Smok Tech Pyrex Glass Tank RSST Review

Fresh from c2cvaping, the Pyrex glass tank RSST:

PyrexRSST-007

Packaging is similar to that of Magneto and other higher end mods than the simple old RSST’s simple little box.

PyrexRSST-008

Packaging inside matches the new premium looks well.

PyrexRSST-013

Usual extras with new tank seal for the top deck connection included. Also 2 washers for the center pin.

PyrexRSST-016

Broken down. The bottom of the tank is now coated with silicone-feeling, rubbery material and has 4 machined posts to center the glass tank. The center column is coated in that same rubbery material to help seal the tank. Top of the glass tank has a silicone ring to seal it into the top deck’s new grove. Overall, very nicely upgraded albeit making simply upgrading to a new tank impossible from the old units.

PyrexRSST-010

Side by side comparison with the old RSST (right). The new design has a little machined decorative gap where the chamber cap meets the top deck and looks much better than the old, lets-make-it-look-flush-with-a-crease RSST.

PyrexRSST-018

And having clear glass simply looks gorgeous compared to the old milky, plastic tank.

All in all, pretty nice upgrade, but hardly essential or absolutely necessary.

And a bonus macro “sweat” shot:

Pyrex-RSST-Macro-Sweat

What Settings to Use for…

Perhaps the most asked question from beginners all over the photography forums and the internet today- what settings should I use to shoot X?

There are only 2 proper answers that can cover the typical factors involved such as lighting, subject motion, additional lighting, time frame to take the shot, and mounting of the camera:

  • Shoot using Auto mode, it knows how to adjust everything for you.
  • Learn how aperture works as a whole and take quick test shots, since you can instantly view the fruit of your work on your camera’s LCD screen, and adjust further as needed.

First off, we are no longer in the film age where it was impossible to view your work instantly and it is silly not to abuse the new edge we have. We don’t even need light meters or extensive understanding of golden aperture settings to suit any kind of situation; however, a concrete basic understanding is always a must because manually exposed shots will how out exactly how you wanted them to as opposed to whatever the camera will decide on its own.

Coming back to the beginning, any given shot has way too many factors involved for the person typically asking about how to take it to even fully comprehend, and to boot, there are always several different ways to achieve the same exact result (with an ever so slight, often negligible difference) that makes answering such questions more difficult and not as accurate as quick trial and error right on the scene.

Here are 2 shots taken with big enough of a difference in settings to achieve extremely similar results:

Settings1

Settings2

These 2 can also represent slightly different styles of photography and the right one, even for this shot, depends heavily on what the photographer wants. No one else can really predict nor decide that, but neither will you be able to achieve such looks using camera’s Auto settings since only Manual allows you to keep everything the way you want.

So I encourage everyone to learn via experiments on the scene rather than trying to prepare for it beforehand through someone else’s advise. I have encountered numerous shoots where there were 2 or even 3 sets of settings that made for successful shots depending on what exact look I was going for, so hearing advise regarding it would not have really helped.

5 x 5 – A Bargain Experiment (CPC MC 70-162mm f/3.5 AUTO ZOOM Macro)

$5 subject, and literally a $5 lens. What can it do?

The contender is once again my Bismuth crystal and this new bargain glory- CPC MC 70-162mm f/3.5 Macro telephoto zoom. Got it as is from a local store for mere $5, and given its age and cost today, this thing is in immaculate condition.

DSC_0082

DSC_0083

DSC_0084

DSC_0086

Zoom and macro mechanisms are both internal, giving this thing pro kinda feel. Focus is the whole front element, which rotates outwards as you focus closer. Cool feature I haven’t seen in ages is a built-in, slide-out hood:

DSC_0085

DSC_0090

But, how well can it macro? Pairing it up with my good old macro extension tube, results were pretty solid.

And a crop-

And some other shots-

Not shabby at all, and much easier to manipulate than my primes in hopes of achieving similar results. Zoom and manual aperture are definitely a must options for still macro photography, though auto focus wouldn’t hurt either.

Field test shots weren’t that terrible either, although they do leave you wanting something better at the end of the day.

70-162Test- (14)

70-162Test- (18)

70-162Test- (21)

70-162Test- (24)

70-162Test- (25)

70-162Test- (28)

70-162Test- (30)

70-162Test- (52)

70-162Test- (53)

70-162Test- (59)

70-162Test- (80)

70-162Test- (82)

70-162Test- (91)

First Impressions – Dolica GX650B204 Proline GX Series 65 inch Tripod

So my quest for previously unattainable night cityscapes pushed me towards finally getting a tripod. Dilemma was not to spend more than a beginner-intermediate level is worth as well as not over $100.

