Wireless On A Shoestring

There are a lot of times when a hardwired audio connection just isn’t going to cut it in a run and gun situation. And the first place most of us turn is to a good wireless mic setup. I’ve got an older version of this one from Sony, and it is rugged, reliable, with great sound.

The problem with the pro wireless units is that they are fairly bulky (you wouldn’t be carrying it around full time in a camera bag, unless you are seriously doing only interviews) and at $600, rather expensive.

TSA inspectors don’t like them because they look like part of a detonation system. Overseas, customs inspectors don’t like them because they look like something you could start a revolution with.  They’re strictly for bigger, professional productions.

Wouldn’t be nice if there were a reasonably priced ($179), tiny, lightweight (2 oz.) wireless system you could throw in your bag on fulltime basis to use for those travel gigs where you will occasionally find a character you’d love to mic up for a quick interview?

Well, there is, and for Sony users, it’s called the ECM-W1M Bluetooth Wireless Mic  and it’s a little godsend for those of us who want to travel light and unobtrusively, and still get decent audio in a variety of situations.  Canon makes their version and if you poke around, you may find others.

Size-wise, it’s a no-brainer…the little transmitter takes a AAA battery, the receiver connects to any Sony (including the RX100ii compact and several other compacts, as well as the A6000 and A7 series) that sports the Multi-Interface System (MIS).

This is the only real choice for off camera audio for those Sonys, like the A6000 and NEX 6, that sport the MIS shoe, but have no audio input, so video-shooting owners of these cameras should take special note of this Bluetooth option.

Now before we go another sentence into this, am I saying that this little setup is as good as a pro wireless system? No, not on your life. Let’s look at some of the disadvantages.

1. No volume control. Yes, Sony lets the camera take over on almost any audio accessory that uses the MIS system (with the exception of their big pro XLR adapter). The good news is that it doesn’t behave too badly and you don’t get wild fluctuations in gain if the subject should happen to stop speaking for a moment.

2. 100 foot, line-of-sight range. You’re not going to be shooting across football fields with the Bluetooth setup. And if the subject turns away from you at a distance, or walks into building while you’re still outside,  you’ll get breakup.

3. Hard to hide the transmitter. While the transmitter is about the size of a tube of lipstick, it is still substantially bigger than a little lavelier mic. And it can be hard to “hide” on your subject. The Sony model has a port for a lav mic, but most of my good lavs were just too “hot” and caused audio peaking.

Fortunately, I’ve been playing around with a new lav mic from our Australian friends at MyMyk called the SportsMyIt’s like a little lavalier on a 3″ flexible tiny arm with a heavy duty clip and it’s designed for using with POV cameras (you clip it to your helmet and you can narrate your viral mountain biking videos, etc. )

Well, it’s not as “hot” as my other lavs and it plays well with the Sony transmitter, and it makes it useful when you really want to hide the transmitter. And I’m happy to find a good use for this interesting mic, because my narration of the Actioncam videos of me having a night in the pub was just not helping those videos go viral!

 I used this system several times on a recent trip to Bermuda and so far have been very pleased with the sound quality. And all of my gear just sailed past customs inspection, with me playing my role as innocuous photo-weenie senior citizen going on vacation with Streep-like verisimilitude:-).

Of course all of this tiny gear wouldn’t be worthwhile if you needed gigantic headphones, and I’ve found that the Koss Porta Pro headphones are a great compromise between size and function (and apparently I’m not the only one because  video production guru Jem Schofield, of the C47 blog, is also a big Koss fan, and he knows his stuff).

So the Bluetooth wireless setup (with its cute little windsock windmuff for the transmitter), the Koss headphones, the SportsMyk and the mini-shotgun Smartmyk from MyMyk ride in my camera bag at all times.

They add hardly any weight, but a lot of audio capabilities for my run and gun travel videos.

It’s In The Bag–Part Two

The camera bag that I detailed in the previous post is just part one. These days, nobody can travel without a bag o’ electronics too. I used to use a larger laptop, a larger rollaboard, but in my never-ending quest to go smaller and lighter (with gear, if not in person), this is my latest configuration, and it works pretty well.

In this second bag go two other cameras I try not to leave home without: my Sony RX100 iii, and my Sony Actioncam. If we were all perfectly honest with ourselves, we’d admit that cameras like the Sony RX 100, and the top-of-the-line Canon and Nikon compacts, would really be good enough to shoot 95% of what most publication photogs need to do, but we’re not.

