This blog is devoted to the application of optical fibers in photography. I have several homemade (DIY) flash adapters channeling the light from the flash close to the lens. The technique can be used mainly for macro photography, but I will show examples for wide angle close focus techniques as well. The recent version is called fiberstrobe V3, hence the name of the blog is "fiberstrobe".

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Put the SEL30M35 lens into perspective

I have posted some photos taken with the sony SEL30M35 macro and VCL-ECF1 fisheye conversion lens combo on dpreview forum. I proposed a game not telling anything about the lens (even removed the EXIF information) but let the people to guess. To my surprise it turned out to be very controversial. Lot’s of poster hated it, while others found the thread very interesting. I would quote only from the haters:

“obviously is a lens that can focus very closely,  often called a macro lens. There are hundreds or thousands of these out there. Who would care to guess,”

“Just name the lens and get it over with, this is boring. Nothing special about the photos either, this could be taken with anything...”

“There are thousands of "usual" lenses that work on a NEX-5 and you want us to guess an unusual set-up based on low-resolution images... there's a much better chance of guessing your birthday -- and I've been doing some lens forensics work.”

“pretty pointless thread, but I'll bite anyway ...”

“thanks for the most annoying post on this forum in a long time. sadly, there doesn't seem to be a mechanism to block future posts from you and your silliness.”

Cool, isn't it?? 
I think I’ve upset many self-proclaimed experts, but they are wrong. They have not much clue about wide angle close-up and macro photography and they have no idea about the role of perspective in general in photography.
I made a quite thorough test to achieve similar result with other lenses, what I got with the 30mm macro + fisheye converter combination. Without real success. This proved me that this lens combo is rather unique and really worth to consider in photography.
I tried many lenses and lens combinations, which was suggested during the thread and I added some potential contenders. I took all photos of the test on a tripod with self timer set to 2sec at two apertures, F3.5 and F18. I manually focused to a lego figure (45mm) positioning the head at 1/3 of the photo almost filling it. I tried to fill the picture with this subject in all case, even if the close focusing was not possible, so it was not a real macro but more a close-up set-up. I placed another figure behind but close to the main subject and many other things as environment to test the bokeh and the perspective. I used the following lenses and lens combinations:
sony SEL30M35 30 mm macro
sony SEL30M35 30 mm macro + VCL-ECF1 fisheye adapter
sony SEL16F28 16mm pancake lens
sony SEL16F28 16mm pancake lens + 2dp
sony SEL16F28 16mm pancake lens + 4 dp
sony SEL16F28 16mm pancake lens + VCL-ECF1 fisheye adapter
sigma 15mm Fisheye lens (for full-frame) on adapter
sigma 15mm Fisheye lens (for full-frame) + soligor 1.7X teleconverter on adapter
sigma 50mm F2.8 macro (on adapter)
minolta 100mm F2.8 macro (on adapter)
In case of adapted not native E compatible lens, precise set of aperture was not possible, but I tried to set it almost to opened and closed position to reach around F3.5 and F18). Below you can see the results (The upper one is with opened blende, while the second is always stopped down and has bigger depth of field:
sony SEL30M35 30 mm macro

sony SEL30M35 30 mm macro + VCL-ECF1 fisheye adapter

sony SEL16F28 16mm pancake lens

sony SEL16F28 16mm pancake lens + 2dp

sony SEL16F28 16mm pancake lens + 4 dp

sony SEL16F28 16mm pancake lens + VCL-ECF1 fisheye adapter

sigma 15mm Fisheye lens (for full-frame) on adapter

sigma 15mm Fisheye lens (for full-frame) + soligor 1.7X teleconverter on adapter

sigma 50mm F2.8 macro (on adapter)

minolta 100mm F2.8 macro (on adapter)

Some conclusions: The 30mm macro lens is wide enough, I like it in many situations but it doesn't show much about the environment. Adding the fisheye adapter changes the character and makes it a perfect close-focus wide angle tool. During the test I recognized some optical errors and it is getting really good from F11 but F16-F18 are also a recommended values. The far away subjucts will never be really sharp, so it can't be used as a replacement for a 15mm wide angle lens, it's only good for close subjects. (From now on I compare the rest to this combo)
To my surprise, the 16mm lens was very close but not as wide. However, it lacks the close focus capability. Even stopped down the head is not sharp. Adding close focus adapters (+ 2dp or + 4 dp) don't help either. They don't have big effect on wide angle lenses.
The fisheye adapter was designed for this lens (16mm) and the effect is really cool. However it's much wider and distorted and sharp focusing was not possible. Even at F18 the face is not really sharp. Adding a teleconverter was not a good idea and the close focusing ability was further ruined. I also tried the 50mm and 100mm macro lenses. The results are nice if your aim is to have a soft background, but look at the character of the background. My major conclusion is that choosing a macro lens is not just about how close we can get to our subject (short for flowers, long for dragonflies) but the perspective plays also a very important role. Putting a small subject into the foreground while showing also details from the background (if it's nice) can be very dramatic.
The sony SEL30M35 30 mm macro + VCL-ECF1 fisheye adapter combination is just perfect for this purpose.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Praying mantis

Few recent photo with the the 30mm macro lens and fisheye converter combo. It rocks, but can't be used as a standard wide angle lens. Focusing is also tricky and it should be nailed precisely. I was on a not really successful mushrooming trip with my father and my daughter when they found some praying mantis on the meadow. This insect is a perfect hunter, a master of mimickry and not really shy, so it was a perfect model for my photographic experiment. The sky as a background was also perfect with it's dark blue with white clouds. I'm happy with the results:

