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Entries in articles (34)

Tuesday
Aug272013

Why Is Your Camera Kit Still Working?

Seriously, if you've had your camera, lenses and accessories for more than a couple of years, why has at least some of it not given up the ghost?

Are you not pushing it hard enough? Are you not taking enough photographs to wear it out? Are your lenses pristine, without even a scratch on the protective UV filters?

Take a look at the shutter release button and the handgrip. Are they worn to a dull shine? How about that digital sensor? Take a shot at f/22 of a piece of white paper. How many blotches can you see?

It's a given that you don't have your camera with you all the time. Do you avoid changing lenses if you're in a dusty environment, if it's a bit windy or wet? Do you ever shoot near sand?

Have you ever held your camera out over water, a big drop or a forbidding hole to get that interesting angle? Have you ever waded into the sea, water filling your boots, crouched low and shot back at people on the beach?

Have you ever taken your camera out in the rain? Have you ever tossed your camera up in the air, facing down, on the self-timer, to do an aerial group shot?

How about your tripod. Are the legs sloppy and loose from too much use? Are the feet dirty and rusty from sitting too long in the mud and salt water?

How many feet have you snapped off your strobes? How many gels have blown away in the wind? How many lens caps have rolled into a drain? How many memory cards have you put through the wash?

How long has your gear been cosseted, wrapped in lovely soft camera bags, how long has it not been shooting?

If you 'aint broke it, you 'aint pushing it hard enough!

Now if only my 350d would hurry up and finish dying...

Cheers, Rob.

Wednesday
Jun052013

Drink Yourself To Being A Better Photographer... (With Tea)

Take lots of photographs... get closer... fill the frame... look up, look down, look all around... start wide, get close... tell the story... f8 and be there... the decisive moment... the rule of thirds... but wait, there's something we can do to make us sharper, more intelligent photogrphers - drink more!

Before you let out a whoop and crack open a six pack, I'm talking about water here. The British Journal of Nutrition has published a paper stating that mild dehydration impairs cognative function - in other words if you just drink a little more water, say 2 liters or 8 average glasses, your brain will work better, therefore you'll take better photographs!

Of course you knew this already, but apart from the odd token glass of tap water mixed with some Vimto to make it palatable, you still don't drink enough of the clear stuff. 

Fear not - the BJN has come to our aid with a trial that proves that good old fashioned Tea is as good, if not better, at re-hydrating our bodies, so forget boring tasting water, get stuck into several mugs of tea instead!

So tommorrow, keep filling that kettle, keep brewing that tea, have those digestives ready, and drink yourself to becoming a better photograher!

Cheers, Rob.

Saturday
Apr272013

The Ultimate Guide To NOT Buying A New dSLR Digital Camera Body

Opteka BGRXT Battery Grip On Canon EOS 350d / Digital Rebel XT

Roll up, roll up, carrry on reading for the ultimate guide to NOT buying a new Digital SLR!

That's right, you may be sitting there right now, about to pull the trigger on a new camera, but I'm here to save you, to say no, don't bother . Intrigued? Puzzled? Well I am, and I'm the one writing this post...

The first step in renouncing that burning desire to spend your hard earned cash is to truly believe that great photographs aren't about the camera that took them, therefore you need to accept that your current kit is good enough to take amazing photographs.

"I don't believe it!" You're shouting at the screen, surely a newer camera will take better photographs than an older one!

Ok, how about this, you're better off spending the money you were going to waste on a new SLR body on actually going on holiday to some great places. How about following in HCB's footsteps to Paris, or emulating Mr.  Adams in Yosemite?

"Interesting, but wouldn't my photographs just look better of even those places with a shiny fresh camera with loads more megapixels?" you reply.

Well, no, they wouldn't - why don't you spend those greenbacks on a training course or workshop about photography. Get some quality tuition from one of your photographer heroes. Spending a couple of days with experts that can guide you onto a better path will save you years of struggling through books and magazines.

"But all those guys and gals on those courses have amazing kit, I'd feel intimidated with all that lens envy!" is your excuse.

Another misconception is that you really must have specialist gear to shoot specialist subjects. Ya gotta have 8 frames a second to do sports. Without a full frame sensor your low-light portraits will be flat and uninspiring. You can't do a professional job without a professional camera.

