I've always been a manual kind of guy--not proud of it, just never been completely trusting of auto controls in DSLRs.  Until this year I've shot almost exclusively with the Quantum Q-flash with Lumedyne battery packs.
I've always joked that the Quantum strobe is a good conversation starter because it looks so wierd.  A couple years ago I was photographing Prince Edward of England touring Applied Materials and in the elevator ride with him he commented "it looks like it's powered by steam!"  Good laugh--I joked that it at least it was made in America (shocking, but true!).  I'll mention a few points of my Quantum that I like and why I've used it so long.  1. Great quality of light--as you can see by the photo I have it set up as almost a bare-bulb flash (with a small silver reflector).  Gives a very nice quality of light and spreads very evenly, even when in a tight space with a wide lens.  2. Very consistent exposures--You can see the suto sensor is huge.  Again,  I used it on basic auto, not TTL. I could have two people standing side by side, and the sensor would still not be fooled into sensing the dark space between them.  Pretty remarkable.  3. Reliable and solid constuction--a absolute must if you're a working pro--The units have been very reliable electronically and mechanically.  Good, solid buildI've had a couple issues with sych cords, but pretty much resolved it--always used a sych tip tool to tighten the connection before every shoot--good piece of gear to have in your bag.  When I had a flakey power cord, I'd send the unit in to have it replaced--Quantum service and support gets a "thumbs up" in my book.

OK--All this being said--some things I don't like about the Quantum Strobe 1. Bulky and heavy--this has been improved on the newer models, but the quantums are still "top heavy" in my opinion.  Not the best weight and balance for long shoots.  2. Recycling could be faster--not a critical issue, but we want it all--probably has been improved in the newer units.
I’m messy–I admit it. That being said, I’ve found through years of shooting still and video, cleanliness is a NECESSITY, not just a nice thing to do to impress people with your shiney photo gear.  It’s even more important in the DSLR generation.  I’ll go over a few point in this article.
1. Clean your lenses, front and rear.  Check for smudges on both lens and filter.  Remove the filter and clean the glass on the lens if necessary.  I find dust accumlates under the filter and can cause problems.  The more you stop down, the more the dust will show.  I’ve used blowers, but honestly the best thing you can have in your kit is a good, soft brush.  This really helps getting stubborn dust in the edges of your lens.  You will not be able to keep all dust out of your lenses no matter what a neatness freak you are.  Everyone has had the frustration of seeing dust inside the elements of the lens.  If it’s really bad, you’ll have to send it in to have it taken apart and cleaned professionally.  Most the time it’s just annoying and you have to deal with it–Also often overlooked--clean the insides of your lens caps and lens hoods--amazing how much dust will accumulate there.

2. Check your sensor cleanliness before going out to your shoot.  I usually take a photo of a clear sky at f16 and sensor dust will appear clearly as dark smudges.  Some people are freaked at any little bit of dust on their sensor and get obsessive about it.  It's not necessary to clean your sensor that often, in my experience.  Important to note though, sensor dust can be retouched in Photoshop in still photos, but if you’re shooting video, you’re screwed.  I know there are photographers that say never touch your sensor.  I wish I didn’t have to touch the sensor, but I’ve found blowing alone has not removed stubborn dust in my experience.  I have wet-cleaned sensors with sensor swabs in the past with good success and have never scratched or ruined a sensor.  Common sense and care are key.  However, I purchased a Arctic Butterfly (visibledust.com) about two years ago and have been very happy with it.  It’s a brush that spins and creates a mild static charge that attracts the dust as you gently brush the sensor.  Always take care not to touch the inside of the camera mechanism as you insert the brush as you might drag some luricants onto the sensor, which would require a wet-clean.

3. Keep your bag clean.  Often overlooked–vacuum your bag every so often to eliminate dust build-up in your case (believe me, it does happen)

Cotobr 13th
Shot a short video with my 7D yesterday at the Jumping Jack World record challange--made me think of my dust theme again.   I have yet to buy one of those varible nuetral denstity filters yet (a must-have for DSLR filmmakers).  So..going by the standard shutter speed for the frame rate I was at (30p) I was shooting at a 60/second at 100 ISO---still had to stop down to f22.  This is when you'll notice every little smudge and speck of dust on your lens--sepecially when you pan towards the sun.   Before I shot I took my camera into the sun and looked carefully for any dust.--really pays off in the long run.

    Ross Mehan

    I don't know everything about photography, but time and experience have taught me a few things.  Please enjoy my thoughts and rants--Ross


    October 2011