We’re pros, so we need big, expensive gear. If we don’t show up with a lot of gear, nobody will believe us.

This system is built around a top of the line, 11″ Macbook Air with a 510GB SSD at its core, with 8GB of RAM (the most the 11″ will take) and the fastest processor. I can edit video on this thing (although I prefer a much larger screen) on the road if need be and it’s so tiny and flat I can often stuff it in the back pocket of my camera bag if need be.

I keep a 500GB USB3.0 backup boot drive just in case, and I back up my SDXC cards to two 2TB USB 3 drives on the road…I also try not to reuse the cards, either, so I have three copies of everything from an assignment.

Battery chargers can proliferate faster than a gang of stoned bunny rabbits, so I settled on a battery charging system a while ago. It’s offered by B&H under the Watson brand (used to be Pearstone) and I have a double battery charger and a single one.

All you do is switch out the battery plates, rather than carry separate chargers, for all the different devices. I have plates for all my Sony cameras, my Nikon cameras, and even the LED panel batteries can be recharged on this device. It is a huge space saver. (Wait, that’s an oxymoron, but it’s true!).

Those vinyl bags are cosmetics bags from CVS and they run about $8 each and are great for organizing all your electronic chatchkes. If you prefer a “professional” version, you can pay $25 for a similar bag from ThinkTank , but I’m more cheap than I am embarrassed to be seen hanging out in the makeup aisle at the drugstore (and fellas, you’d be surprised at what a little eyeliner will do; after all, we are selling out eyes, n’est ce pas?:-)

It’s all carried in ThinkTank’s smallest rollaboard, the Airport Airstream. Damn, those ThinkTank people make great bags. Expensive, but rugged and well designed.

And finally, as the piece de la resisistance that illustrates the depth of my paranoia, er, I mean my preparedness, I always fold up one of the lightweight, supplex nylon photo vests that I designed for LL Bean about 15 years ago (they stopped carrying it right after 9/11, when a lot of their travel gear was discontinued) and put it in this bag.

It’s similar in design to the Domke vest with one important and vastly superior difference…it’s NOT made of heavy, old-tech cotton duck that absorbs and holds every ounce of sweat like a sponge, and so it weighs nothing, folds down to nothing, and wicks moisture away from your body instead of making you carry it around like a water-bearer (c’mon Tiffen/Domke, get with the program…cotton duck material went out with the British Raj in India, for crissakes, and you’ve been trying to sell it in this vest this for 20 years).

You can substitute the vest of your choice, or if you’re lucky, find one of mine on EBay…but be warned they fetch collector’s item fees…the few extra I have are so valuable, they’re figuring into my estate planning:-).

Now, should I run into a foreign airline on a connection that strictly enforces a “one carryon and one carryon only” rule (and it has happened about 3 times in my career), I can take everything in this rollaboard and put it in the big pockets of my vest, and literally “wear” my second carryon onto the plane, while giving them an essentially empty bag to check.

It’s not foolproof, of course, but it’s worked for me and as I said, it’s a bailout tactic that you can use when your back is against the wall.

The Sony RX10ii—The Underappreciated Middle Child Gets Even Better!

Birth order is a strange and powerful force….more and more, the research points to the fact that in most families, a lot of your personality is not only developed because of your innate qualities, but also where you appeared in the birth order of your siblings.

This is certainly case for the Sony RX10 series….the first one was introduced with one of the Sony A7 series, the flashy big brother, and the Sony RX100ii, the precocious baby, and so of course, the uber-talented middle child was overlooked (and no, I’m an eldest child, so this isn’t my life story disguised as a camera review:-).

And this same thing has happened with the introduction of the RX10ii, which was completely lost in the kerfuffle about the A7Rii and the RX100iv cameras in the same release.

Sony Rx10II

Which was a shame, because in many ways the RX10 was the dream machine for the traveling multi-media photographer who had to produce great stills and pro quality video with one compact, weather-sealed, well-designed camera with a built in 24-200mm f/2.8 (in 35mm equivalent) Zeiss freakin’ T* lens!

