RSS & Email Feeds - The Easy Way To Keep Up To Date With The Blog


Tech Podcast Network

Entries in wish list (12)


The Ultimate Portrait Lens? Canon EF 85mm F/1.8

Having picked up the 50mm f/1.8 Mk.1 Metal mount from the car boot last week-end, I've been busily shooting all sorts of subjects with it, including the odd portrait.

Despite being on my 350d, which being a crop-sensor camera, and giving an equivalent focal length of about 75mm, I still prefer the length of my 55-250 IS, if not the maximum aperture.

The next prime up in Canon's line-up is the much loved 85mm F/1.8. Offering that little bit of extra reach that the nifty fifty, and at just over £300 on Amazon at the moment, this lens tends to be a great option for anyone who wants a light-weight lens with a medium reach that can operate in low-light and offer creamy blurred back-grounds - Weddings anyone?

 Although the 85mm is only a little longer than the 50mm, that's enough to make it even more flattering for portraits, and that extra length means that the depth of field appears smaller too.

Check out this flickr slideshow of photos taken with the Canon 85mm f/1.8.

Of course the real question is whether it's better to build up a bag of fast primes, like the 28mm f/2.8, 50 f/1.8, 85mm f/1.8 and the 135mm f/2.8, or just go for a classic L lens - like the 24-105mm f/4, the 28-70mm f/2.8 or even the 70-200. I guess it depends how much cash you've got (of course) and if your chosen field of photography gives you enough time to change glass, or if a zoom would be better.

What do you think, primes or zooms?

Cheers, Rob.


Wishlist: A Nice Little Macbook Or Macbook Pro...

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

OK, OK, don't click away quite yet! I know that it really doesn't matter what type of computer we use to store, sort and edit our photographs - but I had a go with one of the new Macbook Pro's last week and I was mightily impressed.

It was just a quick demo, but a couple of points really jumped out at me. Everything was incredibly smooth, from the launching of the computer itself, the starting of programs and the editing of photographs. Even more than that though was the sheer quality of the screen on the Macbook Pro I was using. My photographs looked really, really beautiful. The blacks were pitch black and the colours realistic and vibrant. It took my breath away.

Now I know you can buy great monitors for your desktop PC, but this was a laptop, and I think it may have swayed me towards not writing the Macbook off as just expensive PC's, but as treating them as a higher end tool for the serious photographer.

If you're new to the idea of Macs vs PC's, they're two competing computer systems with their own strengths and weaknesses. PC's run Microsoft Windows and are made by dozens of different manufacturers. PC's are available at all price points, and are by far the most popular form of PC at the moment.

Macs are made exclusively by Apple, and run their own Operating System, OS X. Build quality is excellent and a lot of effort is placed into creating a smooth and consistent user experience. Mac enthusiasts can be almost religious about their love of the products, and are more than willing to pay the price premium for an Apple Macbook over the more common Windows based PC's.

A lot of photo professionals use Macbooks - OSX can run Adobe's Photoshop and Lightroom just as well as a Windows machine, plus you've also got the option of Aperture, an exclusive Apple piece of software. Based around the Unix Operating System, Macs are famed for their stability. This isn't to say that they don't crash, but it's less often and Macs are also less prone to Viruses as they don't seem to be targeted by hackers as often as Windows Computers.

Let's take a look at what's available in the Apple Shop at the moment, and dream about what sort of laptop we could be editing our photo's on...

Macbook. The entry level Apple laptop. Starting with a Polycarbonate Unibody, 2.4ghz Intel Core Duo processor, 13.3" screen, up to 4gb of memory and 7 hours of battery life, the Macbook offers a great specification with prices starting from £867.

Macbook Air, 11" and 13". It may be expensive, but you've got to hold a Macbook Air to understand and apreciate it. This thing weighs nothing and is a beautiful object. The aluminium body feels great under your finger-tips and could be the perfect laptop. It might not be the best for photographers though - the lack of optical drive means this is more of a second machine than a primary work-station.

