Monday, September 16, 2013

What's in My Camera Bag(s)? (And other stories)

(This works, but technically it's not wireless. :-) )
Also in this issue:

  • Wireless Flash with the RX-100 MK II?
  • Original Cameracraft Magazine from 1901
  • Seattle Seminar
  • Two new e-books
  • What's in My Camera Bag(s)?

Wireless Flash with the RX-100 MK II?

Many of you who are fans of the new RX-100 MK II (one of my favorite cameras!) have noticed that the camera has the new hot shoe gracing its top plate.  I got excited about that when I first got the camera, for it meant I should be able to employ my #1 technique for getting “Wow!” shots: Wireless Flash.
Turns out it wasn’t true – the camera’s firmware doesn’t support wireless flash in any conventional configuration.  I'm convinced that the hot shoe was put there primarily to accommodate the accessory Electronic Viewfinder (EVF).

I'm pretty confident that this is not what the designers had in mind.

So what about wireless flash?  I tried it.  It doesn't work.  I even tried “smart” TTL radio triggers such as the Phottix Odin and the Pixel King (both of which work flawlessly on the A99) but the flash turned itself off as soon as the camera powered on.

That's right; the flash turned OFF the instant the camera was powered on!  I'm convinced it was a software command issued by the camera.  Both the Pixel King (left) and Phottix Odin (right) work perfectly on my A99 but not here.

Okay, how about “dumb” radio triggers, such as the Pixel Soldier or Cybersync (Paul Buff) so I can use the MK2 in my studio?  They work, but there’s one problem: Usually in the studio you put the camera into Manual exposure mode and use a fast shutter speed and a small f/stop for maximum image quality.  And in Manual exposure mode, if you’re letting in too little light (as is the case in the studio) then the Live View will show you just what your shot will look like: DARK.  So dark that you can’t frame your subject.  (Remember, the camera has no idea that there’s a flash being used.)

It turns out that the screen will brighten up a bit while the camera is focusing – barely enough for you to compose properly.  I found a better solution to the dark screen problem, though:

Mischief Managed.  With the popup flash UP, the Live View will never go dark and will let you compose.  Just make sure none of the light from the flash reaches your subject. :-) 

Original Cameracraft Magazine from 1901

Cameracraft magazine (from PhotoClubAlpha writer David Kilpatrick, of which I am Associate Editor) is a lot of fun to put together.  It’s so nice to concentrate on images instead of constantly talking about camera features and settings.  (Like most of this month's blog. :-) )  The next issue is being assembled now, the theme being “reflections” (encompassing every aspect of the word’s definition).

Although the magazine is new, the Cameracraft magazine brand is not.  For a blast from the past, have a look at this scan of the original Cameracraft magazine from 1901!  (Link below.)  Most interesting for me were the ads, but also the fact that, even 112 years ago, people were still arguing about whether it was the camera or the photographer that differentiated between great and mediocre shots.  Have a look at page 13 of the .pdf!

The link to the .pdf file is here (opens new window).  Enjoy the romp through yesteryear.

Be a part of a great tradition and show the world you care about the image.  Subscribe to Cameracraft today!

Seattle Seminar 

There's another thing that struck me as I perused the 1901 Cameracraft issue for the first time... technological advancements since that time should have made photography significantly easier to learn.  In many respects, it has -- today we have cameras that can focus by themselves, figure out the exposure in bad light, and even try to handle white balance in bafflingly (that's a word) mixed light.  And yet, people pick up their new whiz-bang camera and feel as intimidated technically as... well, as this 1901 edition of Cameracraft.  It seems that we've replaced one set of technical complexity (mostly centered around chemical processes) with a completely different set (mostly centered around computers).  After more than a century of miraculous progress, the learning curve is still steep.

And that, my friends, is why I started the Friedman Archives High-Impact Photography Seminars.  The truth is it doesn't have to be that complex or that intimidating.  In two fun-filled days I can help you intuitively understand what you need to know in order to get "Wow!"-type pictures -- all on Auto, all without needing Photoshop.  These are the secrets of the Kodachrome shooters - secrets that appear to have been forgotten.  There's more to the seminars, of course - I also cover the things everyone wants to know (yes, including a Photoshop introduction), and you can learn more about the weekend event at .

My last seminar for the year will occur in Seattle, Washington on September 28th and 29th.  There's still some room left so if you think you'll be in the area sign up now!

