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LensProToGo Robbed: List of Serial Numbers of Stolen Gear Here

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

Dear Readers,
In a crime that has shocked the photography world, Lens Pro To Go, one of the nation’s leading camera and lens rental services, suffered a break-in at its headquarters outside Boston this weekend and was robbed of nearly $600,000 worth of equipment. These types of equipment thefts are unfortunately not terribly rare (although this is by far the largest one I’ve heard of), because photography gear is unfortunately very easy to resell and is therefore a notoriously attractive target for thieves.

(In addition to being one of the country’s leading camera and lens rental houses, Lens Pro To Go also happens to be near and dear to me personally: I know the owner and several of the employees personally, and have worked with them for years and years. Paul, the owner, is a genuinely kind human being and one of the nicest guys you’ll ever come across.)

The exact specifics of how LPTG was robbed are lurid: an external window was broken, allowing the thieves into a small closet; from there, the thieves broke through an interior wall to get into LPTG’s main storage area (the apparent familiarity the thieves had with the internal layout of LPTG’s facility is sure to raise eyebrows, and more than a few questions).

More importantly though, at least for the time being, is that no one was hurt during the commission of the crime, and incredibly, the LPTG team was able to pick up the pieces, inventory their losses as well as what was left behind, and continue fulfilling customers’ orders without missing a beat… for which they deserve an incredible bravo. That’s dedication, folks.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly: Lens Pro To Go has compiled a list of all the equipment that was stolen, AS WELL AS THE ITEMS’ SERIAL NUMBERS. As is the nature with photo gear thefts, the thieves will almost undoubtedly try to sell the equipment as quickly as possible. Therefore it is essential that if you are looking to buy a camera or lens on eBay, Craigslist, or through any other aftermarket means, you check the list of stolen gear serial numbers to make sure you don’t buy stolen property, and if you find someone selling any of LPTG’s stolen gear you contact the police.

The stolen equipment serial number list is available on Lens Pro To Go’s website, here, as well as in downloadable spreadsheet form, here.
(Should either of the previous links fail to work over time, the spreadsheet of serial numbers is also available here.)

Again, if you’re buying camera equipment now or in the future via services like eBay or Craigslist, please be vigilant and check the serial numbers against the list of stolen gear. If you find someone selling stolen gear, call the police.

(And when you need to rent a camera, lens, or a variety of other photo- and video-related stuff, the Lens Pro folks are great people; consider giving them your business!)

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Today is the last day for public comment on the FAA’s proposed rules on drones!

Friday, May 1st, 2015

Hi folks,
As you may know, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration released preliminary rules governing the operation of “small unmanned aerial systems” (“sUAS,” or more simply, drones) a couple of months ago. The FAA’s process for adopting new rules includes a period where the public is allowed to comment on the preliminary rules before they are finalized. Today is the last day of that public comment period, so if you are a photographer or filmmaker who either uses drones as one of your tools or wants to, this is your last opportunity to have your voice heard! If you want to make your voice heard and submit a comment using the easy online process, there are instructions below on how to do so, as well as a sample comment that I’ve written.

The FAA’s proposed rules cover all manner of issues relating to the flying of drones, and include, among many other proposals, the following:

1) The FAA will define all craft weighing less than 55 pounds as sUAS, and will treat all sUAS equally
2) Drone pilots will be required to take certification classes and pass a written exam to pilot drones and register their aircraft
3) Drones will be limited to flying no higher than 500 feet above ground level in altitude and no faster than 100 miles per hour
4) Drones will be required to be flown only within the pilot’s line-of-sight
5) Drones will be prohibited from flying over uninvolved bystanders

In general I think most of the rules are reasonable, however I do have a number of quibbles, so yesterday I wrote a comment which I submitted. My biggest issue with the rules as they are proposed is that popular drones such as DJI Phantom models are tiny (less than 3 pounds) compared to the 55-pound systems they are being lumped in with. Phantoms that weigh 2.2 pounds pose far less of a safety risk to the public and other aircraft than much larger and heavier systems, so it isn’t fair that they would be lumped in with these larger systems and regulated as strictly and heavily, especially considering that Phantoms are far more popular and numerous than larger, heavier (and more potentially dangerous) systems.
My comment is as follows:

