Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Twin Samsung NX1000 For Stereo – Part I

From the beginning of my stereo photography I always used twin cameras for stereo to supplement my stereo camera. In film photography I used Minolta MD cameras and later Pentax cameras. In digital photography, I used compact Panasonic cameras, wired by Ekeren, and, later, larger Panasonic micro 4/3 cameras. One issue with larger cameras is that they cannot get close together for normal stereo (stereo base of 75mm or shorter). So I used twin cameras mostly side-by-side for hyperstereos.

In June 2015, Bob Karambelas told me about a project he was working on, using a pair of Samsung NX1000 cameras for stereo. He got the idea from this image in phereo:
(See also the discussion below the image)

Bob is a professional photographer, best known for his model photoshoots (http://stereostyles.com/) where he makes heavy use of off-camera flash. He was attracted to the Samsung NX1000 cameras mainly for two reasons:
  1. When used in the z-configuration (one camera upside down) they come quite close (68mm, with the lugs removed).
  2. Synchronization is quite good, and they work with flash.
The larger APS-C sensor and ability to shoot RAW is an extra bonus. As Bob said, with a 68mm lens spacing and a 30mm lens (wide end of the standard zoom) this is like a digital Realist. The Fuji W3 and Panasonic 3D1 just don’t cut it in terms of quality and use of flash, and the twin Rebels cannot come close enough for normal stereo base.

Here are two pictures from Bob’s first twin camera tests. The cameras are side-by-side in the left picture, showing the wired remote, and on a custom-made z-mount in the right picture.

 I bought my first Samsung NX1000 in June 2015 and very soon accumulated several cameras and all the parts to make a z-mount and a remote. Used cameras at the time were selling for around $200 (NX1000 body and standard 20-50mm zoom lens). In addition to the NX1000 I was also intrigued by the NX-Mini which makes an even more compact rig with closer lens spacing. So I bought a couple of these cameras too.

But I was busy so I put everything away. A year later I pulled the cameras out. I was still busy with work and other projects so I was thinking of selling everything. But I decided to take a look at the cameras first, and was intrigued. With Bob’s guidance I made a z-mount and a twin remote. I tested the cameras in late August 2016. The results from the NX1000 were very encouraging but the turning point was shooting at a Cleveland Indians game in early September.

I used the cameras side-by-side on a bar and the 50-200mm zoom lenses (mostly zoomed at the 200mm end which is a full frame equivalent of 300mm) to take pictures of the action from deep into the stands. These pictures turned out quite well. Synchronization is not perfect but very good. In most pictures the players and bats are “frozen”. Only when the ball, if it happened to be in the field of view, it often appeared out of the plane it should have been. After the game I took some night pictures with the cameras on a tripod, and these also turned surprisingly well. Here is one example from the baseball game:

You can see this and other 3d pictures from the Samsung rig in my phereo account, here:
(go under the Samsung NX1000 album)

I then experimented with flash and got excellent results.  The flash is recorded in both pictures without an issue. Here are two early examples:

In both pictures I have balanced available light and flash. The picture of Milo (our cat) was taken with minimum lens spacing (68mm on a z-bar) and standard zoom lenses zoomed at 50mm (75mm equivalent) while the picture of the Blue jay was taken with the cameras next to each other, using the 50-200mm lenses.  You can tell that flash is used by the reflections in the eyes. In these cases I used two flash units off camera. One flash was triggered wirelessly and the other was slaved. But I have also used on-camera flash with good results in all camera modes (not only Manual but also Program, etc.).

After my initial tests, I corresponded with Werner Bloos in Germany, who informed me that he makes a mount and a twin remote for these cameras, not listed (at the time) at his web site. I tried these products and was extremely pleased, to the point that I am stocking them and selling them for buyers in the USA.

The Werner-mount (this is how I will call it, to distinguish it from other mounts) is one of the most clever designs I have ever seen. It takes advantage of the fact that the lens mount for the Samsung NX cameras sticks out quite a bit out of the camera body, so the Werner-mount “grabs” the cameras from the lens mount instead of using the tripod sockets, like other traditional mounts do. The result is a very compact configuration that looks like a stereo camera instead of a rig put together (see pictures below), with good and stable (cannot get knocked off) alignment. There are a couple of disadvantages though (expense, inability to converge or change the spacing of the cameras) that I discuss in a separate blog.

The Werner-Twin-Remote is made by joining two remotes. It works quite well and the cables are of good quality. I have had some problems with other cables but not these ones. I discuss the hardware required to fire these cameras in another blog.

The bottom line is that with these two products, one must only supply a pair of cameras (easy to find used on ebay for around $200 or less) and then he/she is up and running with a good quality twin camera rig, without having to worry about making mounts or joining remotes.

Here is a picture of the twin NX1000 rig with the Werner-mount, twin remote with 90 degree extensions, fixed 16mm lenses (24mm equivalent) and my favorite camera grip:

Here is a picture of me in action (NX1000 cameras with standard 20-50mm zoom lenses):

More details about the Samsung NX1000 rig in part II of the blog.

No comments: