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Archive for the ‘Cameras and Equipment’ Category

Feb
25

Which Street Photography Lens is Right for You?

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

The correct lens for the correct photo is a debate often heard among many photographers. In this article, you’ll see the various merits of three different street photography lenses. The 50mm lens is often thought of as the perfect lens for street photography, perhaps even the only one.

Using different focal lengths can dramatically change the type of photos you take, though. So let’s take a look at which street photography lens might be right for you!

Which Street Photography Lens is Right for You?

This photo was taken at 135mm. There is still plenty of context in this scene, even at the longer focal length.

Wide-angle to get in close

This class of lens is usually thought of as a landscape, or architecture photography lens. That may be true, though using it for street photography is equally valid. So why might you use a wide-angle lens in your street photography work?

  • Get close – That famous Robert Capa quote that I’m sure you’ve seen, “If your pictures are not good enough, you’re not close enough.” Well, when you use a wide-angle lens for street photography you’ll have to get close. This will get you closer to the action and will lead to the following.
  • Tell more story – Capturing a wider scene will allow more context to come into your photo. If you can avoid the photograph becoming too cluttered, and you retain a clear focus on the main subject you will likely have a great photo.
  • Interaction – Getting close to your subject means interacting with your subject, most likely a person. They’ll now know you’re taking their photo. How you use this to your advantage depends on you. Building a positive relationship with your subject will enhance your photo, even if that relationship is short.
Which Street Photography Lens is Right for You?

This photo required a wide-angle lens to capture the whole scene. It was photographed at 17mm, and I was close to the people I captured in the image.

The nifty fifty, the classic street photography lens

The icon of street photography, it really is one of the best lenses out there. There are several different options for this lens along with the more expensive variety having a larger aperture. What makes the 50mm lens such a good choice for street photography then?

  • Normal field of view – This lens gives you a field of view that’s close to what your eyes see, a trait desirable for street photos. So you’re not dealing with a distorted view when using this type of lens. This assumes you’re using a full frame camera, crop sensors will give you a longer focal length of around 75mm on a 50mm lens.
  • The Depth of Field – As a prime lens with a fixed focal length these lenses have a large aperture of at least f/1.8. This allows you to create a shallow depth of field, and to blur out the background. This control can really help you take better street photos when it is applied well.
  • Comfortable distance – With this lens you’ll be close to your subject, but not in their face. A 50mm will also include enough of the surrounding scene to allow context in your photo.
  • Fast lens – This lens can be used in low light conditions. The combination of a wide aperture and mid-range focal length make this a fast lens and a good option to use at night.
Which Street Photography Lens is Right for You?

There’s no getting away from it, the 50mm lens is GREAT for street photography.

Long focal length for the unobtrusive photographer

At the longer focal lengths, you’ll be positioned farther from your subject, far enough that they may not spot you taking their photo. This type of lens is the choice of the paparazzi, although it’s unlikely you’ll be using a lens with the same kind of focal lengths (really long!).

So what are the advantages of standing a bit further back?

  • Capture the moment – When the person you’re photographing is oblivious to your presence, the chance of the moment being natural is a lot higher.
  • Compress the scene – This allows you to focus much more on the subject, but the risk is that you don’t include the area around them so you lose some of the story. It’s still possible to provide context at longer focal lengths, you will just have to stand even farther back.
  • Avoid confrontation – Not everyone wants their photo taken, and photos taken without permission can cause a confrontation if you’re caught. While it’s better to build a relationship with the person you want to photograph, sometimes what they don’t know won’t hurt them. In this case, using a longer telephoto lens allows you to get the photo, without causing a scene.
Which Street Photography Lens is Right for You?

This photo was taken using a 135mm lens. You can see the street vendor preparing food, the outside scene isn’t visible though.

Extra tip

When taking street photos with a long focal length you can sometimes take advantage of a shard of light. This will typically happen when there is a gap in the roof, perhaps in a market. Underexpose your photo at -2 or even -3 EV, with just enough exposure to give detail to your subject, but make the rest of the photo black. This will give some minimalism to your photo, which is a nice effect.

Which Street Photography Lens is Right for You?

This image was photographed at 180mm, on a camera with a crop factor of 1.6x. The shard of light was used to make the background black, as it is underexposed.

What’s your preferred street photography lens?

Many people will stick to the 50mm lens as their street photography lens of choice, but there are alternatives available. To this day, my favorite street photo was taken at full zoom with a 70-300mm lens.

How about you, do you have a favored lens for street photography? How about trying a different lens, and see how that changes the types of photos you get?

Here at dPS, we love to hear your opinions, so let us know what you think. We’d also love to see your examples of street photos, together with the lens you used to take that photo. Please share in the comments section below.

Which Street Photography Lens is Right for You?

Here is a selection of lenses that could be used for street photography.

Which Street Photography Lens is Right for You?

This is a scene captured using a wide-angle lens, photographed at 17mm.

Which Street Photography Lens is Right for You?

The scene was photographed at night. The 50mm lens is fast, and ideal for this type of scene.

Which Street Photography Lens is Right for You?

This scene also shows the 50mm lens in action.

Which Street Photography Lens is Right for You?

Even a fish-eye lens can be used for street photography. Though admittedly this photo is also architectural.

The post Which Street Photography Lens is Right for You? by Simon Bond appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Feb
20

dPS Writer’s Favourite Lens: Canon 100mm Macro

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

The Canon 100mm macro lens was on my Want List for such a long time, next to the Canon 10-22mm Ultra Wide-Angle. Oddly, once I did get it, I never used it, and it sat gathering dust in the cupboard for a couple of years. Now it is my go-to lens for doing still life, food and of course, macro photography.

dPS Writer's Favourite Lens: Canon 100mm Macro

Why is it my favorite lens?

Sharpness, image quality, color, and versatility – it has it all!

I know when using this lens it is going to pick up absolutely every detail, and when it is sharp it is crystal clear. Unfortunately, due to the combined weight of the lens (625g) on my Canon 7D MK II, I find it difficult to handhold and get sharp shots. So I use it on my tripod to guarantee the focus is bang on.

dPS Writer's Favourite Lens: Canon 100mm Macro

Merits of the Canon 100mm macro lens

This lens has a richness to the colors that I appreciate, it gives the best color reproduction of any of my lenses. Also when you are shooting at its native 2.8, the soft background blur is quite delicious as well.

Finally, the versatility of this lens, given it is a macro lens, is impressive. I use it for macro, food photography, flower photography, and other still life subjects. It is also a favorite lens for portrait photographers due to the factors that make it my personal favorite.

It’s quiet, it’s fast and it’s a lovely lens to use. Once I mastered the art of fine focusing with a really tiny depth of field and was able to consistently get sharp shots, the quality of the images impressed me more and more.

dPS Writer's Favourite Lens: Canon 100mm Macro

How I use it

1 – Food Photography

Working with natural light in my home studio sometimes means the light is not always abundant. Or possibly you need to filter it quite heavily so you don’t blow out the highlights on some whipped cream or icing. So working in slightly less than ideal light conditions is where I find this lens really comes into its own.

With a 67mm filter diameter, it has a lot of surface area to bring in the available light.  The native f/2.8 aperture captures all the light possible. While I might have to increase ISO a small amount, it is not enough to affect the quality of the image.

With such high image quality, capturing the finest small details really adds character to food shots taken with this lens. Water droplets on fruit or the tiny hairs on a raspberry become things of wonder, brought into view by the capabilities of this lens.

dPS Writer's Favourite Lens: Canon 100mm Macro

2. Flower Photography

Doing photography of flowers is what finally forced me to get my Canon 100mm lens out of storage and start using it. I had become interested in still life photography and was using flowers as the subject to base my compositions around.

Flowers offer so many opportunities to be creative with this lens, you can shoot the whole flower, move in to shoot just a portion of it, or really get into the macro side of things.

dPS Writer's Favourite Lens: Canon 100mm Macro

The lovely colour and soft bokeh suit flower photography very well, and I enjoy using it a great deal. It is a lot of fun to experiment with areas of selective focus or just using depth of field in unexpected ways.

dPS Writer's Favourite Lens: Canon 100mm Macro

3. Macro photography

There is a whole world of things too small for our eyes to see naturally that suddenly become revealed when we shoot with a macro lens. It is fascinating to uncover tiny details in everyday objects.

Playing with abstracts of textures or just exploring the things we cannot normally see are possible with the 100mm macro lens. The ordinary becomes extraordinary when you can get up close and personal. When my camera is mounted on my tripod, I know that I can get sharp focus with a very narrow depth of field on a very small subject.

dPS Writer's Favourite Lens: Canon 100mm Macro

 

4. Other options

I am not a portrait photographer but I do have cats, and they are fun to shoot with this lens as it picks up so much detail. I personally struggle to sucessfully handhold my 7D Mark II with this lens and get sharp images, so I don’t shoot with it off my tripod very often.

dPS Writer's Favourite Lens: Canon 100mm Macro

Specifications

The Canon EF 100mm F2.8 IS L Macro lens – full specifications on Canon site – 625g, minimum focus distance 300mm, Hybrid Image Stabilization for handheld macro shooting.

Pros

  • Sharpness
  • Depth of field
  • Bokeh is smooth
  • Color
  • Hybrid Image Stabilizing
  • EF and EFS compatible
  • 1:1 magnification
  • Comes with a lens hood and carry bag

Cons

  • Heavy and can be difficult to handhold, requiring a tripod
  • Expensive
  • 300mm minimum focus distance

Conclusion

Overall for me, the pros of shooting with this lens far outweigh the cons. Have you used the Canon 100mm macro lens or one similar? Please share in the comments below if you enjoy it as much as I do.

dPS Writer's Favourite Lens: Canon 100mm Macro

The post dPS Writer’s Favourite Lens: Canon 100mm Macro by Stacey Hill appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Feb
18

8 Amazing Photography Tricks You Can Do With a High-Speed Camera Trigger

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

If you are a photographer, you probably heard that the camera doesn’t take a good picture, the person behind the camera does. It’s true because with right knowledge and practice you can take great photos with an entry level camera or even a mobile camera. But if you don’t have an idea about lighting, composition or the features of your camera, the world’s most advanced camera can’t take good photos for you.

8 Amazing Photography Tricks You Can Do With a High-Speed Camera Trigger

But when it comes to some special equipment, this phrase sometimes doesn’t apply. One piece of such equipment is called the MIOPS Smart Camera Trigger. This high-speed photography trigger can take photos at a precise moment which just impossible doing your own.

The trigger has various modes like lightning, sound, laser, time-lapse, scenario and DIY that can help you to take some outstanding images which you may have seen only on the internet previously. It can trigger your camera or fire the flashes and you can control everything using your smartphone.

So, let’s see what we can do using this wonderful high-speed trigger.

1. Popping Balloons

8 Amazing Photography Tricks You Can Do With a High-Speed Camera Trigger

When you burst a water-filled balloon, the water inside the balloon makes a shape similar to the balloon for a few moments before it falls on the ground. It happens so fast that you can’t see it happening live but you can capture it using your camera.

The MIOPS Smart Trigger has a sound mode for this kind of photography. As soon as you pop the balloon, it will trigger your camera or flash. You can change the sensitivity so it doesn’t trigger with other sounds and it also gives you the option to set a delay time for triggering so that it clicks at the exact moment you want.

The sound mode can be used to photograph bursting balloons in different ways. For example, you can place sunglasses or a hat on a water-filled balloon, burst it, and capture the shape of the water wearing a hat and glasses. Or you can burst a balloon with an arrow or a dart, fill the balloons with different colored water, and take different shots and merge the images into one. The possibilities are endless.

2. Lightning

8 Amazing Photography Tricks You Can Do With a High-Speed Camera Trigger

Lightning is the most beautiful natural phenomena. But it’s extremely difficult to photograph because you have no idea of when and where it will strike and chances of missing the moment are very high.

MIOPS Smart Trigger has a lightning mode for this scenario. All you need to do is set your camera on a tripod, attach this trigger, start lightning mode and leave your camera. When lightning strikes, it will trigger the camera automatically and capture that beautiful moment.

3. Paint Sculptures

8 Amazing Photography Tricks You Can Do With a High-Speed Camera Trigger

You can create amazing paint sculptures and satisfy for your artistic soul with the help of this sound trigger. Do do this, you need to put a rubber sheet on a speaker, put some watercolors on it and play sound. The sound will generate vibrations on the rubber sheet and because of that paint will jump up and make different shapes.

With the help of sound mode of the MIOPS Smart Trigger, you can focus on creating different sculptures by experimenting with quantity, density, and placement of colors. Thus you leave the tough job of clicking at the perfect moment to the MIOPS.

4. Dancing Colors

8 Amazing Photography Tricks You Can Do With a High-Speed Camera Trigger

It’s just like paint sculptures, but you can use dry colors instead of watercolors and create totally different results.

5. Water Droplet Refraction

8 Amazing Photography Tricks You Can Do With a High-Speed Camera Trigger

Imagine capturing our Earth or even the entire universe inside a drop of water. Yes, it is possible.

MIOPS Smart Trigger has a laser mode that can help you to take such pictures in the easiest way. All you need to do is create a setup to release water drops and place a picture in the background that you want to capture inside the drop. When the drop comes in front of the camera and breaks the laser beam, the camera will capture it automatically.

6. Water Galaxy

8 Amazing Photography Tricks You Can Do With a High-Speed Camera Trigger

When you spin a water-soaked ball, the water comes out from the ball and creates a beautiful galaxy shape which looks amazing.

You can capture this moment by using the laser mode of MIOPS Smart once again. When the ball comes between the trigger and the laser, the camera will shoot automatically.

7. Collision in Mid-air

8 Amazing Photography Tricks You Can Do With a High-Speed Camera Trigger

Imagine a scenario where two glasses filled with colored water or paint collide in mid-air and create a beautiful splash. MIOPS Smart Trigger’s sound mode helps you to take such pictures, as seen above.

8. Action Sports Photography

8 Amazing Photography Tricks You Can Do With a High-Speed Camera Trigger

You can capture high-speed action sports like a cyclist in mid-air or someone jumping on a skateboard with the help of the laser mode of this trigger. It’s very useful when you are performing the action yourself and shooting it too. Just set the MIOPS Smart Trigger to laser mode and start doing actions and leave the rest to the MIOPS.

Finally

You can also photograph birds or insects using laser mode. Just set the laser near the bird feeder and when a bird will come for feeding, the camera will capture it. Also, you can shoot fireworks with the lightning mode. The possibilities are endless, you just need to use your imagination.

In addition to this, MIOPS Smart also works as intervalometer in time-lapse mode and clicks images on a set interval to convert to time-lapse videos. Using HDR mode you can capture bracketed images and merge them into HDR. You can check the MIOPS Smart User Manual to learn more about the MIOPS Smart Trigger.

Disclaimer: MIOPS is a paid partner of dPS.

The post 8 Amazing Photography Tricks You Can Do With a High-Speed Camera Trigger by Ramakant Sharda appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Feb
16

Photography Equipment Comparisons – Entry-Level Versus High-End Gear Does it Matter?

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

Photographers tend to get obsessed with having the latest, greatest toys. But does it matter which camera or bits of equipment you use? If so, how much? Or is it more about how you use it, and the skills you possess?

Let’s take a look at three video comparisons of some of the top level photography equipment available and some entry-level options.

Rich photographer – poor photographer

I like the play on words here, hinting at the concept of the “Rich Dad Poor Dad” series of books by Robert Kiyosaki. In the video, the guys over at f-stoppers do a portrait shoot with two different sets of lighting equipment. One which costs nearly $10,000, and the “poor man’s” version which will run you about $425.

Can you see a difference in the final portrait results? No, I can’t see much difference either.

$1100 versus $5499

In this second video, Peter McKinnon looks at the virtues of both the Canon 80D ($1099) and the Canon 1Dx Mark II (Note: at the time of writing, this camera is listed at $5499). Is the latter worth five times as much? You decide.

If you are a sports shooter, you may need the extra frames per second rate the 1DX offers. But if you’re a wildlife photographer you may prefer the extended reach of the crop sensor in the 80D. Portrait photography can be done with either, but you likely don’t need to spend the extra money on the 1DX if that’s what you shoot.

Note: when the video was made the 1DX was likely priced higher, so please note the difference in prices in the video to current pricing.

Camera shootout – it’s not about the gear

In this last video let’s see what happens if two professional photographers each pick up an entry-level Canon Rebel T3i and hand their Canon 5D Mark IV to an amateur. They do a little shootout with the same model, in the same lighting conditions and studio. Let’s see who comes out on top.

The Canon T3i is discontinued, the price for the current model, the T6 is $449 with the 18-55mm lens. The Canon 5D Mark IV  is $3299 + $1699 for the 35mm f/1.4 lens shown in the video = total $4998.

Your thoughts?

So what are your thoughts after watching the videos? Have you made the decision to invest in high-end lenses or a full frame camera body? If so, have you found it to fill your needs better – was it worth it? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

The post Photography Equipment Comparisons – Entry-Level Versus High-End Gear Does it Matter? by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Feb
13

Why Olympus Mirrorless Cameras are Top Notch for Travel Photography

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

From entry-level to pro, the Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds OM camera series has something for every aspirational travel photographer.

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

Camera – Olympus Mirrorless E-M1 with kit lens at 38mm, 1/250th, f/14, ISO 400.

Are you looking to get serious about your digital photography and move up to an interchangeable lens system? Or maybe you are looking to upgrade to a pro level weatherproof transportable system?

Are you off on a journey of a lifetime and looking to record every moment? You want to be sure there’s no danger the camera won’t be up to the task – so which will you take along?

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

Camera – Olympus mirrorless E-M10 Mark II, Lumix G 20mm lens, 1/125th, f/2.2, ISO 200.

The Olympus OM Micro Four Thirds system could be heaven sent. In this article, we’ll look at the OM-D E-M10 entry-level camera and the top of the range OM-D E-M1 through almost 12 months of use.

Why Olympus mirrorless systems are phenomenal travel cameras

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

Olympus EM1, kit lens at 14mm, 1/5th of a second, f/22, ISO 3200.

This was taken handheld, showing just how good the image stabilization is on these cameras.

The important considerations for travel cameras are size and weight, versatility, durability, performance, and picture quality. Ideally, you want a light-weight system that will easily move between landscape, street, and portrait photography.

Let’s look at each of these considerations in turn.

Size and weight

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

The flagship model Olympus EM-1 weighs in at just under 500g (1.1 pounds), the smaller and lighter EM-10 at an incredible 342g (0.75 pounds). Both are smaller in size than my hand.

Incredibly, they both fit in a parka-style coat pocket when fitted with a 14-42mm kit lens. Look at the size of my Sony DSLR in this picture below to see just how much of a space saving there is comparatively.

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

There are obvious advantages to the smaller cameras in regards to luggage on a plane, and carrying gear around all day. But the small size is also non-threatening if your shots include passers-by. Plus you can take it places where professional style cameras are not allowed.

The Micro Four Thirds System also means lenses are much more compact. For instance, the Olympus 75-300mm zoom lens measures 130mm and weighs in at 430g (just under a pound). The equivalent focal range for a full frame camera is 150-600mm. That kind of glass for a DSLR would weigh in at about 3kg (6.5 pounds)!

Versatility

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

There is a good range of lenses available for the Micro Four Thirds mount including ranges by Lumix and Panasonic, as well as Olympus. The range will take you from a fish-eye pancake lens, through wide-angle primes to long zooms. The image stabilization system built into the camera means the lenses are both light and affordable.

Extension rings with electronic connections to allow your lens and camera talk to each other are also available allowing you to make the best use of your available lenses. Two lenses and one converter will take you from wide-angle to macro to long zoom without missing a beat.

Durability

Both these cameras look and feel solid and durable. Having used them both for almost a year in sometimes inhospitable conditions and on long hikes, I have had no issues with these cameras or the lenses I use.

If you look at the pictures the condition is still like new. They even get taken along on motorbike and camping trips in the winter!

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

Olympus E-M10, 40-150mm zoom at 150mm, 1/400th, f/7.1, ISO 200. Despite the dark and overcast day, the camera produced good detail straight out of the camera in this JPEG image.

Performance and Picture Quality

Firstly, I should mention I am using systems that were current when they were purchased at the beginning of 2017. They have both been upgraded since with some notable improvements. The EM-1 now has a Mark II version with a 20MP sensor rather than 16MP chip, and improved AF tracking. The EM-10 moves up from Mark II to Mark III with more minor improvements.

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

The camera has a fantastic viewfinder with 100% picture coverage as well as a touch-control rear screen, a feature that will feel familiar if you use a smartphone. A massive range of buttons allows you to set up the camera to suit your style with several where you can assign the functions. The menu system will feel familiar if you’re a DSLR user. It has a very useful one-click user “Myset” comprising four customizable options for configurations that you use frequently.

My set screen - Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

The 5-axis stabilization is excellent, making handheld shooting easy and rewarding. The AF system has 81 points and is surprisingly good though tracking is not up to that of the weightier and roomier APS-C cameras. This is one of the trade-offs for having the compact size.

As the cameras use electronic viewfinders or the rear LCD screen, batteries get used up quickly. Battery packs are available, but this adds to the size. So if you attach one the camera won’t fit in a pocket anymore.

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

Olympus E-M1, kit lens at 35mm, 16mm extension tube, 0.3-second exposure, f/7.1, ISO 400. I adjusted levels in post-processing to lighten the image and create a fine art feel.

All the photographs in the article are taken with either one or the other of these two cameras, so you can judge for yourself the quality of the results. The newer versions of these cameras can only be even better.

The cameras provide great results for landscape photography, handling a range of tones well, especially with the added use of the HDR function to bring out details at both ends of the scale.

At lower ISO levels, up to 1600, there is little evidence of noise, although it increases in the dark areas as you approach that mark. Quality is acceptable up to ISO 6400, in my opinion.

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

Olympus E-M1, 82mm, 1/200th, f/9, ISO 1600. Look, I’m Pinnochio! Grab shot – love the skin tones and the AF got the near eye, spot on.