But alas, there were only a few of us who seemed to appreciate the qualities of this camera. Steve Northrup, longtime contract shooter for Time Magazine, called it the “best travel camera I’ve ever used.”  And Kirk Tuck, commercial photographer and thinking man’s photo blogger extraordinaire (and damn good spy novelist—his Lisbon Portfolio is a terrific book, and the hero is a corporate photographer!), loved the RX10. But Kirk buys new cameras more often than I buy red wine (hard to believe, but I really think its true:-), so it looks more like a fling and less like a marriage for him with the RX10.

But not me…I’m in it for the long haul with the RX10 series. And since this “appreciation” of the RX10ii is a little late (because I like to actually get out and use a camera for a few months before I open my big mouth about it, and I don’t call these “reviews” because you can get all the tech specs elsewhere, these are more my subjective findings and tips).

Sony Rx10II

So you can get the specs of both the new RX10 and the version ii elsewhere, but let’s get the obvious ones right out of the way first:

  1. It shoots beautiful 4K video internally. No external recorders needed. You get gorgeous, 100mpbs non-artifacting 4K in a very compact footprint.
  2. It shoots amazing slow-motion HD footage up to 900+frames per second. It’s true that these faster frame rates-960, 480, 240–are shot at lower resolution than HD and up-rezzed, and you can only record about 2-4 seconds of footage at a time, but still, the creative possibilities are amazing. And the 240fps setting is just slightly less than HD resolution and looks sensational blown up (and that’s a 10x slow mo that is buttery smooth).
  3. But the 120fps HD slow motion setting is just a normal mode and you can shoot it all day with no time limit. This is, again, a very fast bit-rate (100mbps) non-pixel binning HD video that looks great and is much easier to shoot than the higher frame rates, which are shootable in two-second clips only. But now for sports, wildlife, etc. you can get amazing slo-mo all day.
Sony RX10ii (courtesy Sony)
Sony RX10ii (courtesy Sony)

Okay, those are the improvements that you can read in any two bit review of the camera, but here are the less obvious improvements that I’ve not seen pointed out in in other review, but have made the camera even more useful for me.

  1. It now accepts the Sony Playstation apps so you can finally do timelapses. Yes, if the original RX10 had an Achilles heel, it was its inability to do timelapses…the camera wouldn’t take the app, and there were no wired intervalometers available that would do it through the remote terminal. Now, you can use the much improved Sony timelapse app, or there are now also new third party wired intervalometers that mate up with this camera (and the A7 series).
  2. TheRX10ii allows dedicated on camera flash sync speeds up to 1/4000th of a second. This is, as a certain media personality might say, “yuuuge” And this isn’t the typical “high speed sync” where the flash is basically flickering and putting out a fraction of its power, this is a full pop of flash. And even if you use a non-dedicated flash and trigger it with the hotshoe, you’ll still get an amazing sync speed of 1/1600th of a second. For you outdoor fill flash enthusiasts, your world has been rocked…you can use heavy diffusion with small strobes to get beautiful, soft fill light in bright sunlight.
  3. There’s now a selectable zoom speed!  Since Sony really spec’ed this camera out for video, in the first version, there was a very smooth, but often painfully s-l-o-w zoom action, whether you used the rocker switch or the zoom collar on the lens. The new model thankfully has a “zoom speed” option in the menu…set the “fast” setting (it’s still not lightning fast) and you’ll be a happy camper.
  4. There’s an easy, heavy duty battery solution for long timelapses and event coverage. Much has been made of how the Sony NP-FW50 batteries for the A7 and RX10 series cameras are not as powerful as one might want, and how you need a few of them to get through the day. This is less of an issue with this camera than its A7 series big brothers, but if you want to run an all-night timelapse, or you have to cover hours-long events (poor you:-), you can now power this camera (as well as the mark II series of the A7s and A7r, and the RX100iv) using the USB port when you select USB Power Supply in the menu.

This is a big deal, because it means you can use that same battery pack that you use to recharge your smartphones on the go to run your camera…no more buying expensive battery solutions that have dummy FW-50 shaped battery modules attached to huge batteries, taking the battery compartment door off, etc. etc. This is clean and simple.

I got two of these 10,000 mAh batteries for $14 each from Amazon (tip of the hat to fellow Sony Artisan Dennis Biela for the lead) and they are relatively compact and will run the cameras all day and most of the night, not to mention power up and charge my iPad and iPod if needed.