In regards to Proposed Rule FAA-2015-0150, “Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems”:
- A wide array of commercial enterprises have a legitimate business interest in flying small unmanned aircraft systems (“sUAS”), and an even wider array of American consumers will benefit from these business’s ability to do so.
- The complexity, skill required to operate, and potential safety hazards to both the operator and third parties resulting from the operation of sUAS are all far less than those of manned aircraft. Therefore the licensing and regulatory requirements to operate sUAS must be commensurately less intensive and demanding than the licensing and regulatory requirements of operating manned aircraft.
- It is reasonable and appropriate for both hobbyist and commercial sUAS operators to be required to fulfill licensing and regulatory requirements to operate sUAS, provided those requirements are appropriate to the level of complexity, skill required to operate, and potential safety hazards posed by sUAS, as described above. The licensing and regulatory requirements must be inexpensive and minimally time consuming for hobbyists and small commercial operators to complete.
- The vast majority of sUAS units in the United States weight less than 5 pounds. Therefore, the proposed rule’s equal treatment of all sUAS weighing less than 55 pounds is unrealistic and inappropriate. Hobbyist and commercial sUAS exist ranging from mere ounces in weight through and exceeding hundreds of pounds in weight, with commensurately differing levels of capability and potential safety hazard. Appropriate sUAS rules and regulations must reflect the realities of the differing levels of complexity, skill required to operate, and potential safety hazards posed by the variety of sUAS.


If you would like to submit a comment of your own, simply go to the page for this specific proposed rule using the link below, then click on the blue button on the top right that reads, “Comment Now!”:!documentDetail;D=FAA-2015-0150-0017
If you agree with the comment that I wrote, feel free to copy and paste the text above into your comment! (You can choose to include your name with your comment, or if you prefer you can submit your comment anonymously!).

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Wireless Intervalometer? BEST IDEA EVER

Monday, November 18th, 2013

This wireless intervalometer is amazing.

I use intervalometers for a number of purposes in my photography (if you’re not familiar with them, an intervalometer is a device that allows a photographer to set a camera to take a number of photographs sequentially with a given period, or interval, between shots. They’re  also sometimes known as “timers” or “remotes,” but if you want to sound like you know what you’re talking about, call them intervalometers. :-). They’re great devices that enable photographers to do all sorts of interesting things (like making timelapse videos like this!), and for me they are a must-have accessory that I carry with me whenever I carry a camera. One of my trusty intervalometers finally died the other day, so it was time to buy a new one.

Many people, myself included, believe that Canon’s name-brand intervalometer, the TC-80N3 (here on Amazon for $130) is overpriced. Devices with the the same build quality that do the same things (or more) are sold by other companies for a fraction of the price. I personally have been using two Satechi wired intervalometers with my Canon 7D, 5D Mark II and 5D Mark III cameras for years now and have been completely happy with them. So when the time came the other day to buy a new one, I went to Amazon assuming I would just buy another one of the same model. But when I did a quick search what did I see? WIRELESS intervalometers! My heart almost burst with joy. I ordered one immediately.

The Satechi wireless intervalometer I just bought. This thing is awesome.

Why is this such a big deal, you ask? Well, because frequently when I’m using an intervalometer the camera is in a difficult-to-access place. For example, I’m soon going to be starting a project where I’m going to have a camera mounted to a tree trunk about 20 feet off the ground. The wireless intervalometer is going to save me from having to get up on a ladder each time I need to start and stop the camera.

I’ve already played with this wireless intervalometer unit a bit from a range of about 20 feet and it works beautifully. I couldn’t be more happy with it. I’d recommend it to anyone.