Skin tones are good, producing great portraits and color handling is great. Low light shooting isn’t a problem for this camera, especially at the lowest ISO.

Millstone beach - Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

Olympus E-M10, Lumix 20mm, 1/80th, f/1.8, ISO 200. Fabulous colors despite the overhead canopy and reduced light.

CONCLUSION

Both of these Olympus mirrorless cameras are fantastic pieces of kit for almost every situation. Picture quality is good, handling with the stabilization is awesome, AF and exposure are solid. With an entry-price of about $500 for the EM-10, the value is terrific.

The pricier EM-1 is also a good value, especially when considering the price of additional lenses. A Mark I at less than $1100 represents astonishing value. However, I do aim to upgrade to the EM-1 Mark II when finances allow, knowing I already have a decent range of accessories for it.

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

Olympus E-M1, 75-300mm lens at 270mm, 1/40th, f/6.7, ISO 400. The quality of this shot is fantastic, just look at that tail!

As a travel camera, I don’t think these two Olympus mirrorless cameras can be beaten at their respective price points. If you are new to system cameras, the EM-10 would be a fantastic introduction, with its straight-forward layout. A more seasoned photographer may prefer the customizable options and total control of the EM-1

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

Olympus E-M1, kit lens at 22mm, 1/60th, f/22, ISO 2000 using Aperture Priority. Straight out of the camera JPEG file. Great results even if you’re not a Photoshop fan.

Either way, you won’t be disappointed with the results. You can take that once in a lifetime trip knowing you’ll bring back images of your travels to be extremely proud to show off to friends.

The post Why Olympus Mirrorless Cameras are Top Notch for Travel Photography by Janice Gill appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Feb
11

How to Use ND Filters Creatively to Make the Most of a Scene

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

Photography is the art of capturing light. In many instances, harnessing the light and properly exposing a scene means controlling it first. This is necessary for many landscape scenes where contrast is high. You have likely seen high contrast many times: a sunset with dark foreground elements, a church with deep shadows, or a moonrise over a snow-filled background. Each of these situations (and many others like it) will present a challenge for you to overcome.

One of the tools that you have at your disposal to alter the amount of light hitting your camera’s sensor is neutral density filters (ND). These dark gray pieces of glass come in many styles (graduated, 1-stop, 2-stop, 10-stop, etc.) and do not alter the color of your image but do restrict the amount of light.

How to Use Neutral Density Filters Creatively to Make the Most of a Scene

I stacked a Graduated ND filter and ND Stopper for this image to control the gray sky and flatten the water around the island with a long exposure.

They provide an opportunity to control your exposure or create long exposures that emphasize static elements. This article will focus on Graduated ND filters that are clear on one half and dark on the other, as well as ND stoppers which are completely dark.

You can find more info here on dPS for learning about the fundamentals of using in ND filters. The rest of this article will focus on a few creative ways that you can experiment with ND filter angles, grades, and techniques to create unique shots.

Stack ‘em

You can easily combine ND filters to control more light in the scene as filter holders usually have more than one slot for multiple filters. Having multiple slots is a huge advantage because it allows you to stack filters on top of each other to control the light.

Be sure to think about creative combinations of filters to give you the most out of a scene. For instance, you may want to shoot a really long exposure to flatten out the water in a sunset, or you may want to control very bright highlights such as the sun. The table below outlines some of the possibilities that stacking filters can provide you.

ND GRADUATED ND STOPPER
GRADUATED FILTERS Graduated ND filters can be stacked on top of each other to control light and feathering at the horizon. Try stacking a hard-edged grad with a soft-edged grad to control more light high in the scene and then feather into a lighter foreground. An ND stopper filter will evenly stop out the light in the scene. You still need to control the highlights! Add an ND grad to control highlights in the scene and bring up the foreground shadows.
ND STOPPER You can combine an ND stopper with a flipped ND grad (i.e, put the dark side of the grad on the bottom). This approach is non-conventional but could be used if your highlights are at the bottom of a scene. See the Flip ‘em section of this article for more. Stacking ND stoppers on top of each other can give you very long (>1 minute) exposures even in the brightest conditions. This is a great tool for you to use to extend creativity mid-day.
How to Use Neutral Density Filters Creatively to Make the Most of a Scene

For this image, the boats in the harbor were important to complement the sunrise overhead. I stacked a Graduated ND filter and ND Stopper to control the sunrise and raise the foreground shadows.

How to Use Neutral Density Filters Creatively to Make the Most of a Scene

Preserving foreground highlights and shooting sunbursts can be difficult because of the extremely high contrast. I double-stacked graduated filters for this shot to give me a firm control of the highlights (the sun) and maintain the snowy landscape in front.

How to Use Neutral Density Filters Creatively to Make the Most of a Scene

This image was captured on a cold night in Minnesota (about -25F). At those temperatures, the sky after sunset has a purple hue, which was exacerbated by the double-stacked graduate filters that I used to control the light of the moon and allow you to see its craters.

Rotate ‘em

ND filter holders rotate easily around the lens giving you flexibility in the angle you choose. ND graduated filters are often aligned to the horizon by the photographer. This makes great sense if you have a flat horizon, but what if a mountain range is sticking up in front of you? You can take a little bit of creative license and easily align the ND filters to the angle of the mountains. Examine your scene and think about how the orientation and filters could emphasize foreground elements or draw the viewer’s eye.

In the images of Nugget Falls (below) in Juneau, Alaska I shot one image with a graduated filter flipped with the dark side of the sky and one over the falls. Although I personally prefer the images with the brighter falls, you can see how the lighter sky draws your eye to the mountain and glacier beyond the falls.

How to Use Neutral Density Filters Creatively to Make the Most of a Scene

How to Use Neutral Density Filters Creatively to Make the Most of a Scene

Hold ‘em

Let’s face it, you are not going to have a filter holder for every lens in your kit. However, that does not mean you cannot use filters! You can also hand hold a filter in front of your lens in a pinch.

I recommend that you mount your camera on a tripod before trying to hand hold filters. It will make them the easier to handle and allow you to compose your scene before adding the filter.

How to Use Neutral Density Filters Creatively to Make the Most of a Scene

I was not carrying a filter holder for a 100mm lens, but handheld the filter on this shot to raise the foreground shadows. Sometimes you have to make due with what you have.

Practicing in the Field

As you begin to use and experiment with ND filters you are going to grow as a photographer. Keep creativity in mind to give your shots a distinguished and unique look. As I like to say, “pixels are cheap” so be sure to make lots of pixels as you experiment with your ND filters.

I would love to hear how you have extended your photography through creative uses of ND filters.

The post How to Use ND Filters Creatively to Make the Most of a Scene by Ian Johnson appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Feb
6

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 Wide Angle Lens for Landscape Photographers

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

The choice of camera lens always represents a crucial moment for every photographer. But it is not always easy to find the lens that fits our actual needs, as too often we get seduced by features that we don’t really need, and are therefore just useful in raising the price.

Have you chosen a stabilized lens and you always use the camera on a tripod? You exclusively take landscape photos in the daylight but have chosen to rely on a f/2.8 lens. Sound familiar?

Especially if you are at the beginning of your journey through the world of photography, your budget won’t likely be particularly high and you may want to maximize your investment by choosing something that can be really useful to you now.

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 Wide Angle 1:1 Macro Lens for Landscape Photographers

This is why today I want to tell you about the Venus Laowa 15mm f/4 Lens (with macro), an entry-level lens that every landscape photographer should take into consideration.