Colorful Cape May with the RX10ii
Colorful Cape May with the RX10ii

A couple of other “unsung” aspects of the RX10 series; it is about the most weather resistant camera in the Sony line…I’ve used mine in pouring rain in Iceland, blowing sand in the Kalahari desert, dirt and dust in a Gobi Desert horse race…you name it and the camera holds up. And video shooters, this is, well, again “yuuuuuge”—it’s a fixed lens (albeit an equivalent 24-200mm f/2.8 zoom) so you never have to worry about sensor dust! 

For still shooters, sensor dirt and dust is a minor inconvenience correctable with one hit of the clone tool…for video shooters? Well think about it…would you like to correct 120 frames per second of a moving dust spot? It can be done with masks and key frames and such, but it ain’t easy.

So, downsides? Yes, there are a few. It’s expensive $1298…but think about the lens range (and the straight f/2.8 aperture) you get with the camera and price it against a DSLR or mirrorless with detachable lenses and think about what you’d spend to cover that zoom range at that speed, and suddenly, you’ll see that it isn’t that expensive.

And although the new backlit 1″ sensor is even better in low light (I’ll shoot the RX10ii happily at up to ISO 3200, a full stop higher than its predecessor), it’s still tricky to get that creamy soft bokeh out of this camera…you need the right conditions. As you know, the smaller the chip, the greater the inherent depth of field, but in the right circumstances (see below) you can get really smooth bokeh…just not as easily as with your full frame or APSC  chipped cameras.

Shot with the RX10 last May. In the right circumstances, you can get nice bokeh with this camera (shot in Rich B&W mode)
Shot with the RX10 last May. In the right circumstances, you can get nice bokeh with this camera (shot in Rich B&W mode) Photo ©Bob Krist

So there you have it, my admittedly subjective appreciation of what will no doubt become my workhorse camera in the upcoming year of what will be possibly my heaviest travel schedule in a long time. Do I love my A7s and my A7Rii? You bet I do, but for run and gun travel video and stills, this is the camera I reach for first.

If you want to indulge your inner geek and go for a full bore tear down of the camera, these guys at Imaging Resource do the best in-depth camera reviews on the net, I think.

It’s In The Bag

For me, a camera bag is a constantly evolving beast, especially these days as I complete my transition to mirrorless video maven. I’m teaching a couple of seminars on travel photography for National Geographic Traveler in the next couple of  months, and so it was time to update the pictures of my latest gear configuration for travel. Here’s a breakdown of what I take on travel gigs these days…

This is the beast fully loaded, and even at that, it’s about half the weight of my old DSLR setup. I will often leave the fisheye Rokinon behind. But it’s nice having relatively fast lenses like the Rokinon 12mm f/2 (18mm equivalent) and the 35mm f/1.8 (50mm equivalent) ready to grab.

Let’s go over the thinking behind this bag. For the first time I can remember, my outfit does not include two matching bodies…I never went out without a matching pair of compact Nikon DSLRs..but that was before the advent of mirrorless cameras of theRX10‘s quality with a built-in Zeiss lens that is the 35mm equivalent of a 24-200mm f2.8 on the camera’s one inch chip.

Think of that; a super sharp, reasonably fast 24-200mm with a constant f/2.8 lens. Oh yeah, the full frame pixel peepers are going to go on about the chip size but for both still and especially video purposes, in my opinion, this is the best shot-grabbing, all-in-one travel camera ever made (there, I said it). With the latest firmware upgrade that got us out of the awful compressed AVCHD codec and into a broadcast quality, 50mbps X AVCS codec, Sony has just knocked this out of the park.

But one camera can’t do everything and one thing that the RX10 doesn’t do too well is that soft-background creamy bokeh full frame look (it’s a matter of sensor size, not a design failure). And the images can get noisy above ISO 1600 (which is still an excellent high ISO threshold for a smaller chip camera). And while 24mm is wide enough for most things, I love an ultrawide look too.

And that’s where the A7s comes in. It’s a lowlight monster, and is usable in two modes—full frame, and APS-C mode. I use it primarily in the latter mode for two reasons. First, most of my Sony lenses are for the NEX series which were all APS-C sized chips. And secondly, because in video mode, the APS-C mode is less prone to rolling shutter, that phenomenon that can create a wavy video image if you’re moving the camera around too fast (which you shouldn’t be if you’re shooting video, but hey, sometimes you’re not as stable as you want to be).

Recently, in Iceland, I shot video with the A7s at ISO 25,400 (or something like that) in a shepherd’s hut lit with a couple of little candles and it looked fabulous. I don’t know how they did it, but this camera shines at ISO’s so high that you really need night vision goggles to see what the camera can see.

So on this camera, I have my 10-18mm (which in APS-C mode is equivalent to a 15-28mm approximately). I also carry the sharp Zeiss 16-70mm f/4…what a nice lens; Optical  Image Stabilization, and a range (35mm equivalent would be a 24-105mm) that will cover almost everything I usually need in any given situation.

For low light and nice bokeh, I’ve got the tiny, sharp, optically stabilized (way to go Sony, offering stabilization in fast primes!) 35mm f/1.8. It’s great for those face closeups with good bokeh, like this one:

The rest of the gear is pretty self-explanatory. The table top tripod doubles as a kind of chest or belly brace for handheld shooting. I come from the “time before selfies,” so I don’t really shoot them, but the selfie pole and the mic extension cord allow me to mount the ultra light Smartmyk mini shotgun on it and do a one-handed boom mic arrangement for impromptu interviews.  The Olympus audio recorder is for capturing ambient sound.

The camera raincoat, the bag o’ batteries, the cable release are standard issue items. But the result is a bag I sling over my shoulder (bandolero-style so the bag rides in the small of my back until I need to get something out of it), that I can carry all day, every day, and be ready for just about anything!

Hockey betting

Highlighting the most spectacular and fast sports games in the world, in the first TOP-3 we should definitely put the hockey. Hockey is so popular because of its spectacular moments. Of course, the full geography of these matches is not as extensive as, for example, in football, however, the number of fans here is also quite large. It is important to note that hockey bets are in high demand among residents of Russia and other countries (Canada, Sweden, Czech Republic, and so on). You can bet on hockey in free online casino games to play now.

The incredible speed of the game, the various removal of players from the field, and much more that can change the main account of the meeting of two opponents – these are the main features of hockey bets. It is important to note that in order to achieve the desired successful results you may need not only the required level of professionalism, but also quite strong nerves, especially those who decide to try themselves in the live mode.

Practically, as in any other sport in hockey, the main result of a match can be influenced by a lot of different factors that are extremely important to take into account in order to increase the probability of winning. These factors should be completely attributed to the general form of the team, analyzing its recent matches, news from hockey clubs, which may mention injured or disqualified players, a kind of level of motivation for a particular game and the like.

Before the final decision to put your money on the game, you need to try to find a decent and honest bookmaker who will provide a quality line of necessary events with a very large list for upcoming hockey matches, including for live modes. The more different betting options a bookmaker can offer you, the wider your choice is in terms of the most successful bet. Usually, the schedule of betting on the hockey leagues of the NHL and KHL is very rich, compared to the usual European championships.

Live bets are the most profitable in hockey

This is due to the fact that during the main broadcast during the game you can evaluate the real forces of the opponents and make the right choice. For proper evaluation it is enough to watch the match a couple of minutes.

As elsewhere, in the reception of bets on hockey in live mode there is one not very pleasant feature. Given that the scores change regularly, bets may be suspended. Doubtful bookmakers can forbid to make a bet at all when one of the teams plays in the majority. Deletions in this game occur quite often, so making bets in this mode on such bookmakers is not very convenient.

Also, quite an important point is the features of the calculation of the rates for hockey

Some bookmakers take into account only 3 periods, while others may take into account the time of overtime, and maybe even the shootouts. Before you bet, be sure to familiarize yourself with such subtleties in the rules of the system. Do not forget that there are simply amazing comebacks in hockey (a weak team still strives for victory). Do not be surprised when a bet with a factor of 1.06 can lose. In such cases, it is better not to risk your own funds and simply abandon these small coefficients, because the risk will be until the last second of your chosen game.

Experienced players know the features of hockey, one of which is that the goalkeeper can be replaced by the 6th player. Such replacements are made by the coach usually at the end of the match, with a minimum loss of one or two goals. In such situations, it often happens that the losing team misses the next puck, or, on the contrary, scores and thereby compares the score. Therefore, in the end of the match you choose, it is better to abandon the bets on the total less.