After some homework, I decided to try this Dolcia after reading an awesome review over at Str8ShotPhoto. The current price tag of mere $55 considering all of the features this rig has sure beats anything found in retailers like Best Buy or Caulmet right now.

I wanted a solid, light tripod without leg connectors to be able to set it as high or as low as I’d want, a quick release plate, and a dedicated panning swivel joint and this Dolcia has all of these and then some.

wpid-CameraZOOM-20140107171048236.jpg

So it comes with a very nice carrying bag, which I honestly wouldn’t expect out of $55 (though plenty of tripods have these as default accessory).

The head features a nice dual action release, that is said to help prevent any accidental slips- the knob on the left loosens the plate and then a button on the right lowers the safety peg that allows you to remove the plate off the mount. I’ve read that some people saying that the ball head does not hold the weight as well when over-tightened, and it seems true. To “fully” tighten it, you only need to twist the tightening knob a little bit as opposed to cranking it all the way down. A little odd, but a nice feature when quick repositioning is required. Lastly, the panning joint is very nice and smooth with some resistance even when it is fully loosened. Quite a nice feature to allow for a smooth pan instead of having some jerks in the process.

DSC_0001

The camera mounting bolt can move a bit as well to let you fine-tune where you want this thing on the base of your camera. Helpful when you wish to offset it a bit or correct an offset mounting hole that certain battery grips have.

DSC_0003

Next is something I would not expect even in some $100 range tripods: a weight hook with a twist- it mounts via standard bolt, so if you wish to mount the camera to the bottom of the center column, you no longer have to remove and flip the whole thing. Quite nifty for those tricky low-angle shots.

DSC_0004

The base column can lock when extended all the way up. Extra safety or if you simply wish to ditch the hook mount altogether.

DSC_0007

Legs are aluminum and sport 4 sections altogether, 3 being extendable and lockable via quick and simple locks.

DSC_0008

Now legs are perhaps the most interesting features as they include both rubber tips and studs for those off-roading set ups, and unlike many other tripods this feature is integrated in this Dolcia. Simply twist the rubber feet all the way down or up to reveal the studs.

DSC_0005

My D5100 in all its glory

wpid-CameraZOOM-20140107171933256.jpg

And a couple test shots of our Christmas tree @ISO 100, f/22, and 15-20 second exposure + usual post processing.

XmasTree (5)

XmasTree (1)

And as always, updates will come as I take this thing for a field test.

Another Macro Dabble – Extension Tube – 45mm f/2.8 AI-P

Had this thing ever since I got my 50mm f/2, but hardly used it since I didn’t quite grasp the essence of this direction before. So, I proceeded to use my 45mm AI-P paired with the tube and my WJ-60 light to shoot some Bismuth.

DSC_0021

DSC_0020

Try one was pretty nice, so I proceeded with a slightly better setup for this-

wpid-CameraZOOM-20140103185316707.jpg

IMGP5472

Thanks to my friend, a lil shot of me doing my experiment. This time the subject was propped up, camera mini-tripod’ed, and remote in full swing to minimize any shaking.

The final result (after very minor photoshopping the prop stand out), quite nice:

DSC_0027

While nowhere near a proper 1:1 kinda stuff, this is a solid close-up method on a budget since virtually any lens at hand will suffice and older non-AI extension tubes are dirt cheap. An older lens with manual aperture will help, but isn’t crucial since shooting at a small aperture is better for macro.

Magneto Mechanical Mod Clone (Fasttech)

Fiiiiiiiiiinally got this thing from SlowTech, and so far so good. This thing runs on 18xxx size batteries and has a screw-in/out extension tube to fit the different sizes. I ordered a 18500 and it fits nice and flush when the tube is extended almost all the way out.

Whole mod is heavy as hell, but I like its benefits- run any coil you want, fire as long as you please, and enjoy the fancy magnetic firing button at the bottom.

DSC_0015

DSC_0014

Next to Smok eG0

DSC_0013

DSC_0012

With the top piece off, battery in

DSC_0011

Top and bottom piece off

DSC_0010

DSC_0009

Very simple, indeed solely mechanical since battery’s safety board is the only thing electronic here. The very bottom ring above the button does screw out to lock the button in for travels, although the magnets aren’t that weak to cause accidental fire. In fact, you have to REALLY push the button in for it to engage.

I’m still debating whether to re-coil/shorten my coil in the RSST to test this thing’s limits or to leave it be to use eG0 as backup/passthrough whenever this 1100mAh monster gives out.