Why? Let’s see it together.

Review of the Laowa 15mm F/4 Lens for Landscape Photographers

Construction features

The Venus Laowa 15mm f/4 Macro is a lens that has been on the market since 2015. Although it certainly does not stand out for its cosmetic appearance, it comes with features that really make this a unique lens in the world. So much so that it can simultaneously seduce landscape photographers, lovers of macro photography, and architectural photographers.

Here are its main features, that I’m going to examine with you:

  • Focal length: 15 mm
  • Angle of view: 110.4°
  • Maximum Magnification: 1:1
  • Maximum Aperture: f/4
  • Shift function: +/- 6 mm
  • Minimum Focusing Distance: 12.2 cm
  • Filter Thread: 77 mm
  • Mounts: Canon, Nikon, Sony A, Pentax K, Sony E

Exactly, you’ve read it right. The Venus Laowa 15mm f/4 is a Macro 1:1 lens with an angle of view of 110° and a shift function that allows a translation equal to +/- 6mm.

The optical scheme is composed of 12 elements in 9 groups, including 3 high refractive index elements and one low dispersion element, and on paper that holds great promise for excellent performances in terms of sharpness.

And in case that wasn’t enough, add the fact that this lens is compatible with most of the mounts currently available on the market.

One last point, and it’s absolutely not a negative one, is the price. While I’m writing, the list price of the Venus Laowa 15mm f/4 Wide Angle 1:1 Macro is only $499.

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 Wide Angle 1:1 Macro Lens for Landscape Photographers

Using this lens for landscape photography

When evaluating a lens, we’re always going to start from the analysis of its MTF charts, and then we carry out an almost infinite series of laboratory tests so as to bench-test it, from a perspective that is more theoretical than practical.

Of course, these tests are absolutely fundamental and I encourage you to look at them. But I also think that you are likely more interested in the real-world behavior of the lens. Knowing that certain optical limits of the lens will be then invisible in the real world, and what you are more concerned about is understanding whether the lens has the features that are really essential to you or not.

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 Wide Angle 1:1 Macro Lens for Landscape Photographers

While there are many online reviews available regarding the use of this lens for macro and architectural photography, I haven’t found much regarding its use for landscape photography. So, my purpose here is to examine this lens from the point of view of the landscape photographer, omitting other features that are not fundamental for us hunters of sunrises and sunsets.

So let’s start to analyze the features seen in the previous chapter, now with a more critical eye.

Features

The fact that this is a prime lens and not a zoom gives us great hope with regard to quality, as the optical scheme will be optimized for a single focal length.

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 Wide Angle 1:1 Macro Lens for Landscape Photographers

We are not afraid at all of the maximum aperture available, which is f/4. As good landscape photographers, we’ll be normally working around f/11, where sharpness will also be clearly higher.

The lens does not have stabilization or autofocus. While this may make you turn your nose up at first sight, surely you will soon realize that you really don’t care about those things. As you likely use the camera on a tripod you should turn off stabilization anyway, and you may choose to adjust the focus based on hyperfocal distance, making use of the hyperfocal marks available on the lens body.

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 Wide Angle 1:1 Macro Lens for Landscape Photographers

So, those are two fewer functions that you don’t need, and their absence has certainly had a positive impact on the market price of the lens.

Using Filters with the Laowa 15mm Lens

With regard to the focal length, this clearly is not the first 15mm lens available on the market. But it is the only one with a feature that has convinced me to test this lens in action – the 77 mm filter thread.

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 Wide Angle 1:1 Macro Lens for Landscape Photographers - filter thread 77mm

The 77mm filter size is very handy!

Normally all wide-angle and ultra wide-angle lenses (usually 15mm is considered the boundary between those two worlds) have a front optical element that is particularly curved. They often come with a built-in lens hood that makes it impossible to mount filters, unless we resort to particular solutions. Ultra wide-angle lenses whose front lens is not so curved and without a built-in lens hood, usually come with a large diameter and it’s therefore impossible to find filter threads smaller than 95 mm.

Thanks to the absence of a built-in lens hood (it does have a bayonet one) and to the 77 mm filter thread, the Venus Laowa 15mm f/4 lens opens the door to using a tool that I deem absolutely essential for every landscape photographer – drop-in filters.

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 Wide Angle 1:1 Macro Lens for Landscape Photographers

As I was saying above, with a lens that has a built-in lens hood or a 95 mm filter thread it is possible to use systems that can hold 150 mm filters. But with a 77 mm filter thread, you will be able to use the same system that you use on any other lens equipped with a filter thread up to 82 mm. In a word, it is priceless.

Shift Function

The last of the features coming with this multi-purpose lens is the shift function. Thanks to a lever mechanism positioned next to the lens mount, it is possible to shift the lens by +/- 6mm. Even if this function might not seem very interesting for landscape photography at first sight (after all a rock is always a rock), it turns out to be useful in case there are human artifacts, like buildings, within the frame.

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 Wide Angle 1:1 Macro Lens for Landscape Photographers

Shift lever.

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 Wide Angle 1:1 Macro Lens for Landscape Photographers

The lens in shifted position.

The lens in action

If this lens appears very promising on paper, despite a very moderate price, let’s see its actual real-world behavior.

I have tested the Venus Laowa 15mm f/4 lens with my trusty Nikon D810, a full-frame camera body.

Testing the filter mount

Since this is fundamentally the reason why I decided to try this lens, again thanks to the existing 77 mm filter thread, I quickly mounted my loyal Nisi V5 Filter Holder, which holds 100mm filters. Even if it is possible to mount the holder, the fear of vignetting is too high, considering that we’re talking about a 15mm lens after all.

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 lens

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 lens

 

Although the Nisi filter holder is guaranteed to be vignette-free up to a 16mm focal length, once mounted on the Venus Laowa 15mm the result was doubtlessly amazing. Vignetting was practically invisible, as you’re going to see below, and it’s possible to quickly remove it in post-production by activating the lens correction profile.

A little dream of mine was substantially coming true. The dream of using an ultra wide-angle lens, and adding up to three 100mm filters and a polarizer without vignetting!

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 lens

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 lens

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 lens

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 lens

The lens barrel

On the lens body (which is sturdy metal, not plastic) you find the focus and aperture rings, whose operations are smooth and precise.

On the aperture ring, I would have preferred a locking system or a snap selection so as to make sure that I never lose the desired aperture. But actually, I haven’t encountered any problems during real-world use of the lens.

The focusing ring is really precise, as well as the existing focusing marks, which allow you to focus using the hyperfocal distance in no time. Just for the sake of being fussy, I would have placed the metric indications of distance upside down, or a vertical line next to each distance, just to be really precise. But you simply have to check the photo you’ve just taken, so as to make sure you have got the desired focus.

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 lens

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 lens

Although the manufacturer does not formally advertise this lens as weather sealed, most of my tests have been carried out in the rain (just for a change!). I protected the lens using only an umbrella or makeshift means, and no problems were detected.

Results

When I examine the images, the results were really comforting.

Sharpness

Shooting at both f/8 and f/11, the image definition is really excellent in the center of the frame. Obviously, the image becomes softer the closer you get to the edges, but doubtlessly the result is much more than acceptable. If you try to use higher apertures, you can naturally start to see that optical phenomenon called diffraction. But, as good landscape photographers, we know that we can go past f/16 only for situations of extreme necessity.

Definition Center - Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 lens

Centre image sharpness.