Macbook Pro, 13", 15" and 17". The daddy's of the Apple laptop range, the Pro's offer the power of a desktop PC, beautiful screens, and could be the laptop of my dreams. Up to 2.3 ghz Quad core processors, up to 8gb of RAM, seven hours of battery life and all the connectivity you could want. Oh yes!

So there we go - the Apple Macbook line-up is truly impressive. The quality is second to none, the specifications up there with the best, and those screens have to be seen to be believed. Now I've just got to sell the car to afford one....

Cheers, Rob.

What Do You Think?

Windows or Mac, what's the best for photographers? Is the Apple price premium worth paying, or is it all hype? Please put your comments below!


Wishlist: Canon EOS 450D / Digital Rebel XSi

Ah yes, the Canon EOS 450D / Digital Rebel XSi. Seemingly caught between the entry level dSLR's and the more expensive semi-pro options, this is probably going to end up being the best-selling camera of 2009. Why? Image quality.

Let's take a look.

Full review at

(It always makes me chuckle when in reviews they comment on the slowness of contrast-detect Auto-Focus systems, try a Bridge camera then you'll know what slow is!)

To check out the image quality on the 450D, Digital Rebel XSi, there's examples at DPreview, and it's also worth looking at one of the 450D Flickr user groups.

If you're looking for a new dSLR (like I hope to be next year), and aren't tied into a particular lens system, there's a lot of competition and confusion between the different brands and models. The 450D seems to sit very nicely above the entry level models, but below it's semi-pro cousins.

As of November '08 you can get a Nikon D40 (no image stabilisation on kit lens, no dust system) for about £240, a Sony Alpha 200 (poorer image quality at higher ISO's) for about £270, a Nikon D60 (no exposure bracketing, no AF on older lenses) for about £330, a Canon 1000D (no spot-metering) for about the same, then the 450D comes in at around £440.

It's then a big jump to the semi-pro Canon 40D (immense build quality, 6 frames per second shooting speed) at £750, or the Nikon D80 (no image stabilisation on kit lens, no dust system) at £560.

So with the 450D / Rebel XSi Canon have aimed the specification above the entry level dSLR's, but below the advanced consumer / semi-pro, and it really hasn't got a competitor from Nikon until they bring out a replacement to the D60.

The 450d comes with the new, improved EF-S 18-55mm IS f/3.5-5.6 non USM Lens Kit, a big step up from the kit lens that came with the 400D, it's got a bigger and better rear screen, live view, a larger optical view finder, faster shooting at 3.5 frames per second, depth of field preview, spot-metering and 14 bit RAW processing.

Reviewers have been impressed with the image quality from the sensor - comparing it favourably with, and sometime better then, the results from the 40D. Obviously to get the best out of it more expensive glass is required - but Canon are noted for their excellent lenses, as long as you can afford the price tag.

The images that I have looked at have struck me with the detail and clarity even at high ISO's (it goes up to 1600) - which is perfect for when buying the cheaper, non IS L Canon Glass.

450D - top kit, great image quality, do I want one? Too right!

Cheers, Rob.

Wish List: Creative Compacts, Canon G10 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3

Er, wait a minute, isn't our preferred camera format the dSLR? Why am I taking a look at some cameras that are smaller than my S5700? Well, these two are special - high-end compacts, that can shoot RAW, video, have great image quality and will fit into your pocket. Superb.

Canon PowerShot G10

(Full review at

So let's take a real sensible think about this. The G10 comes with 14.7 Megapixels, can shoot RAW, takes video, 5x zoom, optical image stabilisation, full manual control, has a hot shoe, and takes great photographs. So for everyday casual shooting, what else could you want?

A problem with larger cameras is that you don't have them on you all the time. It's just too much hassle. But with a G10 in your pocket, you'd never miss a shot again. OK, so it's not a dSLR replacement, but you'd end up taking more photographs, and probably enjoying yourself more too.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3

(Full review at

The Panasonic Lumix LX3 puts a slightly different spin on the high-end compact camera. Panasonic have thought about what the people who will be using this cameras probably want - and that's a camera that can shoot nice photographs in most lighting conditions. So the Lumix has a maximum aperture of F2.0 - a first for any compact.