And So, A Year Goes By

Friday, the 27th, marked my D5100’s technical birthday. The little bugger went through hell and back over this year and I can’t quite think what I haven’t tried to shoot with it. As of the very last shot on Thursday, the shutter count was 43543 via CameraShutterCount.com. That quite the mileage I put on it in just a year- far more than I used to put on cars when I drove and commuted.

And so, one of the very first shots this guy took was this one-

DSC_0006

And the 43543rd was this-

Was a pretty fulfilling year in terms of a new direction in life, and this next one will be bigger, better, and uncut.

Just Sigh Really

Seems like I’m at that really stale part of the pond of earlier life right now- jobs aren’t exactly all that, dreams and goals aren’t coming quite together, and worst of all I’ve no idea what to really do about much of it at the moment. Haven’t written in this part of the blog for a minute, but venting always helped so here goes…

New Year’s resolution will definitely be to find an interest-relevant job and make the best of it unlike the majority up to this point. Else it seems that revisiting the good times of the past is keeping me going since those were the things I truly enjoyed and actually saw, felt, and properly experienced as opposed to all of them being mere fantasies. Wish some epic events happened more often, but alas. Also waiting for the snow season to start up (for me) to get back into my ocean and feel like a fish again. Haven’t waxed my board in ages; haven’t been on snow in what feels like forever; and sadly still no balls to try going sideways on concrete… But anyway, gonna keep it together the next few weeks and make the best of things happening and hopefully things to come as well.

Smoktech RSST RBA

So after doing some math on upkeep of the standard clearomizers and my love for customization and tweaking, I figured to go ahead and dabble into ReBuildable Atomizer realm. Smoktech RSST looked like the most basic, solid, affordable and pretty good looking of all the others on the market.

RSST (2)

Package is simple and appealing. Kit comes with the RSST; very solid, stainless steel 510 drip tip; spare chamber O-rings; extra spring and a shim for the positive center post; and 2 extra tank plugs.

Doing my research on this guy prior to purchase, I read that the delrin insert for the center post was prone to juice leaking all the way down it and into the battery. One solution was getting silicone inserts designed for a different RBA that fit this one perfectly and remedied the issue, and one place to get them at was KidneyPuncher. Since they also had RSST and wires and wicks, I went ahead and ordered everything from there. I went with silver plated center post for better conductivity.

RSST (4)

RSST (5)

Going with Stainless Steel mesh and too-high of a gauge of Kanthal wire was a mistake on my part, and the whole thing did not work all too well on the eGo battery (and yes, I went ahead and ordered a mod battery to try that out, but my preference is still the USB eGo for its convenience) due to having too much resistance on effective number of coils. SS mesh was also quite a pain to coil around and avoid hot spots.

NOTE- wicking using Ekowool (filled with nylon or cotton) can be easily done by wrapping the coil around a spare center pin or any 2mm diameter nail, then licking the wick ends after you cut it to prevent fraying and making it very easy to threat through the wrapped coil.

So next venture was some Ekowool wick and Nichrome standard and flat ribbon wire along with a 18500 battery and a charger for the mod handle that’s on its way from Fasttech.

RSST (15)

This combo worked out quite well with a 5/4 wrap, giving me ~2.2 ohm resistance and plenty of surface area coverage for a pretty decent burn.

RSST (18)

And in the end, this is the rig until the mod battery holder arrives:

RSST (14)

So my thoughts on the RSST and RBAs in general?

They indeed give a very, very clean and potent burn- my 35mg VS Banana juice is extremely, unbearably harsh coming from RSST than it even was on 510-T, RCT, or DCT. I can safely dilute it 50-60% with plain PG liquid and get the same throat hit and taste. So RBAs are very, very efficient.

They’re, to me, very fun to set up and tweak. Sometimes a pain, but I’m sure as I rebuild it more I’ll get better at it. Combinations of coils possible using only 1 wire are impressive- # of coils, their spacing, standard wrap-around-the-wick or micro-coil ribbons… and the best part is that every type burns noticeably different!

The build is very, very pleasing to both the hand and the eye. That also means durability is simply off the charts.

Maintenance is extremely cheap. Where standard clearomizers and tanks usually carry ~ $2 tag per replacement atomizer piece that lasts about 3 weeks of use, a RBA wick and wire combo can run as low as $7.50 and would be enough to do 10+ rebuilds.

A voltometer/resistance meter is a must to own, but not a terribly expensive device.

If you have steady hands and a passion for tinkering and customizing, I’d highly recommend getting an RBA.