Browsing Posts in Gear

Recently, my large-format HP Z3100 printer has started to display strange error messages. As these messages were not documented in the admin documentation delivered with the printer, I have searched on internet the printer service manual, this is the manual that HP tech guys are using to fix the printer. I have found the documentation on this site.

Helped with the service manual, I have discovered the meaning of the two error messages displayed by the printer:

  • a power supply deficiency (problem with the fan)
  • a front panel error

Regarding the power supply deficiency, OK, I heard the fan making strange noises.

But for the second problem reported by the printer, it did not make any sens as the front panel was working fine and all the connectors of the front panel were tightly connected (I have checked several time). Searching again on Google, it seemed that this error was related to the “formater”. This is the piece of hardware that contains the hard drive. And the hard drive is a weak point of the printer.

So, I have tried to buy a new “formater”. I have called the company that is delivering printer parts to HP customers in Switzerland. And I had another surprise: the formater was end of life!

Thanks to HP to not support a printer that is 4 years old!

I did not gave up and I have found a new hard drive on a China web site. Hard drive ordered, installed and the printer is starting again. After the setup procedure described in the service manual, the printer seemed to work fine. I did not do a print check as I had to replace the power supply and I did not want to have too much heat on the hard drive… It was a mistake.

I have ordered a new power supply on Amazon and I started to disassemble the printer:

Z3100 disassembled

It is not really sexy… The only goal was to remove the power supply.

Z3100 disassembled

To remove the power supply, you have to disconnect all the internal cables, to get that:

Z3100 power supply

After having assembled the printer, I had a printer that was starting and did not display any error message! At least!

I cleaned the print heads, synchronized paper profiles, and did my first print…

And I saw a new error: 79.04!

At this point, I started to be fed up. Doing new internet searches, I found it was a generic error used by all HP printers. It is an error that is not managed in the firmware and so, it could be created by a lot of hardware parts.

As I did not want to try to change a lot of parts to clear this error, I decided to stop trying fixing the printer. As all my friends told me that my printer looked like a piano, I have decided to replaced it with… a piano. At least, the sound will be nicer.

Don’t think that only HP wide format printers have this kind of problems. Looking on internet forum, I discovered that all brands have a lot of problems with their wide format printers. It is much simpler to not buy a new printer and to work with a partner for all my wide prints.

If you would like to buy my printer and want to fix it, contact me to talk about a (small) price for it. I have several paper rolls to offer with it, ink cartridges almost full and a full black ink cartridge. But I will not send the printer, you will have to come to get it!


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I have just bought a Sekonic 758D flash meter. Today, everything is digital, Nikon flashes have the i-TTL technology, LCD screens are displaying histograms. Why would you need a flash meter with all these digital assistances?

Sekonic 758D

Introduction

Let’s go back in time a little bit. I’m working exclusively with Nikon gear: DSLRs and flashes. I’m also using PocketWizard MiniTT1, FlexTT5 and an AC3 controller to quickly setup flashes settings from my DSLR.

Working without a flash meter

Until now, I had two options when I was using flashes for portraits photographies (flashes in i-TTL automatic mode, in manual mode, or in a mix of i-TTL and manual mode):

  • connecting the DSLR to a computer with an USB cable and using Lightroom to directly importing the photos from the DSLR (tethered mode)
  • being confident with the information available on the LCD screen of the camera: histogram, overexposed zones and the photos displayed on the LCD screen. This is the default setup when you are working outside or if you do not have the time to setup a laptop to work in tethered mode.

By using the tethered mode, you directly have the final rendering of your photo. Lightroom will directly process your file (NEF or JPEG) and display the final processed image. So, it is easy to modify flashes settings and directly see the modification made on the final image. It is a method based on experience and on iterative approximations.

On the other side, if you are not working in tethered mode, you will not have a lot of information on the LCD. The rendition of the photo you are seeing on this small screen is not as good as the rendition that you will have on your calibrated main computer screen. The histogram can help but it could easily be tricked if you are working with a white background or if you are taking a picture of a really dark scene.

Talking about white background. It is difficult to setup the flash power to have an homogenized white background. We could work with the over exposed function on the LCD screen but this is not perfect because this function is working on a picture processed by your camera and not the RAW file. By using this function, you will end up with a white background that will not be white everywhere or that will be too bright and light up your subject from the background, becoming a new source of light.

Regarding your subject, you need to have a lot of experience to understand how your camera will measure the light. There is as many photos configurations as ways your camera measures light. We are not Joe McNally and we do not have his many years of experiences (not yet at least).

So, if we are using an option or another, you will have to do a lot of iterations before having the photo you want to create.

Flash meter = manual

To test the flash meter, I have made two quick family photos. They are not complex photographies but they illustrate very will what are the advantages of using a flash meter.

The first example is a photo of my wife in front of a white background. I have used two flashes for this photography: one for the background and another inside a beauty dish to light her face.

I wanted a shallow depth of field. I have used a 85mm lens with an f/2.2 aperture. I have used a spot measure on the white background to have a f/2.2 measure by changing the flash power. As a spot measure is based on a 18% gray, you must add 2.5 stops to your flash power to have a 100% white. To be sure to have a perfect white, I have added 3 stops to my flash power to have a final measure of f/6.3.

For my wife face, I have measured the light under her chin and setup the flash power to have an exact measure of f/2.2.

I took 3 photos. The one displayed below is the one I prefer for her expression. But the most important thing to notice on this picture is that I did not had to change the exposure of this photo in Lightroom (ever for her face or the white background)! It is a huge time saver for your post production work and it is an insurance that you photo will always be well exposed.

 

The second photography was an even simpler photography of my son Thomas. Only one flash was used. Thomas was sitting in an highchair and I wanted to light his face and have a 1 stop difference with the wall behind him.

I have also used the 85mm lens but for this photography. I wanted a large depth of field. So I have used a f/5.6 aperture. I have first measured the exposure on the wall to have a f/5.6 exposure and changed the exposure time on my camera regarding the flash meter measure. The exposure time was 1/10th of a second. As I wanted a difference of 1 stop with the light on my son’s face, I had to take the photo with an exposure time of 1/20th of a second. I have setup the flash zoom to 200mm to have it concentrated on Thomas face and to not light the wall in the background. I finally had to setup the flash power by measuring the light under the chin of Thomas to have a f/5.6 measure. And that’s it! My camera was set with a lens aperture of f/5.6 and an exposure time of 1/20th of a second. These settings were quick to define and I took exactly the photo I wanted (at least regarding light).

Thomas

Conclusion

Using a flash meter lets you take photos more quickly and more precisely regarding the light settings. You will have less post production work in Lightroom or Photoshop and you will take the exact photo that you had imagined.

In a further post I will explain you how to use a f/stop table with a flash meter and how to use the Sekonic 758D with a PocketWizard MiniTT1, FlexTT5 and AC3.

If you have any questions, fell free to ask them in the comments.

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Apple has announced yesterday the iPad 2 release (the 2nd of March 2011).

iPad 2What is it all about?

  • it is a little lighter
  • it is a little thinner
  • it has two cameras
  • it has a slightly faster processor
  • it has a slightly faster graphic processor

Not bad! And at the same price!

Wait a little bit before running buying one. If you would like to use an iPad 2 as a photographer, what do you want to do with it?

You mainly want to show your portfolio (and use the other apps as a bonus). But the iPad 2 is not improving the only part that is interesting for us: the screen.

Just know that Apple is clearing its iPad 1 stock (at least in France) with a great discount. You can buy an iPad 1 for 389€ (16GB Wifi, enough for a photographer) while the iPad 2 (same configuration) will be sold 499€.

So, if you are a photographer and you would like an iPad, buy an iPad… 1!


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Introduction

Wether you are an amateur or professional photographer, you’ll want, at a time, to buy a new camera. This desire will come sooner or later depending of your personality, but this moment will happen…

Questions you have to ask to yourself

To know if you have to buy a new camera, you should ask to yourself several questions. Firstly:

Do I want to buy a new camera because because I need it or because I cannot resist to buy this wonderful new … (fill the blank with the camera of your choice)?

  • Answer 1: “A cannot resist” – If you can afford to buy it (and your family will not suffer the consequences), buy it! You will one day sooner or later! So, enjoy using the new camera as soon as possible!
  • Answer 2: “I need it because…” – In this case, you will have to ask yourself another question. Because you will always find good reasons to buy your new toy. If you are a professional photographer, you should always have this second answer, and it is even more important to ask to yourself this another question.

Let’s take a real world example: myself ;-) Today I’m working with two DSLR. One of these is a Nikon D2X.

Nikon D2X

Nikon D2X

I own it for several years and it is always a perfect tool for my work, but there is always this new DSLR that I’d like to buy… So, I must ask to myself the good question and be honest when I answer to it:

What are the new features of this new DSLR that will help me in my daily basis work or get new customer contracts?

  • “the LCD screen is better” – Sure I like a lot the D700′s LCD screen. I have a better feedback regarding image quality and details. It is far better than the D2X’s LCD screen. But does this LCD screen prevent me to take good photos? No, so it is a bad argument.
  • “there is less noise above ISO 400″ – It’s true. But I mainly use the D2X for sport event photography during daylight. If I need to take photos with an higher ISO, I’m using my D700. So, this is another bad argument.
  • “I can record videos” – This is the new hype in the photography business. But does my customers ask me if I could provide a movie alongside my pictures during sport events or during corporate events? Not yet. I’ll have to think about this argument in some time when my customers will ask me to shoot movies (and they will in some time). But right now, there is no business advantage to invest in a new DSLR for this new feature. So, this is an argument I’ll have to look at again in a few months (or weeks).
  • “better resolution (more pixels)” – Maybe, but it will not be an advantage for me. I will have more work to process my photos. I will need more powerful computers, more storages and more backups. Furthermore, my print quality is excellent for my needs and my customer’s needs. So, this is another bad argument.

Looking at these four arguments, none passes the test question. So, my decision is easy to take: I keep my D2X. But I’ll have to ask myself the same questions in a moment when my customers will ask me to shoot videos.

Conclusion

Wether you are an amateur or professional photographer, ask always to yourself good questions before buying a new camera. Unless this is just a “impulse” that you can afford, it will let you focus on your photos and not think that with a new camera you will magically… (fill the blank with your favorite excuse, “make better photos”, “have more customers”,…)