Definition Center Low - Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 lens

Lower center of the image sharpness.

Definition Corner - Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 lens

Corner of the image sharpness.

Aberration and vignetting

There are no particular problems with regards to chromatic aberration with this lens. I mean, some chromatic aberration is there, but nothing that can’t easily be solved using the automatic chromatic aberration removal included in any post-production software.

Chromatic Aberration With - Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 Wide Angle lens

Chromatic aberration showing before correction.

Chromatic Aberration corrected - Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 Wide Angle lens

After the chromatic aberration has been corrected in post-production.

As for vignetting, as I said above, the problem is almost non-existent when using the 100mm Nisi filter holder. For me personally, this fact alone is worth the purchase price of this lens.

Distortion

It is worthwhile to talk a little about distortion. It is predictable that a 15 mm lens will have barrel distortion. To landscape photographers, this is not a great concern. As I said before, a little distortion on a rock will not invalidate your image, as an irregular rock will always remain an irregular rock. Unfortunately, though, barrel distortion will invalidate the only real line included in your landscape – the horizon.

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 lens

The distortion caused by this lens to the horizon is of the “mustache” type, which doubtlessly is the most annoying kind. If when we take a first look at the live view this problem may give us some concern,

If this problem gives you some concern when you first notice it in Live View, as soon as you import the image into any post-production software the correction becomes really easy and immediate.

Unfortunately, at the present time, there is no automatic correction profile for this lens included in Adobe software (Lightroom and Photoshop). But the Venus Laowa technical support is very efficient and within a few hours, they emailed the correction profile that I needed. Once installed, one click was enough to do the job and the image automatically recovered from both distortion (completely removing the mustache horizon) and peripheral shading.

Distortion Original - Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 lens

Original

Distortion Corrected - Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 lens

Corrected

Conclusion

The Venus Laowa 15mm f/4 lens has really turned out to be a surprise, exceeding my expectations. Although it comes with a very moderate price, this lens really provides remarkable results in terms of image quality.

Once the lens distortion is corrected, the only thing that still needs attention is edge softness which is absolutely within acceptable values for an entry-level lens.

Construction quality is really remarkable and you can notice that as soon as you take the lens into your hands. Lastly, the possibility of using a 100mm filter holder makes this lens really priceless.

If you are a landscape photographer who is looking for an ultra wide-angle lens with a very advantageous quality to price ratio, then the Venus Laowa 15mm f/4 lens is undoubtedly what you are seeking.

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 Wide Angle 1:1 Macro Lens for Landscape Photographers

 

PROS

  • Price
  • Ability to use a 100mm filter holder
  • Excellent sharpness in the center of the frame
  • Low chromatic aberration when not used at macro distances
  • Lens shift function
  • Lightweight and small

CONS

  • Manual focusing
  • Slight edge softness
  • Barrel distortion (but it can be solved in post-production without any problems)
  • Cosmetic appearance

The post Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 Wide Angle Lens for Landscape Photographers by Francesco Gola appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Feb
4

Review of the Magilight LED Light Painting Wand

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

I’ve followed my friends Eric and Kim for some time, often marveled at their creativity and the tech side of things, too. Watching people that make art like they do, well, it makes you want to try it out! I can’t dance, and I don’t really have access to the locations those guys do, but I still wanted to try it out. Jump forward and I’m offered a review unit of a forthcoming tool called Magilight by Fotorgear.

Magilight is still available on IndieGoGo for $199 + Shipping as of the time of writing this review.

Review of the Magilight LED Light Painting Wand

What’s in the box

Breaking it down into basic terms, Magilight is an aluminum strip with a handle. The strip has 144 RGB LEDs along it, and the handle has batteries and the controls. The handle is plugged into the strip via a curly cable (attached and included). After you charge it up (charger included in the kit) and insert the two batteries (also included) into the handle, it’s a simple single press to turn the Magilight on, and then a case of selecting what you would like to do.

Review of the Magilight LED Light Painting Wand

You have multiple options for what sort of things you can do with the light, including images that you can “print”. Or you can just make a neat pattern surrounding a model or a subject of some kind. For example, using the Magilight behind a model as seen below, or lighting an object.

Review of the Magilight LED Light Painting Wand

First impressions

So, I’ve now taken delivery of the bright little aluminum beastie, and upon first inspection, it’s very well made. Although if you don’t pack it back in its bag with the included protection tube, and you treat it badly, you might bend it. But if you have any common sense, that’s easily avoidable!

I will admit, I didn’t charge my batteries right away, I was keen to see what it could do, so I put them in and took the light out in the backyard at night to try it out!

Review of the Magilight LED Light Painting Wand

I call this Strange Fruit.

Ease of use

I will admit that if the unit did come with instructions, I didn’t read them right away! These are a digital download and include a very good quick start guide. But it’s very easy to navigate the menu and find the different included light patterns (I’m not 100% sure what to call them…presets?). Switching between a line drawing and any of the included presets on the MicroSD card that came with the unit is very easy.

Review of the Magilight LED Light Painting Wand

Yes, this spooky thing is included along with so many more!

The two photos above are from the first night I had the unit and just flicked it on to see what I could do. Well, I’ve since used it for half a week and while it certainly does take a little while to get used to, it’s a great lighting tool.

The aluminum handle has a 1/4″ 20 thread in its base, so if you wanted to you could mount it to something. It also has a sleeve around the main handle that you can hold to spin the whole unit around and make those cool light circles. It works well, as long as you don’t get too excited and hit it against things while spinning (apologies to my 8-year-old, he wasn’t impressed haha!).

Getting the hang of it

It takes a little trial and error, getting to know how fast to move the light, what settings you should set your camera to etc. But it doesn’t take all that long to get the hang of it, and there are many tutorials on the web (you can start with the basics of Light Painting here on dPS). I was pleasantly surprised that within about 10 minutes I could get a really fun image out of the Magilight!

Review of the Magilight LED Light Painting Wand

Master 4 asked me to make his bike look cool!

After four or five evenings messing about with Magilight, the batteries were still going. But they are also easily recharged using the included charger, and the unit can be all packed away in the included, well-padded black nylon zip-up case.

Upon searching to see what info is out there about this light, I came across this page (remember I mentioned Eric and Kim up the top). Well, I had no idea… (but it makes perfect sense) and there’s a video of Eric and Kim using the light – great!

Minor issues

There were a couple of little minor things that bothered me. One was that I should have removed the batteries to transport the unit. I think all the moving around in the case had turned the unit on, and I traveled a few hours and then went to use Magilight and she was flat. Thankfully the included charger plugs into any USB power source!

The other minor issue being that the little memory card, I think, needs a little protective cover or door of some kind. I found that if I moved a certain way (I can’t actually pinpoint which way I was moving when it happened) that I could pop the MicroSD out of its slot. It didn’t come out fully, so it wasn’t lost, but it had to be put back in and then I had to re-select all the options.

The last thing is that when it beeps, it’s kinda loud. So when I turned “sounds” off, I sort of expected them to be off, but they come back on! I have heard that little things like this will be fixed by launch.

Conclusion

In summary, this Magilight is a really fun and innovative tool for light painters, the build quality is really good (though, naturally we’ll see how it goes after 6 months) and the functionality is very good.

I give this wannabe Lightsaber a brightly lit 4 out of 5 stars rating. (if the niggles are worked out for launch, you can call it a 5!) Great job.

Editor’s note: This product will be competing with the popular, but more expensive PixelStick. Let’s see how it does! 

