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Old 08-25-2012   #11
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Default Re: Better Beamer

I use it quite often... the trick is to use it to accent the ambient light, rather than as the main light. I use a low flash output which allows the flash to cycle faster. It helps me to remove some of the harsh shadows caused by this Arizona sun.
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Old 08-25-2012   #12
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For hummers (now my main bird subjects since I'm not able to get around much anymore) I'll occasionally use flash for fill and for main light if daylight is gone. I have a couple Vivitar flash from my old film days that have a sliding beam focus built-in. Not as narrow focused as the "Better Beamer" but for a couple long shot occasions, about 25 to 30 feet, it's helped me get a usable exposure. Using those off camera flash is too much work for me and I've seldom been happy with the contrasty results and silver metal eye reflection flashback so they're back to collecting dust. The pop-up on-camera flash on my Panasonic GH2 is great because I can (with a lot of trial & error LCD evaluated test shots) menu adjust it's strength. Of course even at maximum output distance from this "peanut powered" flash is limited. But, it's easy to use and if I'm shooting close-up a small patch of thin white tissue can be used in front to diffuse and soften contrast for nicer looking fill. I get quite close to the hummers that come to my feeder and I've found using both direct camera flash and for video a couple pretty bright (to human eye) 126 LED battery powered lights that the birds are not overly stressed. It took multiple tries to get the few good close-up shots of a bird sitting on my finger. The point & shoot camera I used for those was only about a foot away. First few shots they'd flinch but after that they seemed to accept it without a care. Here's one that also shows the trick of gettin 'em on my finger.



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Some of my hummer shots on Picasa. They look best played as slideshow on black background. ( 450 NEW added 9/3/13)
https://picasaweb.google.com/ViddyFl...eat=directlink ... Please come back to Camel after looking
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Old 08-26-2012   #13
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Default Re: Better Beamer

I purchased one months ago and have yet to try it.
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Old 08-28-2012   #14
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Default Re: Better Beamer

Interesting topic, I'm planning a trip in October to Thailand and got today an offer from a tour guide with a list of birds we may expect to see and photograph, they have mentioned night photography promising bigmouth and owls.
To my question, has anyone done night shots with a Better Beamer/Flash setup. If so please share your camera and flash settings. It must also be difficult to get a focus in the dark
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Old 08-28-2012   #15
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Trapman, I've used one on and off for a number of years when birding.

I'm abroad at the moment, so I can't write up a ton or pull up some samples, but I'll have more when I get home.

The Better Beamer is basically a magnifying glass for your flash. It extends the range and lets you get away with a somewhat lower power output by focusing the beam narrower to match the field of view of a 300mm lens (135 format/FX equivalent)

I've used it both on a flash arm (my dad owns one for his Wimberley head) and on the hotshoe without any issues, but I'm mostly shooting smaller birds with flash. I recommend using an external battery pack with your flash (e.g. The SD-9a or SD-8 with the SB-900).

The Better Beamer is one of best way to ways to work some fill flash into your wildlife images without setting up off-camera flash and limiting where your viable shots can occur.

For hummers, honestly, I'd recommend using your 200-400 instead of your 400, especially if it's the old model VR. It'll focus down with AF to about 6.5 feet (the VRII obly goes down to about 7 feet minimum focusing distance with AF, which makes a noticeable difference), which gets the hummer bigger than with the 400 f/2.8 VRII which focuses down to something less... 8 feet or 10 feet, IIRC.
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Old 08-28-2012   #16
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Default Re: Better Beamer

Quote:
Originally Posted by Luckyjon View Post
It must also be difficult to get a focus in the dark
I've used the beam of a strong spotlight to help focus on a subject out to about fifty feet. Not wildlife. Just needed SOMETHING to get ballpark focus at a distance. As I recall my results weren't very good.

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Some of my hummer shots on Picasa. They look best played as slideshow on black background. ( 450 NEW added 9/3/13)
https://picasaweb.google.com/ViddyFl...eat=directlink ... Please come back to Camel after looking
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Old 08-29-2012   #17
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Default Re: Better Beamer

Quote:
Originally Posted by cyclohexane View Post
Trapman, I've used one on and off for a number of years when birding.