Not sure if the seminar is for you, or if my presentation style is approachable?  I'm giving a free lecture at the Rainier Hills Photo Club (near Seattle) on Thursday night, September 26th.  Their address is:

Rainier Hills Christian Fellowship
23711 Entwhistle Rd
Buckley, WA 98321
Meeting starts at 6:30 PM

Club leaders Roger Young and Jim Grasley welcome all who would like to attend - no charge!  I look forward to seeing you there.

New E-books

Two new ebooks were released last week: The RX-100 MK2 and the Spanish translation of the NEX 5R/6 ebook.

And while Sony's engineers are busy inventing the future, The Friedman Archives Press is branching out: New books are in the works for the Fuji X100s (being written by Tony Phillips) and just-announced Olympus E-M1 (written by Mike Hendren).  Why these cameras?  Because I think they're awesome and these are the kinds of cameras I'd like to play with myself.  Email me if you'd like to be notified when they're ready!  (Gary at Friedman Archives dot com).

My Personal Camera Bag(s)

I get a lot of questions about what I carry with me on a typical trip.  The answer is I try very hard to travel light.  Below are two of my typical arrangements for day trips (click this or any other image for a larger view):

The Big Bag

Lowepro Slingshot 300
Sony Alpha 77
Sony 16-50 f/2.8 zoom
Minolta 100-300 APO zoom
Minolta 11-18 APS-C wide zoom
Prinz telescoping tripod
Sony F58 flash (plus diffuser card, stand)
Minolta 5600 flash (plus diffuser card, stand)
Blackrapid strap
Cable release
Extra batteries (camera + flash + cell phone)
2 diffuser cloths (for the $5 studio)
Honeycomb grid array (light modifier for flashes - responsible for pics like these)
extra memory cards
lens cleaning fluid and cloth
LensPen (one for lenses, one for the sensor)
Insect repellent, medicine for insect bites
Pepto Bismol tablets (especially handy when traveling outside the U.S.)
"Fisherman's Friend" lozenges
Pocket Sax (for making friends and breaking the ice in countries where I don't speak the language. Responsible for no end of great people shots while traveling.) ( (*)

The Small Bag

NEX-7 and 18-55 lens
Ronkinon / Samyang 8mm fisheye lens
1 Minolta 5600 flash + diffuser
1 Sony HVL-F20AM flash (to trigger 5600 wirelessly)
Prinz telescoping tripod (it gets to be pretty tall!)
Extra battery, memory card,
lens cleaning cloth
Pocket Sax (same explanation as above) (*)

(* Full disclosure: I love the Xaphoon Pocket Sax so much that I became a distributor.  So in a way I'm cross-promoting the website which I own.  But I DO carry this with me wherever I go!  (That or the original handmade bamboo version... )

What Else Do I Travel With?

Whenever I'm traveling by air, I hold to the mantra, "anything not easily replaceable goes in my carry-on” - that goes not only for cameras, but chargers as well.  If I'm on a paid assignment then I'll bring a backup body / lens / flash, since Friedman's Rule of Technology is "All technology will fail.  And when it does, it will fail catastrophically.  Your only hope is redundancy."

I also carry two external USB drives - one in a suitcase and one in my camera bag, dually protecting me against drive failure or theft.

Next Time - A few days after the seminar we're heading up to British Columbia to shoot (well, photograph) some grizzlies.  Wish us luck!

Until then,
Yours truly, Gary Friedman

The RX-100 MK II lets you use your smartphone to act as a remote viewfinder and shutter release (controlled via NFC and Wi-Fi.)  One thing you can do with this new remote viewfinder / shutter release feature is to spy on people through high windows.  (Not recommended.)


  1. What you tell about the RX-100 MK II is pretty bad.
    You dont mention it, but I assume this means that the RX-100 MK II has no Live view display option on settings to set to Settings Effect Off. Right?


    1. Right. But as I state in the beginning of the blog post, that hot shoe was really put there to support EVF. I don't think anyone had envisioned using a point-and-shoot in a studio setting. GF

  2. What, "the RX-100 MK is not backward compatible with Sony's own flashes!!!" Yuck!. I was not going to buy one before, but now I'm not interested at all. Thank you for the warning.