This means that the LX3 lens is letting in twice as much light as its competitors, meaning you can use lower ISO's and higher shutter speeds. We've still got video, optical image stabilisation, 10.1 Megapixels and full manual mode.

The Lumix also has a wider lens, 24mm, but at the expense of having only a 2.5x optical zoom.

So we've got a real good choice here, the wider, faster Panasonic, or the more zoom-capable Canon, both brilliant compacts that would be instantly available, sitting in your pocket ready for the next great shot.

Cheers, Rob.

Sony's dSLR's - Continuing The Konica / Minolta Legacy

When Konica / Minolta went bust in 2006, Sony took over their dSLR division - so when you see a Sony dSLR don't be fooled into thinking that these are the new kids on the block - Sony is continuing a proud legacy of cameras that's been around for over 100 years.

Let's take a look at the current Sony range, which now includes entry level models, right up to a full-frame pro spec model with industry leading resolution. So if you've got some auto-focus Minolta Lenses hanging around, or fancy a look at some of the best value for money SLR's out there, Sony are definitely worth a consideration.

Sony DSLR-A200K. Let's not beat around the bush here, you can grab an Alpha 200 from Amazon right now for £260 - only beaten in price by the much older Nikon D40, so as an entry-level dSLR what do you get for this unbelievable price?

The A200 can ship with the 18-70mm F3.5-5.6 Kit Lens - offering more reach than the normal 18-55 that comes with it's rivals. 10.2 Megapixels, in-camera image stabilisation (instead of in the lens), 9 point AF system, 3 frames per second maximum shooting speed, and a dual type anti-dust system. Few!

That is an amazing spec for less than £300, and unlike the D40, the A200 offers exposure auto-bracketing - really helpful if you're into HDR's. OK, it doesn't have live view on the 2.7" LCD, but at this price it isn't really missed.

Sony DSLR-A300X. Sony have been quite clever with their dSLR camera range - offering really simple and obvious advantages as you move up the range.

Offering the same 10.2 Megapixel Sensor as the a200, in-camera image stabilisation, dual anti-dust protection, 9 point AF, 3 fps, etc - but the a300 also offers live view, and importantly a 2.7" LCD screen that tilts. That's right, you can swivel the screen out to look down on it, or look up into it too, brilliant for macro work.

Sony dSLR A350K. Continuing Sony's simple approach to the features for cash equation, for around £400 the alpha 350 adds higher resolution - 14.2 Megapixels vs it's cheaper siblings 10.2.

We still have the in-camera Super Steady Shot image stabilisation, 9 point AF, dual anti-dust control, maximum speed drops to 2.5 fps, but we've got the live-view and fold out LCD screen from the a300.

Sony DSLR A700. Sony's high-end enthusiast camera, the alpha 700 offers their new Exmos sensor, rated at 12.2 Megapixels, plus a whole host of other goodies for around £600, body only.

The a700 has Super Steady Shot in-camera image stabilisation, 11 point Auto Focus, dual anti-dust (sensor coating and sensor shake), 5 frames per second maximum shooting speed, and comes with software for remote camera operation.

Sony Alpha 900 SLR Full Frame Camera. This is Sony's letter of intent to Canon and Nikon. Sony's saying that they want to be a player at the big boys table - and their ace is the full frame sensor toting A900.

The a900's full frame sensor (the same size as 35mm film, great for wide-angles) is rated at an industry leading 24.6 Megapixels, the highest resolution SLR digital camera available.

We also get a 100% coverage view finder, in camera image stabilisation, 3" LCD, 9 point AF, and 5 frames per second maximum shooting speed. All this is wrapped up in a dust and moisture sealed magnesium alloy body - Minolta would be proud! (Oh, it's around £1800, body only!)


My apologies for just skimming over the features of the current Sony dSLR range, but hopefully this short article will bring you up to speed on what's out there, and what you might be interested in.

Cheers, Rob.