The post Review of the Magilight LED Light Painting Wand by Sime appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Jan
30

Why a Nikon Shooter Bought a Fuji X100F as a Second Camera

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

In this article (I don’t want to call it a review because) I’ll share my thoughts on why I picked up a Fuji X100F as a second camera alongside all my Nikon gear. And why I love this little camera!

My journey into serious digital photography began in the spring of 2012 when I realized my little pocket camera wasn’t cutting it anymore. After consulting with some friends, my wife and I picked up a Nikon D200 and 50mm prime lens and the rest, as they say, is history.

Over the years our collection of gear has grown to include three Nikon bodies, several lenses, and a host of accessories all of which have come in handy with our family/child/high school senior photography hobby we run on the side. However, after much research and soul-searching (or perhaps you might say goal-searching), I recently added a Fuji X100F to my collection of gear and I thought I’d share some of my reasons why in case you might be going through the same thought process we did.

Why a Nikon Shooter Bought a Fuji X100F as a Second Camera

The Fuji X100F might just be my favorite camera of all time. (Note the camera also comes in retro silver)

Know your needs

Almost any time a club, business, or other organization sets out to improve a particular aspect of its operation the key stakeholders involved perform what’s known as a needs assessment. This is a formal process that aims to help organizations understand gaps or areas of deficiency which can be addressed. They help to guide the improvement so that it is done in a way that matters most. In similar fashion, a needs assessment can make all the difference in the world to photographers as well.

When my wife and I bought that D200 years ago we weren’t exactly sure what our needs were, other than that we wanted better pictures of our newborn son. That camera and lens worked beautifully for a while but soon we started to realize that it had some issues which were hard to overlook.

We learned that the 50mm lens was too restrictive indoors and images that were taken at ISO 800 and above were quite noisy which limited our ability to use this set of gear in challenging lighting conditions. These deficiencies led us to buy a Nikon D7100 and a 35mm lens which enabled us to take pictures at wider angles and in lower-light conditions, and once again our needs were met. For a while.

Why a Nikon Shooter Bought a Fuji X100F as a Second Camera

The Nikon D200 + 50mm lens worked fine, but before too long its limitations started becoming much more apparent and I wanted something more. And as this photo shows, I also needed to work on my photography skills such as composition and light!

Know when to upgrade

As time went on and we became more invested in the Nikon system, I started to once again see some significant limitations of our camera gear. My wife and I were doing more portrait sessions which necessitated the purchase of an 85mm lens and external flash. But at the same time, we felt as though we didn’t quite have the right gear to take the type of pictures of our kids with which we were really happy.

The 35mm lens was nice, but on a crop-sensor body like the D7100 or D200 it wasn’t wide enough for everyday casual use and I often found myself in low-light situations where the high ISO performance of the D7100 just didn’t cut it. Enter the full-frame Nikon D750.

Bear with me, I’m getting to the Fuji X100F!

As we examined our own particular photographic needs we realized that the D750 ticked all the boxes that we had at the time: great low-light performance, superb image quality for portraits, tougher build quality, a larger image buffer, and the list goes on. The D750 seemed like a good logical choice and over time it has only grown more useful. Even my 35mm lens specifically designed for crop-sensor Nikon DX cameras works fine as long as I shoot at about f/4 and don’t mind a bit of vignetting in the corners.

Why a Nikon Shooter Bought a Fuji X100F as a Second Camera

The D750 and a 70-200 lens make family portraits like this possible.

More gear, more problems

Ironically, despite getting more gear, the more limited I still felt in terms of taking everyday photos of our kids – which was the whole reason my wife and I got into digital photography in the first place!

My favorite camera/lens combination quickly became the D750 + 35mm and I found myself using that particular setup almost every time I wanted to just go out and shoot candid pictures of my wife and kids. I took that camera and lens whether we were on vacation, in the backyard, or even on a visit to the park.

The problem was that it is so big and heavy I often found myself leaving it at home and using my iPhone instead, which works fine as long as there’s plenty of light. As soon as the sun goes down or you move indoors, the quality difference between a mobile phone and a larger camera quickly becomes apparent.

Why a Nikon Shooter Bought a Fuji X100F as a Second Camera

The Fuji X100F with 23mm lens is almost exactly the same as a Nikon D750 and 35mm lens, but the sheer size and weight of the Nikon meant I often left it at home. The Fuji gives me almost the same image quality and I can literally take it almost anywhere.

Is yet more Nikon gear the answer?

Professionally, our growing collection of gear brought with it some headaches too. I found myself using the D750 + 70-200mm f/2.8 lens on most of my paid client shoots, but it is really heavy and not at all conducive to close-up shots in small spaces. I had other cameras and lenses but nothing that gave me really good shots with a wider field of view, so for a while, I contemplated getting another D750 and a true full-frame 35mm lens.

However the idea of adding even more gear to my bag, while still not really having a good all-purpose camera I could use with my family, threw me into a bit of a mental slump. I had a clear need that was unmet, but I didn’t want the Nikon gear required to solve the problem.

And then I found the Fuji X100F!

Why a Nikon Shooter Bought a Fuji X100F as a Second Camera

The D750 and a 35mm lens are great for more intimate shots like this, but the size and even the clack-clack-clack sound of the shutter make it somewhat conspicuous.

Form following function

The more I looked at my needs as a photographer the more I realized I was going about things all wrong. Instead of asking myself, “What needs to I have and how can I meet them?” I was stuck in the mindset that I had to stay with Nikon gear because that’s what I already had. I was putting form (i.e. Nikon) over function (what I wanted my gear to do).

Professionally, I had the midrange and telephoto focal lengths covered but I didn’t have anything on the wider end. Personally, I knew I didn’t have a truly portable go-anywhere camera. I was looking for a way to solve these issues with my mind firmly planted in Nikon’s pastures, all the while not realizing that other camera systems might have a much better answer.

Look outside the box

When I discovered the Fuji X100F I realized that it ticked off every single box on my list. Professionally it allowed me to get the kind of close, wide-angle, intimate pictures I couldn’t get with any of my other gear. It was also small and light enough that I could be discrete at events and even carry it as a second body with my heavy D750 and 70-200mm lens doing the heavy-lifting.

The 23mm lens paired with an APS-C sensor meant I would have almost the exact same field of view as shooting at 35mm on a full-frame camera. The wide f/2.0 lens aperture meant that I could get great shots in low light, and even the price was right since the cost of the X100F was less than another Nikon D750 and full-frame 35mm lens.

Why a Nikon Shooter Bought a Fuji X100F as a Second Camera

Finally – the answer was the Fuji X100F

Personally, the Fuji X100F became my go-to camera for almost any situation I found myself in with my family: birthday parties, playing in the yard, going to friends’ houses, taking trips to visit family, and even going on vacations. Prior to getting the X100F, my D750 and 35mm lens were what I used in almost all of those situations. Not only was it heavy and cumbersome, I also felt highly conspicuous taking pictures in casual settings. It’s hard to ignore someone who is wielding a giant DSLR and pointing it in your face!

As an added bonus the leaf shutter in the X100F is almost silent which makes picture-taking in quiet situations much less worrisome. Further, if you want to be really quiet you can enable a fully electronic shutter which lets you take pictures in complete silence. No DSLR can do that, even in Live View, and it’s something I have really come to appreciate about the X100F and other mirrorless systems.

Why a Nikon Shooter Bought a Fuji X100F as a Second Camera

Shot using the X100F’s built-in ACROS black and white simulation mode.