All untrue. Consider what you're using now. When your camera was new, was it considered great? Did people think it was a massive improvement on what went before, including film SLRs? Of course! It's still the same camera, if a little dustier and worn around the edges. 

While we're on the subject, let's discuss the film argument. Compared to using a film SLR, even a pro one, your camera has so many advantages. It can shoot hundreds, if not thousands of photographs on the same memory card. You get instant feedback on your photograph, down to a in-depth histogram. You can shoot, edit, print and share your photos in a matter of minutes instead of hours or days. Yet those film SLR's have taken some of the greatest images in history. Kind of puts things in perspective, right?

"That's all well and good" You're thinking, "But I want to use the latest technology in my camera so I've got the best chance of taking a good photo, because sometimes I need all the help I can get. I've seen the latest cameras, the reviews look great and I can just about afford one, so I'm going to buy a new dSLR body."

Fair enough, I can see that all my logical arguments have failed, and that despite the evidence that your current dSLR is more than good enough, I need to appeal your more emotional side, the visual right-side of the brain. in other words, lets look at some pics.

Unless we want this post to go on for a lot longer than it should, you'll have to have a go at the first few examples, then look at the specific images from the camera you have and the camera body you want. What we're going to be doing is looking at full resolution images from that most excellent (but maybe a bit too thorough) website, dpreview.com.

The idea is that you'll download and examine lots of example images from your current camera and the one you're interested in so you can have a close look at them and see if there really is a big difference. I'll also include the link to the summary page for the review at dpreview.com. Lets get started.

Canon EOS 350d vs Canon 550d. 

Ahem. My current camera is a rather long in the 350d / Rebel XT, but is the 550d / Rebel T2i that much better? Let's look at a load of sample images. 

Here's the 350d sample images. (Will open in a new window.)

Here's the 550d sample images. (Will open in a new window.)

What do you think. Zoom in to have a good look (you may have to click the photos to go to 100%). Download the original photos at full resolution. Apart from one image being bigger than the other, is there a massive difference in the quality?

If you're still undecided why not read dpreviews conclusions about the 350D and the 550d.

So now ask yourself - will upgrading the Canon 350d to the 550d really give you better looking photographs?

Canon EOS 600D To 5d Mk. III

Let's say that unlike myself you've got a newer dSLR but want to move up to one of the most eagerly anticipated cameras of the last five years.

Here's the 600d sample images.

Here's the 5d Mk. III sample photographs.

Have a close look at as many of  photographs as you can. Scroll around, examine the details, the tone and the colours. They all look great, but is one camera really that much better than the other?

Have a read of depreviews conclusions for the 600d and the 5d Mk. III.

Nikon D5100 To D4

Here's the D5100 sample photos.

Here's a D4 sample photo.

A true heavy-weight versus a very capable amateur camera, but is one head and shoulders above the other?

It's Over To You

By now you've got the idea. Stop reading all the reviews. Just look at the sample photographs of the camera you're interested in over on dpreview, remembering to look at the sample photographs of your existing camera, and honestly ask yourself if there's really that much difference in the quality.

Thanks, Rob.

 

PS You could of course also just spend a fraction of that money on a nice little film camera...

My New (25 Years Old!) Minolta SRT 101 with 50mm F1.4

PPS Actually, don't try to contact me for a while because the AF on my 350d seems a little dodgy so I've got my eye on a tasty 600d body on eBay...

Wednesday
Apr242013

You Vs Them. Just Who Exactly Are Your Photos For?

Ship Graveyard

Here's a question: Who do you take photos for?

It's all well and good following your vision, polishing your style, fine tuning your artistic statement, planning projects and getting out there and shooting, but what happens if nobody else is interested in the final result?

What happens if after all this studying and practice, when people look at your photo's, noone says "wow".

Is it possible to become too obsessed with the way we think about what photography should be, so that we loose that ability to create images that will impress other people?

You could say that it's the difference between the professional and the amateur or artist. The pro has the skill-set to deliver the goods that the clients want, albeit with a twist of their own style. The amateur discards this idea and captures their own vision of the world.

The danger for the Professional is that this requirement to meet the needs of others could lead to a disillusionment with photography, whereas the amateur or artist could become lost in their own artistic dead-end.

