Playing with the Nikon R1C1 wireless macro flash system in the garden

Today I was experimenting with Nikon’s venerable SU800 wireless (infrared) commander and two tiny SB-R200 strobes (Nikon calls them speedlights) that came together inside the R1C1 kit.

Closeup of a beautiful magnolia flower shot with a Nikon R1C1 wireless macro flash system on a Nikon D780. This is a 1:1 crop straight out of the camera, with a little sharpening applied.

I was skeptical about the R1C1 kit that’s been sitting in my drawer ever since I “re-appropriated” it from the lab where I work (nobody was using it anyway). The main reasons were:

  • The strobes and the commander use pretty rare CR123A Li-ion cells. The ones I got from Amazon were 1300 mAh (which is not a lot) and are not rechargeable. I don’t expect the strobes to go on for very long on these cells, and even if they were rechargeable, it’s another piece of equipment, unique to this kit to travel with.
  • The system is wireless, but it’s infrared. Modern strobes (I use the Godox X-pro system) use a high frequency radio system, which is much more robust, allows for a high shutter speed sync, and more range, and less delay.

On the other hand, what’s nice about the system is that it includes a mounting ring, which screws onto the lens (different adapters are provided) and allows a comfortable 360 degree rotation of the strobes that are attached to it. Alternatively, strobe stands with tripod screws are provided. I’m not sure how well this would work with the limited infrared signal from the SU800 commander. I expect it to work well indoors (e.g. for product shots) but poorly outdoors in bright light as soon as the tiny SB-S200 strobes are separated.

Closeup of a beautiful tulip flower shot with a Nikon R1C1 wireless macro flash system on a Nikon D780. This is a 1:1 crop straight out of the camera, with a little sharpening applied.

I mounted the kit onto the fantastic Nikkor AF-D 35 mm f/2 with a +2.0 D macro filter attached to it. What a macro filter does is it makes the lens “myopic” by shifting its entire focusing range closer by +2.0 diopters. This means that the far end, which was at infinity is now at 1/2.0 = 0.5 meters, and the near end which was at 25 cm (which is 1 / 0.25 = 4.0 D) is now at 6 diopters (4.0 + 2.0 = 6), which is (you guessed it) at 16.6 cm. This lens has a magnificent and smooth bokeh and is very sharp even at F/11, which is what you need to expand the depth of field which is razor thin in macro photography.

As soon as I started shooting I realized that the communication between the commander and the strobes was a hit or miss. Without having read the manual I couldn’t figure out whether it was good for them to blink green, red, or both. The strobes would just turn off at whim and refuse to fire at random. Sometimes it was necessary to remove the commander from the camera and attach it again. Yet other times it was enough to fire a test flash for the system to start talking to itself correctly.

Closeup of a beautiful tulip flower shot with a Nikon R1C1 wireless macro flash system on a Nikon D780. This is a 1:1 crop straight out of the camera, with a little sharpening applied.

In spite of all the abovementioned inconveniences and reservations I have to say that when the kit chooses to work, the results are wonderful. I used the additional tiny diffusers on both the strobes which makes the tiny setup (flower, camera, and the two strobes) behave similarly as a studio shot with a model. Everything is just scaled down. Tiny subject, tiny diffuse lights, and the camera working at the very near end of the focus range. I shot at ISO400, using 1/4 flash power at F/11 and 1/160 second exposure time (this thing does not have high speed sync). The tiny diffused strobes can be precisely pointed at the subject, and freely rotated around the ring, casting delightful soft shadows on the petals. They are more than strong enough to overpower the sun and provide crisp and contrasty shots. As long as you’re not in a hurry and willing to look past the very obvious limitations of this quite vintage macro setup, you should absolutely give it a chance and spend a day or two with it in a garden.

Using the Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to Detect Faces in an Effort to Control Myopia Progression

I’m excited to have been given the opportunity to talk at SUNY School of Optometry about “Digital Image Processing in Modern Optics Research”. The talk was about neural networks, machine learning, their use in face detection in an effort to understand and prevent myopia progression and was part of a series of colloquia by the Schnurmacher Institute.

As promised, I am sharing the presentation and two demo apps that were featured in the talk:

Porsche Boxster 986

The classic boxster is a light, nimble and beautiful car, which debuted in 1993 at the Detroid Auto Show and was launched in 1996, reportedly saving Porsche from bankruptcy. While you’ll often hear that the car, designed by Harm Lagaay, was reminiscent of the 550 Spyder, the fact of the matter is that it was equally inspired by the modest but groundbreaking Mazda Miata, which debuted in 1989 and single-handedly (erm, four-wheeledly?) revived the market of two-seat roadsters. Below you’ll find some wallpaper-size photos of one gorgeous 986 Porsche Boxster in “Guard Red” shot on the banks of Lake Monroe in Indiana. Further down I’ve compiled a brief history of the model along with links and quality photos. I hope you enjoy it!

986 boxster car classiccar convertible drivetastefully indiana lakemonroe porsche sportscar vehicle vintagecar

986 boxster car classiccar convertible drivetastefully indiana lakemonroe porsche sportscar vehicle vintagecar

986 boxster car classiccar convertible drivetastefully indiana lakemonroe porsche sportscar vehicle vintagecar

986 boxster car classiccar convertible drivetastefully indiana lakemonroe porsche sportscar vehicle vintagecar

986 boxster car classiccar convertible drivetastefully indiana lakemonroe porsche sportscar vehicle vintagecar986 boxster car classiccar convertible drivetastefully indiana lakemonroe porsche sportscar vehicle vintagecar

Brief History of the Porsche Boxster

Given Porsche’s high-flying success today, it’s easy to forget the company was on the verge of bankruptcy back in the early 1990s.[1] In fact, Porsche’s annual sales had fallen from over 50,000 units in 1986 to 14,000 in 1993, and only 3000 of those sales were in the U.S.[2]

Continue reading “Porsche Boxster 986”

A Winter Weekend of Street Photography in New York

New York is a truly astonishing city[1][2][3]. It currently houses 8.4 million people distributed over a land area of 305 square miles. The city has the largest Polish population after Warsaw. The same goes for Jewish people (outside Israel), and it also has the largest Chinese population outside Asia. New York City is the most linguistically diverse city in the world, with its residents speaking over 800 different languages.

architecture blackandwhite bnw city cityscape d800 newyork newyorkcity Nikon nikonphotography nyc people street streetphoto timessquare urban

Times Square is named after the New York Times. It was originally called Longacre Square until 1904 when the NYT moved there. The city is associated with the British Empire but the first settlers were Dutch. They established a fur trading post in Governor’s Island. Later, the Dutch established the colony of New Amsterdam in Lower Manhattan. They purchased the island from the locals for the modern equivalent of $1000. Many have called the transaction “the best real estate deal in history” (which probably is an exaggeration if you consider the Louisiana Purchase).

architecture blackandwhite bnw city cityscape d800 newyork newyorkcity Nikon nikonphotography nyc street streetphoto urban

In 1664, the English took the territory of New Amsterdam from the Dutch settlers living there. King Charles II named the territory New York after his brother the Duke of York and gave it to him as a gift. Manhattan comes from a Lenape word meaning “island of many hills” (mostly flattened by now to provide room for urban development). New York is known as the “Empire State” due to its growth and prosperity early in its history. George Washington is said to have seen New York as “the seat of the empire”. It was the first capital of the United States. The designation lasted only a year.

architecture blackandwhite bnw builing city d800 empire empirestatebuilding newyork newyorkcity Nikon nikonphotography nyc shadow street streetphoto urban

There are more than 380,000 millionaires in the city and that’s why there are so many expensive stores and establishments in Fifth Avenue. One out of every 21 New Yorkers is a millionaire.

blackandwhite bnw city d800 man newyork newyorkcity Nikon nikonphotography nyc street streetlife streetphoto urban

The price to operate a hot dog cart in Manhattan (for a year) ranges between $150,000 and $300,000 (in the most expensive pars of town, like Central Park).