I'm abroad at the moment, so I can't write up a ton or pull up some samples, but I'll have more when I get home.

The Better Beamer is basically a magnifying glass for your flash. It extends the range and lets you get away with a somewhat lower power output by focusing the beam narrower to match the field of view of a 300mm lens (135 format/FX equivalent)

I've used it both on a flash arm (my dad owns one for his Wimberley head) and on the hotshoe without any issues, but I'm mostly shooting smaller birds with flash. I recommend using an external battery pack with your flash (e.g. The SD-9a or SD-8 with the SB-900).

The Better Beamer is one of best way to ways to work some fill flash into your wildlife images without setting up off-camera flash and limiting where your viable shots can occur.

For hummers, honestly, I'd recommend using your 200-400 instead of your 400, especially if it's the old model VR. It'll focus down with AF to about 6.5 feet (the VRII obly goes down to about 7 feet minimum focusing distance with AF, which makes a noticeable difference), which gets the hummer bigger than with the 400 f/2.8 VRII which focuses down to something less... 8 feet or 10 feet, IIRC.
Thanks for the comment, Michael. Close focus ability is a factor. The 400mm f2.8 will be used w/1.4 or 2x TC to get a bit more magnification, but I give up maximum aperture as a trade off. Haven't begun yet, so it'll be a slow learning curve.
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Old 08-29-2012   #18
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Default Re: Better Beamer

At f/2.8, 400mm, and close focus distances, there simply isn't any meaningful depth of field on a hummingbird. I try to stop down the lens some regardless of whether I'm using a TC or not, so the loss of the maximum aperture hurts a little less... except that the contrast needed for effective autofocus is reduced.

Personal opinion here, but when you've got a small bird like a hummingbird only partially in focus, I think it looks bad, plain and simple. I figure, I might as well try to take things to the next level, which makes for a fun and exciting challenge, but also for a lot more hair-pulling when I'm supposed to be doing something fun and relaxing (I try to save the hair-pulling for my "work photography", whatever that means).
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Old 08-29-2012   #19
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Default Re: Better Beamer

BB and red-eye - yes you will get that irrespective of bird size. I dont use the flash and/or the bb much but the few times I have the flash had to be powered down to 1/8 or lower to mitigate the effects of the red-eye. That said, fill flash is an excellent way to go for shooting backlit subjects.
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Old 09-05-2012   #20
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Default Re: Better Beamer

I use my beamer everytime the flash is used with my longer lenses.
I pretty much exclusively photograph birds.
in nikons case with the sb800, if you are shooting above 105mm you are firing light outside of where your lens can see it.
if you use the flash extender, you can get light only where you need it.
This does 2 things. your flash goes further and it recyles faster.
I recommend using the external battery back that goes with most flashes, as this can help cycle time even more.
if You are shooting in sweet light and it is behind you, I dont use it, but at other times it gets lots of use and makes a difference to the plumage and can add a catchlight. is usually dialed down say 2/3 ev from the metered exposure and adjust that based on what I see or experience.
at night I use it as the main light and have no issues lighting up owls or possums etc at the working range of the 600f4.
dont think that they are hard to set up either, initially you fit it to the flash etc and take a shot of a brick wall or something and note where the flash hits compared to where the lens is looking.
It helps to put on tripod and lock it off. after you get it going where you want (and this is usually just a case of adjusting the velcro etc)
you take it of and practice putting in on so you do it the same way each time.
I marked lines on top of my flash with white liquid paper, that way I know that if the velcro strap is between the lines all is well. the repeatability is the key and you pretty much get it on the money each time. mind you, I always test fire a shot at a tree or something around the range I expect to be using. this confirms it is where i think it should be.

some birds do jump when the preflashes go off. most dont, but you can get around this too.
I use a manual flash value instead of ttl for those birds, then there are no preflashes. the only killer is you need to know how much flash to use, but get used to that too, in time.
I often shoot pets etc in manual flash mode too (not talking about using the beamer here)
my cats for example, often have shut eyes when I use ttl. manual power sorts that.

these things are also known as better burners too and with good reason. if you leave the fresnel lens on the thing and point it at the sun, it will very quickly burn a hole in the front of your flash.

in summary, well worth having imho.


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