If the accepted answer for the Pro is to take on personal projects whenever possible to feed their artistic side, then surely it is a very good idea for the amateur or the artistic photographer to take on assignments where they're not pandering to their own needs, rather they occasionally should take photographs in a way that other people want.

Sure, you could be lucky and your artistic vision could align perfectly with what other people love, but you'll probably find that you'll have to work on it.

To go back to the original question, as a photographer who are your photos for, you or them? The answer must be both - if you truly want to develop as a professional, artist or amateur.

Thanks, Rob.

 Feeding The Swans, Fort Brockhurst

Monday
Apr152013

10-600mm Canon EF / EF-S Lens Collection For Under £250, Including Macro 

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

Remember the first time you got a SLR or dSLR? You feverishly opened the box, fitted the lens, charged the batteries, read the instruction manual, then went out and took some photographs. The images looked great on the back of the camera, perhaps not so good on your PC, and maybe something else felt lacking.

If you'd come from owning Bridge Cameras or Super-Zooms, the lack of focal length of the kit SLR lenses can be a little disappointing. A quick surf of the web or scan of photo magazines would reveal the startling costs of more lenses to give you the telephoto or wide angle or macro that you're used to.

So then you've got a choice. Dig deep and buy new lenses, or if you're a skint photographer like myself, you're going to have to try and grab second-hand bargains off eBay, Gumtree, car-boot sales and charity shops.

As you can see from the video at the beginning of this article, with a little luck and a lot of patience you can build up a nice little glass collection that'll see you right in most non-professional situations, and as long as you work around the lenses limitations, which revolve around tight maximum apertures and non-standard lens mounts, you'll get some quite good results.

I'll have to admit that I've been lucky. Over the last few years I've managed to pick up some right bargains, learnt some good techniques, and put together a very cheap collection of glass.

Let's start with the basics - my Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS and 55-250mm IS lenses. I use these two for 95% of the photographs i take. Lightweight, sharp, and with that ever-so-helpful image stabilisation these lenses do fine in most situations. The telephoto is sharper than the wide-angle zoom, and it's more flattering for portraits, so it's probably my favourite lens. I got the two together from eBay (in mint condition) for about £150. Not that cheap, but I've been very, very pleased with them. 

The Canon 28-80mm EF  was a stalwart kit lens of the Canon EOS film cameras, so you could argue that it's a little out of date, but as a back-up it's more than capable. Not the sharpest lens, and there's no IS, but stop it down to f/5.6 when wide open, or f/8 when zoomed in, and the image quality is up there with the newer lenses. I got mine for under a tenner, atatched to the front of an old film camera. It now makes a perfect back-up telephoto zoom.

The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 MK. 1 lens is undoubtedly my best ever bargain. This is the original sought-after metal mount lens with the DOF scale, but I've used the MK. II 50mm and that's a good piece of glass too. The perfect piece of kit for no-flash low light situations or shallow depth of field, my example cost me £3 from our local car-boot sale, again it came on the front of an old film camera.

The Massa Wide-Angle / Macro converter is a bit left-field. Sure, the telephoto adapter it came with is junk, but the 0.45x wide-angle filter really does work. It may be a little soft around the edges, but if you're in a tight situation and need more of an angle of view, screw the Massa on the front of your wide-angle and you're set. The macro bit works well too, and is a lot smaller and lighter than a close-up lens. The pair cost me about £12.

If you want great, cheap, macro photography, why not go down the M42 route. With a simple EF-M42 mount adapter (from eBay), some extension tubes and a nice cheap lens like the Helios 135mm, the macro world is at your fingertips. On a Canon dSLR you'll be shooting Aperture Priority, manual focus and you'll have to "stop down" to expand the depth of field, but it's easy to get used to and with enough light, a tripod or a flash, you'll get amazing shots. I got the lot for about a tenner.

Let's finish off with the longer end of the scale - my Canon EF 100-300mm f/5.6 Zoom, coupled with my Jessops 2x Teleconverter. Unlike the 55-250, this longer lens has no IS, and with the teleconverter we've lost two stops of light, so a tripod, a very bright day or a high ISO setting is required, but where else are you going to get 600mm of reach for £50?

So there we have it. A nice little set for under £250. It may have taken me a couple of years, but I'm ready for most situations and I hope I've inspired you to consider cheaper glass for your dSLRs.

Thanks, Rob.