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Fujifilm X10

This camera was bought as a replacement for a previous advanced point and shoot model from Samsung, the WB650, which unfortunately did not live up to expectations, especially low light performance, a lot of noise on anything above ISO200. I did quite a lot of research before buying but in the end it was a recommendation from a professional photographer that clinched it. I have now had it almost two months and find myself using it on a regular basis, I was really impressed by the low light capability in EXR mode, (a few examples are posted on my Flickr photostream) I tend to use EXR and A modes most of the time , EXR auto gets it right most of the time, depending on the type of image but I will occasionally change to another EXR mode. I really like the build quality and feel of this camera, it fits really nicely in the hand and is easily maneuvered especially after updating the firmware to version 2.00 which has reassigned the RAW button on the back to a “Q” button (Quick menu), no major loss for me as I do not shoot in RAW format.

It’s nice to have an OVF, I know that many feel that this is a little too simple on this model because it does not show any exposure information, a “problem” that the new X20 addresses I believe, but I like it uncluttered, and have now used the camera long enough to know more or less what kind of image it will produce, images so far have been well exposed, although there is a direct exposure compensation dial on the top of the camera I have yet to use it, even when shooting directly towards a low winter sun! but it is early days, I am sure that this dial will come in very useful later on (otherwise I tend to use exposure compensation almost all the time on my DSLR),  another viewfinder “problem” for some is that it only shows 85% but with the great image quality produced a 15% or more crop of a larger image is no problem, obviously parallax is a slight problem but most of my images taken with the camera while using the viewfinder are not of the kind where this is critical, I tend to just trust the camera, and it continues to surprise me!

One thing that is a little disappointing is the original Fujifilm lens hood, expensive and necessary if you want to use filters, yes you can screw them directly onto the lens but 39.5mm (40mm, 40.5mm?) filters are not easy to get hold of, much easier with the 52mm adapter built into the lens hood, but I don’t use filters so what’s the problem? the lens hood obstructs the viewfinder is the problem! it was more difficult than expected to take an image of the obstruction through the viewfinder but because I haven’t seen this done before I had a go! I took the image below with my smartphone, the smartphone camera was the only one that I could get close enough to the viewfinder with, lens on the smartphone was pressed against rubber surround of the viewfinder on the X10, image quality is not good, exposure almost impossible to control, (I tried!) but it does show what is visible and obstructing your view, the lens was at minimum extension (28mm), it gets better when the lens is extended and is not visible at 112mm.  I use a lens hood for what it was designed for, protecting from lens flare, and on this camera that has the lens almost flush with its housing this a very important, the hood also adds a degree of physical protection, but why this round slotted design! OK it looks good but why not a square/rectangular shaped model instead? the filter threads do not rotate when focusing so this could be done, correctly designed it would minimize viewfinder obstruction, perhaps a reader of this blog as used another lens hood that obstructs less?

Lens hood obstructing viewfinder

Lens hood obstructing viewfinder

 

 

 

Tripod

Well it’s been said before but when it comes to tripods, you almost always get what you pay for, previously I had paid almost nothing! the tripod I have used until recently was a Hama Star 61, which was very cheap and rather unstable! it has worked OK for a lightweight point and shoot camera (if the central column was not raised) but it just didn’t cut it with a heavy bridge camera or DSLR mounted let alone one with a long telephoto lens! So I recently shopped around for a suitable replacement, so what was I looking for? well stability of course but there were a couple of other criteria that had to be met, I wanted a model that had a central column that could be easily inverted and also legs with maximum angle adjustment, the models I checked out that were within my budget (1500 > 2000 SEK, about £135 > £180 ) were from Velbon, Cullmann, Manfrotto and Slik, it was not so easy to check them out against each other because one shop would have one or two different models on offer from a couple of manufacturers but none had them all!  but after a lot of fiddling around with the different models on offer I chose a Manfrotto model MK294A3-A0RC2,  which is a kit tripod complete with a ball head, this ticked all the boxes, the legs can be splayed from the standard maximum angle by turning a locking lever at the top of each leg, the central column is easily inverted and stability is really good, there is a down side though, it is an all metal construction (aluminium) with minimal use of plastic so the construction is quite heavy 2.3kg, but for the use I put it to this is not a problem, otherwise I am pleased with the construction it has a nice “feel”, the camera mounting plate locks into place using a safety mechanism so you can’t release the camera from the tripod by mistake! the ball head is very smooth and they have even thought about including a tool which is clipped onto one of the legs for adjusting the leg lock tension, if this should start slipping after a lot of use. The final price was 1490 SEK  about £135, it can be bought cheaper on-line but I try (as long as the price difference isn’t ridiculous) to support the camera shops, (while they are still around!), as you can understand from the above I have no problem recommending this tripod.

Legs splayed, column inverted all set for macro work

Legs splayed, column inverted all set for macro work

Repair project

The next project to be added to PHOTO DIY PROJECTS will most probably be the repair of a classic camera , the Olympus XA , the repair will be to the light traps on the camera back, the old ones have more or less crumbled away or become very sticky, I have now sourced some suitable foam, but I need to buy a couple of LR44 batteries to see if the shutter mechanism is still working, fortunately I removed the old batteries when I “went digital” so there is no corrosion and therefore it should work, if it does then I will document the repair.

Update: 05/02.  Bought the batteries and tested the camera’s electronic shutter, it worked fine! so the project is now underway, have started removing the old light trap material, documenting as I go, full report in PHOTO DIY PROJECTS when finished and tested.

Update: 19/02. The light traps have now been exchanged, everything seemed to work well, there is now a film in the camera and I have taken a few shots but unfortunately due to a recent knee injury  I have difficulty getting out and about, as soon as the film is finished and processed I will post the “how to” on this project (that is if the result was good and the camera is light tight!).

Update: 02/03 Film now finished, all I have to do now is find somewhere to get it developed!

Update: 12/03 Film now developed, good results, no light leakage, project description to follow in due course, should have time within next few days, latest at weekend.

Update: 17/03 Project finished and posting made under PHOTO DIY PROJECTS Olympus XA light-trap repair

Flash diffuser

I recently found the need for a simple flash diffuser (a macro project) and started looking around for suitable DIY material, as part of another project ( XA repair) I had bought some 35mm film (Fujifilm Superia), the plastic canister that the film rolls are packed in looked promising so I began by cutting the end off of the canister, the HDPE material that the canister is made of is very tough so I used a fine toothed saw to cut it off, you may be able to use a knife but it will have to be really sharp (don’t cut yourself!) once the end was removed it is just a matter of slitting it from end to end, this is easily done with scissors, and that’s it, clip it onto your built in flash and you are ready. The first two images below show tests shot taken with and without the diffuser in place, there is a slight difference in colour temperature, a slightly warmer tone (better skin tones?) but this can easily be adjusted in Darktable or in the camera’s WB settings, some colours are actually closer to reality, the green of the film canister is a good example, the flash image without diffuser is far too saturated, the diffusion is quite subtle, there is a slight bounce flash effect so shadows are softened and for example highlights on the chrome frame of the Newtons cradle are less conspicuous. It worked really well on the macro images I took, I should add that the ambient light source for the test images was fluorescent tube so not the best combination, not bad for something made out of scrap!

Without diffuser

Without diffuser

With diffuser

With diffuser

Diffuser front

Diffuser front

 

Diffuser rear

Diffuser rear

 

 

 

Olympus XA light-trap repair

Before going digital around 2002 I used Olympus cameras (OM1, OM1n and XA) the SLR’s were sold but I decided to keep the XA, unfortunately when I tried to use the camera a few years later it was clear when opening the camera that the light-traps were in bad condition, after a film was exposed and printed it was clear that the problem was not only cosmetic, there were visible streaks and fogging on the film, at the time I thought that this could be remedied, but I put the camera away and more or less forgot about it. Early this year while browsing through Flickr I found that there was quite a following for this old classic camera, I therefore decided to make a repair to the seals and breathe life into the camera again, but first of all I had to check that it was in working order, fortunately I had removed the batteries before putting the camera away, after buying and installing two new LR44 batteries I could see that the electronic shutter and exposure meter were in working order so I decided to go ahead.

The biggest problem was sourcing a suitable material for the seals, the old ones had been made of some very thin self-adhesive foam that had perished , so all that was left was a powdery or sticky residue, I could find nothing thin enough for this project, then I stumbled upon a suitable material at home! This was a sheet of a matt black foam material that had been used as part of the packaging of a mini electric screwdriver, it was about 1mm thick, slightly too thick, but I found that if I cut a strip and used a rolling pin from the kitchen it was compressed to a stable thickness of about 0.5mm which looked suitable. OK now we have the material, but the most time consuming part was removing the old light traps and residue, before starting work on this I put a piece of tissue over the rear lens to protect it from the the material that was to be removed, I also removed the film pressure plate from the backplate to aid the material removal/installation. I tried several different tools but in the end I found that the most suitable tool was a toothpick that was cut off with a sharp knife to form a chisel, with this it was very easy to get under the sticky surface and lift it from the back-plate of the camera without damaging the internal painted surface, do not use metallic tools for this, it is extremely easy to scratch the paint! The only part were I could not use this tool was the latch section of the backplate, here I had to use the pointed end of the toothpick due to lack of room for the whole width (quite fiddly).

Once the actual physical material was removed it was necessary to clean the surfaces with a solvent, or in my case two, I found that the wife’s acetone free nail polish remover worked but seemed to spread out the sticky residue, I therefore used denatured ethanol for the final cleaning, all cleaning was done by applying the solvent to the head of a cotton bud, these were the solvents I had available, I have not tried it but I would guess that Isopropyl alcohol would be suitable as well, do not use pure acetone, I am almost certain it will remove the paint from the backplate!

The next job was to cut strips of the foam material, top and bottom strips are approximately 2.5 to 3mm wide, the large piece closet to the hinge is 11mm wide and a very thin strip for the groove in the latching section is about 1.5mm wide, I tried using scissors but the result was not good so I used a modelling knife instead, cut using a ruler or similar straight-edge to get a clean straight cut against a good underlay. All that was now left was to cut the strips to suitable lengths and glue them into place, for this I used a small tube of contact adhesive, applying first a layer to the camera back and then to the strips of foam material, apply a very thin film of adhesive, I found that the easiest method for doing this was to squeeze out a blob of the adhesive onto a piece of paper and then use a small piece of card (cut to the right width) as an applicator, normally one would wait a few minutes before positioning the material but the film of adhesive is so thin that it dries almost immediately, do not rush this stage, glue only one section at a time , start applying the material from one end and lay down carefully, contact adhesive adheres directly so you will have no second chance and no possibility of adjustment, once in place you can trim any excess material if the strip was too long, any adhesive that is visible beside the strip can be removed by very carefully rubbing with the top of an index finger, be extremely careful not to damage the foam strip when doing this, it is easily damaged!

Final job, make sure the camera is free from rest products from the removal and glueing process, then replace film pressure plate, if all is correct the back should snap closed on its latch without using pressure and if you check very carefully when closing there should be no deformation of the back, open and close several times and you should see marks left in the material from the opposing edge in the camera. If all is well remove the tissue protecting the rear lens and load a film, good shooting!

Note: Test image below is taken direct from a negative scan using my Minolta Dimage Scan Dual III film scanner, image has not been modified.

Foam before rolling to half the thickness

Foam before rolling to half the thickness

Perished light-traps

Perished light-traps

New light-traps, note marking from opposing edge

New light-traps, note marking from opposing edge

 

First test image from camera after light-trap repair

First test image from camera after light-trap repair

 

 

 

A DIY focus rail

I have recently become interested in focus stacking and although my first attempts were not too bad I have come to the conclusion that a focus rail is necessary if I want to get better results, a perfect DIY project! The project is now under-way and should be ready for testing in early April 2013, the idea is to produce a unit that can be made from cheap components and require the minimum amount of machining, although I have turned a couple of of parts for the unit I am building they could have been produced with hand-tools, not so pretty perhaps but it could be done, once the project is finished and tested I will post a description on this blog, I am trying to keep the total price to around £20 (approx. €20).

Update: 29/03. I should be able to show a preview of the finished unit within the next two weeks.

Update: 28/04. Unit finished, write up can be found here.

Darktable 1.2 released

Some major improvements in this release, including the following:

Profiled denoising: adapt to the properties of your camera’s sensor (72 cameras already profiled for you).
Lightroom import: convert some basic edits from your lightroom collection to darktable operations.
Multi instance support: duplicate your modules and apply them more than one time with different settings.
improved usability for distorting modules (streamline spot removal in the presence of crop/rotate for example).
Conditional blending updates (colour popping).

Haven’t had time to test them all yet, it would appear that development is accelerating with new tools being made available at a faster rate than before, this software is becoming a major contender within its field!

A DIY focus rail for focus stacking.

The following description of my DIY focus rail is meant to be a general guide for using draw runners as a cheap linear bearing construction component, the idea is not my own it was given to me by my brother (who also has a background in mechanical engineering),
I had problems sourcing units of the right size, normally the units used for kitchen draws and the like are far too large, but at a local DIY supermarket I found some small units, these are made by a German company called STABILIT® part nr. 474.02.013, length is 182mm (closed) these are made from steel (no plastic parts) and are really smooth, with no noticeable play in vertical or horizontal directions , they are composed of two sets of six steel balls and are listed as having a maximum working load of 10kg, more than enough for most camera/lens combinations.
I decided to keep the construction as low-tech as possible, partly from the point of view of price but also so that others may repeat or at least use the basic idea in their own constructions.
The only parts I needed to buy were the tape measure, M10 threaded rod, bearing and the runners, everything else was made from what I had available.
The side plates, end plates and runner plates are all made from 12mm film faced plywood, you should be able to find this material at your local well-stocked DIY store, you won’t need much, so you should be able to find off-cuts if you are lucky, MDF could also be used, but would need to be of a dimension that allows screwing into cut surfaces, I pre-drilled all screw holes with a drill which had the core diameter of the screws used, this was to prevent splitting in this quite thin material.
Although there are several parts that I have turned on a lathe or milled it would be feasible to construct the unit using hand tools only, an electric drill(with stand if possible) and a jigsaw would suffice, also the “nut” that I turned from POM plastic could have been rectangular in shape, the difference would be mainly cosmetic, the unit should work just as well if care is taken with precision.
The following dimensions are for the unit I built and could easily be modified for other rails/runners:
Length: 260mm
Width: 104mm
Height: 58mm
Total movement: 164mm
The unit consist of the following parts:
Two side plates, no machining necessary.
Two end plates, plate at winding handle end is countersunk to retain a cheap Chinese 6000 2RS bearing (held in place by a turned metal ring, again this could just as easily have been a rectangular piece of sheet metal). The plate at the opposite end has a cut-out to allow movement of the carriage, this could possibly be replaced by two bars (one top, one bottom), untried, this could cause stability problems (less stiff).

Two carriage plates, on my construction these have been recessed to improve stability, but this is not absolutely necessary, just make sure that any screws that are used for attaching the runners are a tight fit.
A tripod attachment plate, made from 4mm steel plate, thickness is dimensioned to allow for a 1/4” Whitworth thread direct in the plate, this could be made from other material, just keep in mind that you will then have to find another manner of fixing a stable threaded section (insert?), I drilled some large holes in the plate to save weight, these holes have no other function and could be left out if required,

A camera fixing plate, made from 3mm steel plate, again this is not critical and could be made from other materials, the most important thing to remember here is that it is necessary to have risers of some kind ( in my construction 10mm aluminium) so that the carriage movement is raised above the side plates, I had to do some machining to the knob that I made with the 1/4”Whitworth thread for camera attachment, but this could just as easily have used a plastic gear wheel with a screw glued in position or something similar, you will have to use your own inventiveness here! To finish off the fixing plate a piece of 2mm black rubber sheeting  was glued in place with contact adhesive.

The threaded rod (M10) needs no machining , just cutting to length and deburring, it is held in place through the bearing by two low-profile M10 nuts, one on each side, Loctite was used to secure the locking.

The plastic nut, (length 37mm, outside diameter 40mm threaded internally M10), turned from POM plastic, nylon or similar plastics could be used, this part could easily be made from rectangular material and drilled, if so make sure that the drilling is done on a pillar drill, it is extremely important that the hole for the M10 thread is exactly in the middle! The nut has two 5mm pins opposite each other extending from its middle line, these are inserted into 5mm holes drilled into the carriage plates, this transfers the nuts movement to the carriage, because the threaded rod is only supported by the 6000 2RS bearing and the plastic nut the connection is semi-floating, allowing the construction to take out any out-of-trueness in the moving parts, this works really well, and movement is exceptionally smooth, the length of threading in the nut helps to remove any play between the nut and rod,

A winding handle with a small knob was also turned from POM plastic, this could be replaced by a radio knob or similar, inventiveness again!

I finally added a tape measure to the top edge of the right hand side plate and a pointer to the camera attachment plate, this aids in moving the carriage in set increments, this can of course be done using the winding handle (1,5mm per revolution) but it is easy to lose count!

The total cost was about £10 for parts, you will have to be inventive if you wish to make a unit using this method but even if you had to buy everything you should be able to keep the price to an acceptable level, although of course sourcing things like the plastic could be a problem, so lateral thinking will be required!

Underside view showing tripod attachment plate.

Underside view showing tripod attachment plate.

Topside view showing camera fixing plate and machined knob

Topside view showing camera fixing plate and machined knob.

Nut and thread assembly, camera attached.

Nut and thread assembly, camera attached.

 

Side view, camera and macro lens attached, moving section protruding through forward end plate.

Side view, camera and macro lens attached, moving section protruding through forward end plate.

 

Front view, runners clearly visible.

Front view, runners clearly visible.

Close-up, tape measure and pointer.

Close-up, tape measure and pointer.

 

 

And finally, the first result from a 10 image stack using the focus rail.

Ten image stack using the the DIY focus rail.

Ten image stack using the the DIY focus rail.

 

 

Chromebook, Linux and Google cloud printing.

This post will review some of my findings and thoughts about using a Chromebook.
you may ask what this post is doing on a blog about Linux, simple answer, Chrome OS as used on the Chromebook is a Linux based OS!
So why did I choose a Chromebook? I was in need of a new laptop, my old laptop from 2005 running PCLinuxOS was giving problems (hardware related, not associated with the OS), because I normally use the laptop for Internet related work it struck me that a Chromebook would be suitable, after doing a little research I decided upon the Samsung model.
I have now used the Chromebook for 4 months and in general I am pleased with my decision.
It is important to understand what a Chromebook can and cannot do, I have listed these below as pro’s and con’s.

Pro’s
Lightweight.
No fan (quiet).
Quick boot (less than 10 seconds).
Excellent battery life.
Good quality keyboard.
OS updated automatically.
No need for antivirus or antimalware software.
Easy to factory reset if you do get in a mess.
Very easy to use (everything done in a browser window).
Lots of free apps to make the vanilla flavour Chromebook more useful.
Free 100GB of Google Drive storage for the next two years.

Con’s
You cannot install Windows programs.
Limited possibilities to use external hardware, because you cannot install drivers.
Printer cannot be connected directly to USB port.
Although files can be saved to the internal SSD the preferred method is to save files to your Google drive space (some people have qualms about this) personally I do not have a problem with this .

As you can see I have more Pro’s than Con’s others may think otherwise, but it all depends what you use the device for, for my part this is surfing the Internet, writing emails and other documents (this post was written on the Chromebook) and that is about it, I almost forgot, I listen to music using Spotify (there is a beta browser based version that works fine on the Chromebook).
I leave things like photo editing to my stationary PC running Ubuntu, not that this cannot be done on the Chromebook, there are several apps that will allow you to do this (online) but with the small screen I do not think this is suitable (you can connect a larger screen to the Chromebook via the HDMI port), but the built in SD card reader and the portability of the unit makes it very suitable for viewing, and uploading images, so I normally take it on my travels.

You will find that there are (online) apps for doing most of the things you do with your PC , the most important things (writing a document/email) can be done offline if necessary, the Chrome Web Store has a special section for offline apps, but don’t forget you have only a 16GB SSD to save things on if offline on the Samsung (more storage available on the the Acer that has a conventional hard disk).
I have found that with a bit of lateral thinking I can do almost all that I did on the old laptop so really there is no turning back now.
One word of warning though, this concerns printing, as stated previously you cannot connect a printer directly to the Chromebook, yes it has a USB port (two actually, 1 USB 2.0 and 1 USB 3.0) but nothing will happen if you connect in this way because you cannot install any drivers, so how do you print? well it is actually quite simple, the answer, Cloud printing, if you have a printer that supports cloud printing you register the printer and then print via the internet, if you have a classic printer you will have to use another PC on your home network as a go-between, this works but personally I wanted to be able to print from anywhere without having another PC at home running, because both my old HP laser and my HP inkjet were also on their last legs I decided to replace them with Google Cloud print enabled printers, this was where I ran into problems, I decided to buy a Samsung ML 3310ND as a replacement for the old HP laser, I had found a document on one of the Samsung sites that stated that this printer supports Google Cloud print if the firmware was up to date, but this turned out to be incorrect, I contacted Samsung and they also said it should support Cloud print, but even after a second firmware upgrade it still has no support for Cloud printing!
A similar problem occurred when it was time to replace the inkjet, decided upon a Canon Pixma, again I had checked on a local (Swedish) Canon site that the printer had Cloud print support and found that the model in question had this, but after connecting the printer and checking the menu system I saw that this choice was missing, I contacted Canon and they stated that the printer did have Cloud print support, they even sent me a link about configuration! I finally had to take some pictures of the printers built in display to prove that the menu item in question did not exist! after sending these to Canon I received an apologetic email stating that they were wrong, that this model did not have support!, fortunately I was able to return the Pixma and finally bought an Epson XP800, I had thoroughly checked up on Cloud print support for this model and it worked perfectly! very easy to configure, and this is also where Linux comes into the picture again, why? well if you have a Linux PC running the Chrome web browser you are able to access the Cloud print enabled printer you have registered, no (local) drivers needed! yes Epson do have Linux drivers available for this printer, but to be honest I have not installed them, you can open most files from your browser either directly or by importing them into your Google Drive space and print them from there, so now as long as a printer has true Google cloud print support and you print via the Chrome web browser you can print from almost any Linux PC without installing drivers!
So the final word on this is be very careful when choosing a printer if you buy a Chromebook and want to use Cloud printing, make sure it truly does support Google Cloud print before buying, I think this situation will improve with time, at the moment this is so new that not even the manufacturers technical support are always aware of what does and does not support Cloud printing, and their websites can be very misleading.