The city has been struggling with the problem of homelessness for years, and since 2007 it pays families to leave the city, as a way of keeping them out of the expensive shelter system which costs $36,000 a year per family. All it takes is for a relative in any other part of the world to agree to take the family in, and the city of New York sponsors the ticket.

blackandwhite bnw city d800 homeless newyork newyorkcity Nikon nikonphotography nyc poverty street streetphoto urban woman

blackandwhite bnw city d800 homeless man newyork newyorkcity Nikon nikonphotography nyc poverty street streetphoto urbanblackandwhite bnw city d800 homeless man newyork newyorkcity Nikon nikonphotography nyc poverty street streetphoto urbanblackandwhite bnw city d800 homeless newyork newyorkcity Nikon nikonphotography nyc poverty street streetphoto urban

From a photographer’s point of view, New York is an infinite source of inspiration. The people, the architecture, the never-ceasing movement and flow of faces, cars, bikes and events in the “city that never sleeps” is something that leaves a lasting impression. I had the time and opportunity to walk the streets of NYC taking pictures for two days with my trusty Nikon D800. Continue reading “A Winter Weekend of Street Photography in New York”

Rare Camera: 18 karat Gold Mamiya RB67 ProSD

This camera is so heavy, had Indiana Jones been a photographer, the gold Mamiya RB67 would have been what he used instead of a bag of sand to weigh down the trap of the golden idol. According to Thorley, when the venerable RB67 is mentioned in on-line forums people start coughing up all sorts of stories about how heavy and unwieldy they are, how the mirror slap alone can cause a shock wave big enough to damage all the digital sensors in a five kilometre radius and that if dropped on your foot you’ll know the pain of so many cartoon characters who’ve had mishaps with an anvil. And guess what? It’s still worth it!

anniversary camera gold mamiya mamiyarb67 mediumformat photography vintagecamera

Jokes aside, while the camera will seem hefty compared to modern DSLR’s, it is not unwieldy, because of its good ergonomics. Through the seventies and nineties medium format cameras were the top-tier professional tools, just as big, horizontal and vertical grip DSLR’s are today. Today the digital sensor technology is only just catching up, making cameras like the Pentax 645D/Z feasible for mass production. It is quite possible that in ten years time the old and elegant tools such as the Mamiya RB67 will no longer seem so big and heavy by comparison.

Made primarily for landscape and studio work, the RB67 (RB stands for “Rotating Back” – a very convenient feature that allows the photographer to twist the back instead of changing the orientation of the camera itself) was designed and built like the proverbial tank.120 Studio The moment you pick up one of these cameras, you know it was not intended for street photography or quick snapshots. Now, of course some of us are deliberately going to use it for that anyway, but one look at the RB67 and it’s clear that this is primarily a tripod camera.

anniversary camera gold logo mamiya mamiyarb67 mediumformat photography

This very special gold RB67 ProSD was released 1990 in a limited edition of only 300 units worldwide to commemorate Mamiya’s 50th anniversary. It comes in a beautiful lacquered box with a custom anniversary logo. The box is opened by a special key and the first thing that one finds inside is a pair of white cotton gloves.

When released this camera cost roughly 15000 German Marks, or $9000 in 2017 money. It doesn’t surface very often, but it seems that its price as a collector’s item is dropping. One was sold by Bonhams in 2013 for as little as $1400. Think about it – for a fraction of a price of a new Leica you could get a camera with vastly superior imaging qualities, just as well made, and even more ostentatious.

anniversary camera gold mamiya mamiyarb67 mediumformat photography vintagecamera

On the side of the camera there is a golden plate which reads “Mamiya 1940-1990 50 years in Photography”. According to Camera-Wiki Mamiya was founded in May 1940 by Mamiya Seiichi (間宮精一) and Sugawara Tsunejirō (菅原恒二郎) as Mamiya Kōki Seisakusho (マミヤ光機製作所, Mamiya Optical Works). It was based in Tokyo, Hongo, and its first camera was the Mamiya Six, a 6×6 folder with coupled rangefinder that was focused by moving the film plane. The original owner of a gold RB67 ProSD got a golden nameplate with their own name engraved.

anniversary camera gold mamiya mamiyarb67 mediumformat photography vintagecamera

If you are interested in owning one of these rare cameras, here is the Mamiya RB67 ProSD Manual, and some good articles about the camera.

  1. Classic Cameras: 6 Photos and 7 Anecdotes from the Mamiya RB67 (by B&H Photo and Video)
  2. Mamiya RB67 Camera Guide (by Helluin.org)
  3. Mamiya RB67 Pro (by PhotoEthnography)
  4. Mamiya RB67 (by Thorley Photographics)

anniversary camera gold mamiya mamiyarb67 mediumformat photography vintagecameraanniversary camera gold mamiya mamiyarb67 mediumformat photography vintagecamera anniversary camera gold mamiya mamiyarb67 mediumformat photography vintagecameraanniversary camera gold mamiya mamiyarb67 mediumformat photography vintagecamera