Saturday, August 2, 2014

SEL30F35 + VCL-ECF1 lens combo

This is my current favorite lens combination. It's a fisheye lens adapter (sony VCL-ECF1) in front of a 30mm macro lens (SEL30F35):
The SEL30F35 lens itself is very special. Maybe not the best for every purpose but it can take outstanding photos. You can read my detailed review about this lens here.
I love fisheye lenses and I frequently used the VCL-ECF1 fisheye adapter on the dedicated 16mm pancake lens. I have previous post about the photos taken with this rig. For lighting I used a twin flash adapter:

I read on photo forums that this adapter can be used on the new 20mm lens, which gave me the idea to use it on the 30mm macro lens (since I don't have the 20mm pancake lens).
How does it perform? I like it a lot, but it requieres perfect composition, good lighting and nailing the focus well (despite the good DOF). Maybe the keeper rate is much lower, than with other lenses, but if you want to take something new, not just the standard boring macro photos, it's the lens combo you should seriously consider.I had only few hours to try it but I see a great potential in it.
Few photos below to convince you:

Don't forget to mention my blog when you win the next photo competition with this lens combo, that you saw it here first.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Twin flash adapter for portraits

I added two large diffusers to my set-up. Now I can use it for portraits. It won't work under strong sunlight, so no chance to overpower the sun with it, but I can imagine that it can be useful for outside evening events or dim halls with not proper ceiling (either strange colored or to large rooms with far away ceiling):

 On the left (from the photographer's direction) side, there is a simple soft-box, while on the other side a kind of beuty dish. Below you can see some snapshot of my family:

There is a bit of light leakage through the bent fibers in the front and it causes even some colour shift, so I will cover them soon:
You can see the middle spot is yellowish compared to the other catchlight shapes.
Overall I'm happy with the results and in my opinion it could be a good solution for photographers working outside without walls and ceilings. Wedding or event photographers could use it and it surely would attract the attention of the people.
A similar product is available on the market, the Bounce-Wall, by California Sunbounce. It's a bounce panel on a bracket reflecting the camera flash, which imitates flashlight bounced from a wall or ceiling. A review of it you can find on strobist:

The obvious advantage of my solution is that I have two light sources with more flexibility to adjust and modify.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The ├╝ber macro lighting system

After many months of planning and even more months of delay the new twin flash adapter has been born. This is basically the big brother of my previous twin adapter I made for my sony nex-5. It still rocks and I use it quite frequently but I wanted to make a similar one for my DSLR as well. I hoped that I can improve further the design and I planned to include some new idea. The more powerful strobe I have for the sony a100 hopefully opens some new opportunities to use it also for outdoor portrait photography.

Let me summarize the changes compared to the small twin-flash adapter:
  • I used black flexible hose for everything. It just looks cool.
  • More fibers were used (160 instead of 55)
  • Longer arms
  • Better attachment to the flash
  • Stronger base plate
  • Magnetic attachment of soft boxes (and other modifiers)
  • Ring shaped end arrangement of the fibers
The following items were used from loc-line:

Assembly piers (78002), 1#                    (It helps in assembling the parts)
Fixed mount (51895), 2#                        (Attached to the base plate, it holds the whole assembly)
Double socket (59872), 2#                    (The direction of the hose should be reverted with this piece)
T-fitting (51825), 2#                              (Better, than the Y fitting I used previously)
Segments (51801), 8# (48 small piece)  (Depending on the length of your arms)
Nozzle (51803 or 51806)                      (Optional, it can be useful as a snoot)

In addition I used approximately 150 m from 1mm diameter end-glow fiber, some glue (also SUGRU), wood sheet (8mm) for the base plate, screws, and various tools.
The whole concept and the work was the same as in case of the little brother, so I would just highlight some basic differences:

I used sugru rubber to fix the fibers to a wooden plate intended to connect the fibers to the flashlight.

It didn't work that well to fix the fibers to the loc-line hose, so I needed extra glue to fix it (I may tape it at the end as a final solution). :

 I arranged the fibers in a circle format using a wooden plate (airbrushed to black before). I drilled 8 holes after sawing out the intended form. Black SUGRU was used to fix the branches into the holes:

I wanted to use some advanced way to attach the light modifiers to the end of the arms, so I fixed two magnetic rods to the sides of the wooden plate. The two yellow magnetic rods were fixed by yellow sugru. You can also see a male screw intended to be part of the soft box (it was too small and the magnetic force was to weak to hold it firm, so I used a bigger one in the final version:

For the attachment of the fibers to the strobe a plastic container was used. To help the cutting a front opening a hot needle was used to pierce the rather stiff plastic:

Here you can see the almost final version in action. There is still a lot of light loss, so in the final version I covered the inside part with aluminium folie and also covered it outside. 


Some foam rubber was also used for a better "push and fix". Soft box is usually not really needed due to the arrangement of the fibers but to achieve an even softer light a new soft-box was designed.  A plastic container of my favourite rice pudding was used, but I painted the side of the soft-box to not to look so getho (It didn't help I have to confess).

How does it work?? Almost perfect for macro, but due to the length of the fiber the light loss is quite a lot. Nevertheless, when the light is placed close to the subject no problem to set the highest F numbers even at base iso. Few photos taken with the new set up (all hand held):

 Here, the direction of the light was important because the worms were in the shadow. I aimed the arms facing fom below to upwords position.

Light was placed to the sides more in a kind of backward position while taking the above picture.

This is a typical side lighting with slightly underexposing the background (sky).

Used as simple front-side light to approach this damselfly. It was not afraid of the two light arms.
More photos are coming