    I have been holding off on buying a new camera because I keep reading rumors about a newer better Sony is about to come out. Let's hope the rumored Nex FF that is supposed to come out next month is backward compatible with old Sony Flashes. If not, I'm really going to be ticked. If the Rumors are true you will busy learning new cameras and writing new manuals.

    1. Sony's flashes work with the RX-100 MK II just fine! In fact, it will sync at 1/2000th of a second without having to use HSS. I just said the camera doesn't support wireless flash mode. GF

    2. Gary,
      Pixel King and Phottix Odin work by emulating a Minolta/Sony flash mounted on the camera shoe. It looks like the RX-100 is employing a hitherto unknown handshake with the flash, to prevent that function.

      If that's the case, Pixel and Phottix will need to update their firmware to support the newly deployed handshake.

  3. As always, I enjoyed the post Gary. A word of caution (I'm sure you're very aware already): Bears can run very fast! They can actually accelerate faster than a horse - so watch yourself. :-)

    1. No worries, Mike. I plan on shooting with a wide lens (need to differentiate my work from all those other nature photographers who use telephoto lenses) so I'll need to get really close. Since the bear needs some distance to accelerate to top speed, he can't possibly get up to speed by the time he gets to me. I don't see any problems with that logic. :-)

    2. Yep, the infallible logic of an engineer - no arguments from me. Good luck with that. LOL

  4. Thank you for this newsletter. I have been asked to take a group photo at our high school reunion in October and I am a little nervous about it. I have the A99 and the F42AM and the F58AM wireless flashes. I have not gotten them both to work with just the camera, so your newsletter gave me hope today. What exactly would I buy to get both flashes to work with my A99 -- the Pixel King or the Phottix Odin? I couldn't find either one on the B&H website. Are they made specifically for Sony?

    1. If it's a small group indoors (say, less than 100 people) your cheapest and easiest option is the F20M flash atop your A99. Pixel King or Phottix Odin will work with a Sony ADP-MAA adapter for the A99's hotshoe. GF

    2. Cindy, lighting forum has many contributors (Gary fans) who will be happy to help with further queries.

  5. LOVE the 1901 Cameracraft magazine cover!

  6. Hi Gary. Interesting post I'm a bit surprised you don't travel with an RX100 or RX1 as they are so pocketable - I know you have NEX but RX100 lens is better than that NEX kit lens and more pocketable. David K raves about the RX100.

    1. Are you kidding? The RX-100 MK II is the camera I take with me when I'm NOT schlepping all that stuff with me!!! :-)

  7. Gary, Will the F20M flash trigger my F42AM and F58AM flashes?

    1. Yes, no problem. Select WL Flash Mode on the camera, and follow the instructions in the 42 and 58 user manuals to set the flashes to wireless remote mode. (You will have to use the ADP-MAA adapter atop the a99 to do that, and then remove it to put the F20M on).

  8. Gary, interesting that you elect A77 as your large bag "go to" camera and not the full size sensor of A99?

    1. Lots of reasons... the A99 excells in the studio but in the field (especially when the light is good) I really prefer the A77.

  9. Well, the question is why. I have the A65 and the A99. What photographic aspects of the A77 are preferable to the A99's increased rendering?
    Perhaps the concerns about lost or breakage of a $3K body? ... or is it more functional?

  10. Oh, and by the way I read the 3 chapters on the A99 and liked them but the example photos were much too skimpy for comparison. Is there a hard copy and do I need one to see the differences in photo modes?

  11. Gary,
    I may have missed it but I could not determine the name of the small bag you use. Can you provide more details? Thanks,

  12. Gary,what camera strap do you use with Nex 7 for traveling! Thank you my good friend! Please keep up the good work!!!!!!

    1. I've pretty much fallen in love with BlackRapid straps for all of my travel photography. GF

  13. Gary, Thanks for the write up on your bag. I have the sony rx100M2 and have been looking for a flash solution. What adapter is that on top of the sony's hot shoe? What sync cord is that as well. Also will a Canon 430EX II work instead of the sony speedlite. Thanks for the help.

    1. I used an off-camera TTL extension cord for the Minolta hot shoe in conjunction with a ADP-MAA hot shoe adapter from Sony sitting atop the camera.

      Sony's new hot shoe design is such that you can't put a Canon or Nikon (or anyone else's) flash foot on it - it won't slide all the way in because of those tiny pins at the front. That new hot shoe was designed to accommodate generic radio triggers and not much else.


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