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Tech Podcast Network
Thursday
Apr242014

600d / T3i Budget Zoom Review: Canon EF 100-300 f/5.6 Push Pull dSLR Lens 

(If you can't see the vieo, please click here.)

Before I start writing about this lens I'd like you to remember one thing: a newer, better lens, the EFS 55-250mm f4-5.6 IS goes for about GBP£140 / US$180 on Amazon, with a years guarantee. Never, ever, pay close to that price for an older 100-300 or 75-300 non IS lens for a cropped sensor dSLR. Just save up a little more and buy the 55-250 instead.

Now we've go that out of the way we can concentrate on the push-pull 100-300 f/5.6, one of the first budget EF zooms, that if you can get for a bargain price is worth adding to your lens collection, especially if you want to experiment with cheap teleconverters to really reach in to the distance.

Instead of turning the lens barrel to zoom, you push it in and out. Once you've used it a couple of times this is a very natural way of doing things, but it also means that when a lens has had a fair amount of use they are very prone to zoom creep - when the camera is at an angle different to the horizontal the lens zooms out or in.

 There's no Image Stabilization on this glass either, so really keep an eye on the shutter speed to avoid camera shake, or use a tripod. It is a constant aperture, but f/5.6 is pretty slow, and that also means that if you add a budget teleconverter, usually a 2x one, you'll lose auto-focus and you'll need to focus manually.

I got my example for £40, which I think is a fair price. I use it occasionally with a 2x teleconverter, but it by no means is a replacement for my Canon 55-250 IS, but if I didn't have that lens I'd be more than happy to try and get the best out of its longer, older EF counterpart.

In conclusion, if you haven't got a decent telephoto zoom and are on a tight budget, one of these push-pull lenses will do the job on bright sunny days, but treat it with respect and learn to get the best out of it.

(Click for my previous review of the lens, with example photos, on the Canon 350d / Rebel XT.)

Cheers, Rob.

Wednesday
Apr232014

600d / T3i Second Must-Have Lens Video - Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS Telephoto Zoom 

(If you can't see the video, please click here.)

If you've followed the blog, podcast and youtube channel for a while you'll know I'm a photographer on a tight budget. True, for Christmas I did get a new dSLR, my 600d / T3i, but almost every other part of my kit is second hand or at least well worn.

If you were to ask me what my favourite lens is, I would have to say the Canon 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS. I've used a few Canon lenses - the 18-55, 50mm 1.8, 40mm 2.8, 28-80, 75-300, 100-300 and loads more lenses on other brand film SLR's, but the 55-250 is the one lens that makes me smile the most.

The 55-250 is incredibly versatile. You might just think of it as a telephoto zoom to get closer to your subjects, for Sports or Wildlife, but it offers so much more. Extend it all the way and it becomes a capable macro lens. The Image Stabilization (IS) means you can get sharp images at slower shutter speeds than normal and at longer focal lengths.

For me though, where the 55-250 f/4-5.6 really shines is in portrait photography. Stand back 10 feet, zoom all the way in, and you can do great head-shots with a smooth background blur. Back off a little more and go mid and full body. Keep that focal length long (zoomed out) but get closer to your subjects and you'll be amazed by the "look" you create, and also by the sharpness of the glass.

Grab a cheap lens hood of eBay to protect the front element and minimise lens flare, practise flipping it on and off by reversing it, and you'll have a lens to be proud of that can deliver the results.

If you've just started out with your photography and want to move beyond the kits lens that came with your camera, trust me and get the 55-250 IS F4/5.6, just remember to zoom long, but get close to your people, and you'll have amazing photographs.

Thanks, Rob.

Tuesday
Apr222014

Steve McCurry Portraits Photography Book Review  Video

 

Steve McCurry, Portraits, is an amazing collection of images from the National Geographic Photographer, in a small 19cm x 12cm format.

 

This is a hardback book with full page (but small) portraits that Mr McCurry has taken over his illustrious career. The text is minimal, but the photos are striking, colourful and are a master class in how to take a memorable image.

 

This is a very focussed tome - if you're not into portraits this probably isn't for you, but for the rest of us I would almost consider an essential tome, and for less than £15 it's a bit of a bargain.

