I recently got my hands on the new Tech Tables product line for tethered shooting from Savage Paper. In the past, I always avoided tethered shooting especially on-location because of the hassle of bringing excess gear and worrying about having a secure place to setup and it usually just ended up being a lot of extra work. The Savage Tech Table kit really minimizes a lot of those concerns with minimal investment and setup and makes a very practical addition to many kinds of shooting.
Tethered Shooting in Practice…
In the past, my most common reason for shooting tethered was to see details full screen for technical product photography like jewelry where controlling highlights, achieving critical focus, and posing product is crucial. In those instances, we have a controlled environment in studio with images going right into my iMac workstation and normal office setup – not really a need to setup a mobile station and laptop. So for my first shoot with the new Tech Table setup I decided to try it out at our monthly photo shoot for the advanced makeup students at a local cosmetology school.
Contents of the Tech Tables Kit:
- Savage Air Flow Tech Table (15.75×18.5″)
- Laptop Secure Strap
- Extended Mouse Pad Platform
- Camera Mount Platform
- Utility/Cable Hook
- Velcro Cable Straps
- Carry Bag
- Lens/Drink holder Accessory (Add-on, not part of kit)
First impressions are very positive – quick setup and minimal overhead in terms of weight and space – very practical. Nice matte black, non-slip, non-reflective finish. The accessory platforms slide/hook into the platform without any other hardware or screws to worry about losing. For those of you that travel a lot, you know how important that is – the less you have to worry about packing, setup, repacking and remembering all the bits, the easier it makes our job.
Here is a break down of my setup here…
- Canon 5D Mark III with BG E11 Grip
- Canon 85mm F1.2L II and 100mm F2.8L IS Macro
- Apple Macbook Pro 15″ w/ Magic Mouse
- Adobe Lightroom 4.3
- Savage Tech Table+Accessories mounted on Bogen-Manfrotto Tripod
- TetherTools Pro 15ft USB Cable
- 9ft Bright White Savage Backdrop Paper
- Alien Bees B800 Monolights with Beauty Dish and PLM
Observations & Setup Preferences…
A couple observations based on my setup specifics… the laptop strap works best if it wraps around the front side of a Macbook Pro as the auto-screen brightness sensor runs right along the screen hinge. The alternative is to turn off that auto adjust function in display settings. For this shoot I removed the tripod head so I could mount the Tech Table on the Manfrotto tripod legs with the larger 3/8″ thread. Later on I also tried mounting on the 1/4″ thread on a lightstand. Both thread mounts were very secure although I prefer the larger thread size on the tripod just in case.
The lens/drink holder is very convenient for this shoot as Im usually switching back and forth between my 85mm for full and 3/4 length and the 100mm Macro for the close headshots to show makeup details. The lens holder accessory adds just enough extra surface space to set things on and temporarily hold lenses when switching. The cups aren’t quite big enough for the 85mm 1.2 but its a beast of a lens – it holds every other lens I own with room to spare including the 100mm Macro, 24-105, 15mm, and 70-200. The only thing to note about this as a cup holder for drinks… Im not so sure I would feel comfortable using it as a drink and lens holder at the same time just because I am a little paranoid and protective over my glass.
The camera-mount accessory platform would serve as a nice quick release setup with a nice ball-head and maybe RRS plate. I didn’t end using it like this because the only tripod head I have is a 3-way Bogen which was just too big and bulky. I think a nice quick release ball-head would be a great future add-on. One tip worth mentioning when attaching this camera mount platform to the main table, use one of the slots thats 1 or 2 positions further in rather than the furthest outward slots… that extra supporting surface space makes a world of difference for stability. If you use the outward slots with a heavy camera setup it will feel unstable. In terms of shooting with it on the platform… for my purposes I am usually hand holding the camera or need something with more flexible movement like a traditional tripod for product shots but it depends entirely what your needs are. For me, I look at it as a place to mount the camera when not in use.
The slotted airflow table platform itself seems to do very well at venting the heat from the computer and keeping it cooler – this generation of Macbooks is notorious for getting extremely hot during continued long term use and it seemed to stay within normal temps.