Since different Canon DSLRs have different types of remote shutter release connectors, make sure you buy the right model intervalometer for your camera. If you have a Canon DSLR with an “N3″-type connector (such as a 1D, 5D, 5D Mark II, 5D Mark III, 6D, 7D, etc.) this is the right model of this wireless intervalometer for you:
Satechi WTR-A Wireless Timer Remote Control Shutter for Canon EOS-1V/1VHS, EOS-3, EOS-D2000, D30, D60, 1D, 1Ds, EOS-1D Mark II,III,IV, EOS-1Ds Mark II,III, EOS-10D, 20D, 30D, 40D, 50D, 5D, 5D Mark II,III, 7D Fully Compatible with RS-80N3

Instead, if you have a Canon DSLR with an “E3″-type connector (such as the Rebel line of cameras: 60D, t2i, t3i, etc.) then this is the model you should buy:
Satechi WTR-C Wireless Timer Remote Shutter for Canon EOS 60D, Digital Rebel XT, XTi, XSi, XS, T1i, T2i, T3i, T4i & Canon Powershot G10, G11 & Pentax K7 & ELAN SLR cameras

In the next couple of days I’m going to do some experimenting to figure out just how much range this transmitter has, and how far away I can be to successfully trigger the camera. Check back for the results!

(On the other hand, if you want an intervalometer but don’t want to spend the extra money for the wireless feature, the regular, wired N3 and E3 versions are HERE and HERE, respectively… but you’d be crazy not to get the wireless one!)

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Posted in Equipment, Gear, Uncategorized | 3 Comments »


Friday, August 2nd, 2013

This guy is staying with me today…

Charlie: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EF 50mm f/1.4, ISO 400, f/1.4, 1/125 sec. ©2013 Chris Conti Photography. All Rights Reserved.

Charlie: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EF 50mm f/1.4, ISO 400, f/1.4, 1/125 sec. ©2013 Chris Conti Photography. All Rights Reserved.

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Battle of the VariNDs: What’s the Best Variable ND?

Friday, June 14th, 2013


(Caution: this blog post contains serious camera geekery. If that’s your thing, read on!)

Pros have long known that Neutral Density filters are really important for shooting video on DSLR cameras (because they let us open up the lens to nice wide apertures and get that nice shallow depth of field). The most convenient way to use ND filters on DSLRs is the “VariND,” or variable ND filter, whose filtration can be adjusted with a simple twist of the filter ring. The problem with variable NDs though is that up until now they’ve usually been quite soft and tend to degrade image quality. Recently though a number of companies have released new models of VariND filters designed to address the softness. I am a stickler for tack-sharp imagery, so when I heard good things about a couple of the new VariNDs, I wanted to test them, to see which one was the new king of sharpness. After a thorough testing process I had a winner, but it was NOT a result I expected.

The two new variable ND filters that have come out recently that I had heard good things about were the Genustech Eclipse and the Tiffen Variable ND. Take a look at the video below for my intro to my testing.

Here’s what the test shots looked like:

©2013 Chris Conti Photography. All Rights Reserved.

If you’re interested in doing tests like this yourself, you can download the full-resolution test chart that I used here (it’s also handy for testing focus, adjusting autofocus microadjust, etc!).

I originally planned to stop both lenses down to f/11 for the tests to make sure that I eliminated as much softness coming from the lens as possible, so that I could really isolate softness being introduced by the filters. After conducting all the tests at f/11 though and inspecting the RAW files on my editing machine, I have to say I was completely blown away with the results: I couldn’t see almost ANY softness introduced by EITHER filter even at maximum filtration strength!

Even though the lens aperture shouldn’t matter in terms of the filter sharpness, I decided at that point that since I would likely be using these filters at wide apertures, I might as well test them at wide apertures. So then I opened the lenses up to f/2.8 and ran through all the test shots again. Again, the results were astonishing. Take a look at the 1:1 crops of the center of the resolution charts below:

©2013 Chris Conti Photography. All Rights Reserved.

Remember, these are 1:1 (i.e., full size) crops of a 21 megapixel frame! Both the Genus and the Tiffen were set at maximum ND filtration (or close to it), and compared to the shot with no filter, there is almost no perceptible softness. The jagged lines of the resolution chart are due to the resolution of the laser printer I used to print the chart (which was printed at 300dpi!). While neither of the filters introduced any significant softness, they both added about 20 points of green tint (thankfully though, that is very easily correctable either in the camera via custom white balance or in post). Also, while the image above is of the 200mm test, the results on the 24mm test were the same: nearly zero perceptible softness.

