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Old Oct 10, 2002, 9:41 PM   #1
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Default Cheap flash diffuser and bag for 7i

I recently bought a Minolta DiMAGE 7i, but I received it only a couple of days before leaving for a 6-month stay in SEA. I expect to travel around SEA some and I want carry almost every thing in a backpack to minimize the problems of travel. If you have ever tried traveling in SEA you know why I want to use the backpack – putting yourself and a couple of suitcases behind the driver of a 100 cc motorcycle taxi is not fun and quickly leads to you falling off and skidding down the road while leaving behind various parts of your epidermis. With a backpack at least one hand is free to help you hang on to the motorcycle taxi.

I barely had time to read the manual and try out the camera before leaving on this trip. I was, and still am, amazed at the quality and capabilities of the 7i. I occasionally do some macro work and usually need flash for this work. Minolta says that focusing to 0.8', in the telephoto macro mode setting, is possible (p. 78 of manual). I found that in auto-focus mode, at less than about 15", the camera wanted to focus on the background and that I had to switch to manual focus to get the subject in proper focus. The minimum flash distance, at ISO 100 and f 8, is given as 1.3 ' (p. 90 of manual). I found in testing, not too surprisingly, that the on-camera flash is too strong and washes out the pictures at macro distances.

The ideal solution for macro flash work is to use the Minolta Macro Ring Flash 1200 with Macro Flash Controller or the Macro Twin Flash 2400 with Macro Flash Controller. Unfortunately these are expensive and would add bulk and weight to my gear that I can't handle while traveling. The other possibility is the Minolta Close-Up Diffuser CD-1000. I didn't get a chance to investigate exactly what this is but I imagine it is a simple lightweight plastic diffuser that attaches to the external flash foot. I didn't have time to order one before I left on my trip either. I did try the old trick of using a layer of a men's linen handkerchief to reduce the light intensity and that seemed to work fine, but it is rather inconvenient to have to stretch it across the flash and hold it there while trying to line up the shot properly and hold the camera still while taking the photo.

My fast, cheap, lightweight, and easy to pack solution is the Cheap Charlie close-up diffuser, the CD-999 (It's less in all ways than the Minolta CD-1000). This consists of two sides of a rectangular half-gallon milk jug cut to form a diffuser and attached to the camera with Velcro. The part that goes in front of the flash is rectangular and about 5" wide by 2.5" high. The second side is a rounded triangle with a 5" base, common to the rectangular diffuser side, and with a height of about 3". A piece of adhesive Velcro, about 1" x 3/4", is attached to the top of the flash and peak of the triangular side of the diffuser – the fuzzy piece is on the camera and the hooks piece is on the diffuser. The weight is negligible and the diffuser simply folds in half for storage in the front pocket of my small Targus camera bag, which I picked up at Wal-Mart. I did a quick job on the milk jug with a pair of scissors so none of the dimensions are very accurate, none of the sides are very straight, and the whole thing may be too big, but it works just fine. I am still experimenting with it trying to get everything right . I did find that best results were obtained using pre-flash TTL instead of ADI flash metering in agreement with Minolta’s recommendation (p. 92 of manual).

The $20 Targus bag is another very convenient Cheap Charlie item. It is 9.5"w x 6.5"d x 6.5"d fully loaded. There is room inside for both my Olympus 460 and Minolta 7i cameras, or for the 7i and an external flash. The Sanyo Ni-MH battery charger, supplied with the camera, and 8 extra AA batteries fit in one side pocket and the PCMCIA adapter fits in the other. The front pocket can hold the CD-999, a note pad and pencil and/or a pair of sunglasses. The bag has a hand strap on top and a shoulder strap. I don't care for shoulder straps so I just unhook one of the clips and pass the strap around my waist before rehooking it. I then have a somewhat large but serviceable fanny pack.

Pictures of the CD999, examples of how it works, the Targus bag are at a photo site I have created. The address is:


The pictures are at about 800x600 resolution to speed up downloads:

CD999-001 The CD999
CD999-002 The CD999 on the camera
CD999-003 Helper and my thumb – without CD999
CD999-004 Helper and my thumb – with CD999
CD999-005 7i & CD999 in the Targus camera bag

Pictures CD999-003 and CD999-004 are taken with manual focus, at about 11" in the macro mode, and with the self-timer to minimize shake. In these early trials CD999-03 actually looks better than CD999-04 but note that in CD999-003 the helper and thumb are actually overexposed and washed out while in CD999-004, where the diffuser was used, there is more detail visible. As soon as I get more time I’ll do some more work and post the results.

I have gotten a lot of good information on the 7 and 7i reading this site and I hope this information is of some benefit to others.

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Old Oct 14, 2002, 1:14 PM   #2
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Hey, good idea! and you got another credit for milk bottle recycling ! :P
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Old Nov 8, 2002, 11:01 AM   #3
Join Date: Aug 2002
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Hi Don.

Finaly i got a slolution for my problem.
Macro/ dental photo with the internal flash was impossible.
I friend and i got the idea to make a plexiglas plate. Fixed around the lens. 2-3 cm in front of flash and 4-5 cm below the lens.

Now: Even from 1 cm, no irritating shadows of the lens. Perfect light conditions and a bit shadow from subject because the main lightsource is still above.

Good it works for you to.
Ps I have a Sony F707.
If anybody wants a example image, send mail to:
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