 

Thanks, Rob.
Monday
Apr212014

Spyder4Pro Monitor Calibration Tool Review- Stop Your Screen Lying To You!

(If you can't see the video, please click here.)

If you were taking photographs in a tricky lighting situation, say at a Wedding Reception with fluorescent lights, you'd take a custom white balance to make the Brides Dress looked perfect, right? If you were printing proofs for a client, and you noticed that the colours were off, you'd run the cleaning and calibrating tools on your printer, yes?

So why on earth as photographers do we miss out the most important part of this process, why do we not calibrate the device upon which all our editing adjustments are made - that screen in front of us?

The problem is that our laptop screens or external monitors are just plain lying to us. They may have been almost accurate out of the box, but you can bet by now that the colours have drifted and all the adjustments you're making to a photo's saturation, contrast and brightness are based on false assumptions.

What can make this worse is when we shoot in RAW and don't bother to get a suitable white balance at point of capture because we know we can fix it without a loss of quality in post. If our screen is off though, we'll never be able to make the correct decisions on colour temperature and we will end up with at best "odd" looking images.

Just like we wouldn't think twice to get a correct white balance in our camera, or adjust our printer, the Spyder4Pro from Datacolor allows is to measure the the accuracy of our computer screens and then create a custom profile that will adjust the graphics settings and get that screens output to be as true as possible.

As you can see in the above video, it is very simple to install the software and run the program. Simply sit the Spyder4Pro on your screen for a few minutes and you'll have a correctly adjusted screen, and it really is an "Eureka" moment when you see the difference between your uncalilbrated and calibrated monitor. It'll make you want to go back and check all your old edits to see the simple color mistakes you've been making...

You can then choose to pack the Spyder4Pro away, or leave it plugged it so it can take an ambient light measurement and adjust the luminescence of your monitor accordingly. As part of the calibration process you can also set a scheduled reminder to do calibration check or re-calibrate, as screens do drift out of calibration over time.

A key selling point of the SPyder4Pro over the Spyder4Express, is that the Pro can calibrate multiple monitors:

 

(If you can't see the video, please click here.)

What I found surprising about calibrating my second monitor, a much older LG screen, was how much better that second screen was at displaying the sRGB colour range. It's really useful to have a second screen when you're editing with Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop, so you always have a large reference, but what I couldn't have guessed was that a dedicated screen will often be much, much better than the monitor attached to your laptop.

 I also used the Datacolour Spyder4Pro to calibrate the screen on my old Windows XP Laptop that I use with an old Epson scanner to digitize 35mm film negatives:

(If you can't see the video, please click here.)

The change in the displayed colours on the old laptop were astounding. When I used to use it regularly I know it had a distinctive blue cast, which I tried to get rid of manually but couldn't, but the Sypyder has sorted all that out now.

If you were doing all your photo edits in isolation, not sharing them on the web or printing them out, or delivering them to clients, of course you wouldn't need to calibrate your monitor. Also, in the modern digital photography age we can no longer just rely on the white balance baked into the film, or the accuracy of the print lab, to ensure a consistent colour workflow. We must calibrate!

As a test of the whole process I used the Spyder4Pro in a relatively colour controlled photoshoot, with the idea of accurately recreating the colours of a couple of well know brands:

(If you can't see the video, please click here.)

You may well be thinking that all this calibration business is all well and good for professionals, but does it really apply to amateurs? The answer, of course, is yes. As soon as your monitor is calibrated, your photographs will pop off the screen. It's hard to describe, but your photos will look so much more real. It's almost like you're taking off some tinted sunglasses and now you're seeing the world as it should really be.

With your screen now showing the correct colours, all your edits will be based on a firm foundation and you can be confident that your prints will look great. Other people will enjoy them more, and when you come back to your digital photographs in a few years they'll have the consistency that we had back in the film days - only now with all the benefits of digital.

The Spyder4Pro is a must have for any amateur or pro - and for about GB£130 or US$170, it's an investment that's cheaper than a new lens or flash - and it will make an even bigger improvement to your photography.

Thanks, Rob.

Sunday
Apr202014

SCL Photography Podcast 233 - Spyder4Pro