So Were the Two Filters Equal? NO.

Even though both filters were amazingly sharp (gone are the days of soft VariNDs! Hooray!), they were NOT equals. The Tiffen Variable ND was the clear winner. Here’s why:

As I said in the video, as a result of their opposing-polarizer design, ANY VariND filter is going to get the cross-type pattern of doom eventually. Here is what the pattern looks like, if you’re not already familiar with it:

The cross of doom. ©2013 Chris Conti Photography. All Rights Reserved.

The difference between the Genus and the Tiffen was that the Genus started displaying the cross pattern above substantially earlier in its filtration range (in other words, had less usable range) than the Tiffen. Compared to the Genus, the Tiffen had an extra stop or two of usable range before it too started showing the cross pattern. It is a subjective judgement how much cross-pattern darkening is acceptable before the image becomes unusable, but using the same lighting and camera settings, it was clear that the Tiffen had substantially more range (I’d estimate about two stops) before it started exhibiting the same level of the pattern above as the Genus.

The Tiffen Variable ND Wins

So the test concluded that both the Genus and the Tiffen were tack-sharp filters. Congratulations to both manufacturers for achieving that. The Tiffen filter though is the hands-down winner. In the end, there were plenty of reasons why: In addition to the added usable ND range, the Tiffen was both ergonomically superior (the build quality is better; the rotating ring is very nicely dampened and almost feels fluid whereas the Genus rotates somewhat loosely) AND less expensive ($150 vs. $165 for the Genus). The Tiffen is also easily available at Amazon, whereas the Genus is harder to get: the company distributes its products in the United States only through a small handful of distributors (and my local distributor, Rule Boston Camera, told me they couldn’t even get the Eclipse), and I ended up ordering it directly from the company in Australia.

So there you have it. It seems, for the time being at least, the Tiffen Variable ND is the sharpest, best variable ND filter you can buy… and it’s not even very expensive. Well done, Tiffen.

(P.S.- If you want to have a look at the RAW files to see the results for yourself, I’ve put them all online. You can download them here (be aware though that it’s about a 600MB download))

UPDATE: Do NOT buy the Genus filter from the Genus website under any circumstances. Here’s why: After performing this test and finding the Genus Eclipse Fader more expensive than the Tiffen and with a smaller ND range, I went back to the Genus website where I had originally bought it to return the filter (the company’s website clearly spells out their return policy, which I had checked before purchasing the filter, which says that Genus accepts returns of items within 30 days of delivery for full refund). I couldn’t find any way on the website of initiating the return, so I emailed the customer service email address listed. After hearing nothing back for several days, I contacted the company’s Twitter account asking about how to do a return. The person in charge of the Twitter account got back to me relatively quickly saying they’d check in on it for me. After another couple of days I got a response to my original email from an individual named Mark asking why I wanted to return the filter (this itself was slightly unprofessional as any company of any size has enough experience that they simply accept returns without demanding to know the customer’s reasoning first). I cheerily responded to Mark that I had conducted the test described here and found another competing filter to be better, but that had read Genus’s returns policy on the website before I bought it in the first place. After another day Mark then angrily emailed me that if I wanted to return the filter not only would I have to ship it to an address in Hong Kong (which alone essentially prevents returns, since the cost to ship anything there is about half the cost of the filter itself), but “all costs relating to the sale” would be deducted from my refund, including Paypal fees (Genus doesn’t accept credit card payments), shipping (which I’d already paid upon purchase), an “inspection” fee and a restocking fee (note that he didn’t tell me how much any of these fees would be). I then emailed back that none of those fees were mentioned in the company’s published returns policy. At that point Mark then emailed back and said “Until we receive the unit back and have the unit checked we cannot determine whether the unit is damaged or not.” My clear interpretation from that statement was that despite the fact that the filter was in immaculate condition, when it arrived Genus was going to claim it was damaged.

From this exchange it was very clear that despite their published returns policy Genus was not accustomed to refunding customers’ purchases and were not inclined to give me my money back. So I can only recommend that readers stay far, far away from Genus’s store, either for VariND filters or for anything else.

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