar
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    Re: Tech cam: one year after

    I have a spare wake up cable, but have never needed it. Also:

    Batteries, of course.

    Sensor cleaning stuff (blower, cleaning liquid, swabs).

    CF cards, one with firmware.

    A light meter, and a level, rarely used. (Panning head has a good level, as do my STC, the DB, and the iPhone I use as a VF.)

  20. #20
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    Re: Tech cam: one year after

    Quote Originally Posted by stephengilbert View Post
    Jack once recommended a pinch lens cap: http://www.getdpi.com/forum/349123-post12.html

    I too heard that there was a front body cap. My dealer enquired of A-S and back came a 95mm pinch lens cap as described by Jack in this link. Works perfectly.

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