Tethered remote control.

 

This post is a quick guide to how I used an old netbook and my Samsung Chromebook to remote control my Canon EOS 600D.
The netbook (A Packard Bell PVA80) was surplus after my wife bought a “proper” laptop, the battery was bad and Windows 7 starter edition crawled on this machine, I bought a cheap battery (had double the capacity of the old one) and was then on my way, first thing was to format the hard drive and install Xubuntu (a “lightweight” Ubuntu distro) this installed with no problems, all hardware was discovered, next job was to install tethering software, Linux has several programs that can do this, I decided to try one called Entangle which has the advantage that it is fairly lightweight and is really only for tethering, no editing or photomanager included, (wanted to keep it clean and simple), it also has support for almost any DSLR that allows tethering, the final thing to install on the netbook was a VNC server, again there are several of these for Linux, I chose Vino, this server is started from the command line, but there is a GUI for configuration, once set up there is no need to have a GUI running especially on such a lightweight machine. Now we move to the Chromebook, I installed VNC Viewer from Google Chrome store again no problems very easy to set up, once I had the IP address of the netbook it was just a matter of clicking on connect, and then allowing the connection on the netbook (the connection can be password protected if required).
So to simplify.
1. Start netbook.
2. Start Vino-server and then Entangle.
3. Connect USB cable to netbook and camera, turn on camera then click on connect button in Entangle.
4. Start VNC Viewer on Chromebook, input IP address of netbook, click on connect, allow connection on netbook, ready to start using the remote control!

Entangle allows you to see Live view in real-time, also allows you to change settings of your camera, ISO, aperture, white balance, shutter speed etc. when you are ready click on the icon for capture and a shot will be taken, now because you have the netbooks desktop showing on the Chromebook you can do all this without touching the camera or netbook, remotely in my case is within the limits of the home WiFi network, but theoretically you could do this using an ad-hoc network out in the field without a router, or even via the Internet, it is all just a matter of configuration and the tools you use. My idea at the moment is to set the camera and netbook up in our free standing conservatory, with the camera aimed at a birdfeeder in a small tree outside, then sit indoors (in the warm!) and take shots from there, the range is no problem and with live view I can actually see what I am taking a shot of and the result, should add that it is also configurable where the captures are stored, I have chosen to have them stored directly on the Netbooks hard drive.

Note! All the above could just as easily be done on Windows if you have the right software,

If you are wondering, the tripod tray is also a DIY project made of scrap material, somewhat over-engineered perhaps, therefore no description of how it was made, you will find simple DIY versions on the Internet or you can buy ready made, it is not absolutely necessary for this project but it does make the setup more portable and easy to handle and can also double as a macro stand/support/table whatever you like to call it!

Following images show the setup.

DIY tray attached to leg of Manfrotto tripod

DIY tray attached to leg of Manfrotto tripod.

Side by side to show remote viewing taking place, Netbook to the left, Chromebook on the right.

Side by side to show remote viewing taking place, Netbook to the left, Chromebook on the right.

Netbook and Canon EOS600D Liveview tethered using USB and  Entangle software.

Netbook and Canon EOS600D Liveview tethered using USB and Entangle software.