Finally, the wealth of manual buttons and dials on the X100F has been nothing short of a revelation for someone like me who cut his photography teeth long after digital cameras had supplanted most film cameras. Being able to look at my camera and see separate dials for shutter speed, aperture, and ISO means that I no longer have to hunt through menus or assign functions to control dials to get the shots I want.

Add to this the film simulations like Classic Chrome and ACROS, tough-as-a-tank build quality, and the choice to use either an LCD screen or electronic viewfinder and you end up with a camera small enough to take anywhere yet versatile enough to excel in almost any situation.

Finding your solution

I often read articles online about switching from DSLR to mirrorless or vice versa, and there seems to be a persistent debate about which one system better. After my experience with adding a Fuji mirrorless camera to my Nikon DSLR kit, I’ve come to the realization that it’s not about which is better but what gear can meet your needs.

I think the problem that some photographers have, myself included, is that we aren’t good at honestly identifying what problems or needs we have and then working from there to find our answers.

Why a Nikon Shooter Bought a Fuji X100F as a Second Camera

There’s no bad choice – only the right choice for you

Cameras today are so good it’s almost impossible to not get one that doesn’t have great image quality, autofocus, high ISO performance, dynamic range, and so on. What’s much more difficult is finding a camera, lens, or another piece of gear that solves whatever problem you currently have.

There are a time and place for big DSLR cameras, small mirrorless systems, micro-four-thirds models, even mobile phones and computational photography. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks, and each can meet different needs and work fine for you as long as you take the time to find out what your needs really are.

Why a Nikon Shooter Bought a Fuji X100F as a Second Camera

High ISO performance of the X100F isn’t quite as good as a full-frame camera, but it’s not too shabby either.

Conclusion

Going forward I see myself using my Nikon gear for more professional shoots and the Fuji camera as a daily driver that will be more for casual shooting, but it’s not an either/or situation. My old crop-sensor D7100 paired with the 70-200mm f/2.8 lens is fantastic for getting pictures of my kids playing sports, while the Fuji X00F is ideal for indoor family sessions or times when I just don’t want the heft of a DSLR.

Who knows, my next camera might be something totally different or it might not be a camera at all and instead be some lessons or even just a trip to see and photograph different places.

Why a Nikon Shooter Bought a Fuji X100F as a Second Camera

Shot using the Fuji X100F’s built-in Classic Chrome film simulation mode.

After hearing my story I’d love to get your input too. What kind of gear do you use, why do you use it, and what steps are you planning to take next to address any issues you might have? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

The post Why a Nikon Shooter Bought a Fuji X100F as a Second Camera by Simon Ringsmuth appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Jan
28

How to Know if You Should Upgrade Your Equipment or if You Just Have Gear Lust

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

Gear lust – it’s out there and is bound to bite you sooner or later. Whether photography is a business or a hobby for you, gear lust is a natural part of the consumer cycle. But there is a sane way to approach your desires and check if they are ruling you or you are ruling them. So here are some tips to help you know if you should upgrade or it’s just gear lust.

How to Know if You Should Upgrade Your Equipment or if You Just Have Gear Lust

New Photo Equipment Flowchart

Follow this flowchart to see where you land. Only if you end up at a green bubble should you consider upgrading or buying more camera gear.

How to Know if You Should Upgrade Your Equipment or if You Just Have Gear Lust - infographic

Click to view the chart in a new tab or print it out.

Do you shoot for profit?

The first question on the chart is the most defining, “Are you going to make money from this lens?” Whether photography is a hobby or profession for you makes a big difference in the purchase decision. I believe both groups should look at the choice through different eyes, so let’s start down the hobby side of things first.

Skip down to below the hobby section to find the questions for profitable shooters.

How to Know if You Should Upgrade Your Equipment or if You Just Have Gear Lust

Hobby: What can’t you currently do with your gear?

If you can’t answer this question truthfully, then you have textbook gear lust. If you answer it and that answer is, “Nothing,” you too have gear lust. That’s not a bad thing! I just want to help you recognize it so you can make your choice with a little more clarity.

But, if there is a technique or style you have tried to replicate over and over again with your current equipment, such as parallel lines in architectural photography or a ten-minute exposure when your camera has no Blub mode, you’re one step closer to justifying an outlay of cash. So let’s take a look at your next question.

Hobby: Should you buy pro equipment?

This question is usually related to lenses but can be adapted to camera bodies, lighting equipment, printers, and more.

If you’re in this photography game for the long haul, it’s in your best interest to purchase higher quality equipment. Lenses specifically will last through a number of camera bodies over the years, while camera bodies tend to make reasonable improvements every 3-5 years.

How to Know if You Should Upgrade Your Equipment or if You Just Have Gear Lust

I usually suggest intermediate or pro-quality equipment to anyone who has been using their gear for a couple of years and continually hits the limit for its abilities. Then we need to ask the next critical question…

Hobby: Can you afford it?

If you can’t afford the higher quality equipment, and you can still justify the need to upgrade, I would suggest looking for used equipment in the style you want or possibly renting it for a short-term project. This is an excellent idea for trips abroad, for instance.

If you have come this far and can afford the purchase without going broke, hungry or breaking up a relationship to do so, I say go for it! It might be wise to do a quick cost/benefit analysis (e.g. I’d rather spend $1500 on travel than on a new lens). That might point you to a cheaper option to balance the scales, which tends to be a wise choice for hobbies. Or you might find bliss in your Gear Lust (this time) and will revel in the joy of new shooting opportunities.

Profit: Should you get pro equipment?

How to Know if You Should Upgrade Your Equipment or if You Just Have Gear Lust

If you are making a profit or looking to do so with your equipment, you’re going to want to look at this decision through money-making glasses. That equipment won’t do you any good if it just sits on a shelf. It needs to be making you money!

To answer the pro equipment question for profit-seekers, let’s look at how this lens will be used. Make no mistake; it’s easy for pros to justify business-related purchases right away when they are really just gear lust in disguise.

Real Life Lesson: I bought a drone on the chance that I’d get a gig where I’d use it heavily. The client ended up canceling the project, but I bought the drone before the contract was signed, because of my gear lust. I made up a reason to justify it when I had no concrete payback schedule. Now I use the drone mostly as a hobby and it dented my pocketbook unnecessarily.

Should you get pro equipment? Let’s ask first if the photos are mission critical.

Profit: Are your photos mission critical?

Relating another analogy from my recent past, I bought a nice Sigma 150-600mm Sport Lens because I recently got into birding. I ‘”needed” (heavy emphasis on the quotes) a longer lens to capture those small or far away birds. That’s bad, expensive gear lust and I didn’t ask myself the “Mission Critical” question.

On the other side of the coin, I also shoot weddings and portraits, so buying a new 24-105mm lens would easily be justified, because the lens will pay for itself over time. Those photos are mission critical and pay my bills. Photos of bird, currently, do not. “Maybe I’ll sell some photos in the future,” is not the best business decision to make and the purchase of said item should be put off until it can be afforded as a hobby.

Profit: Will the equipment increase profits?

These new photos you will take with this new equipment, will those photos increase your profits? Really?

How to Know if You Should Upgrade Your Equipment or if You Just Have Gear Lust

Dig deep with this one, because you need to look at this as a business decision. Do you have work lined up that will pay for most, if not all, of the new equipment purchase? If so, skip to the last question. If not, continue.

Profit: Is the new equipment replacing old equipment?

If you’ve answered no this far, this no is your last. It’s gear lust, plain and simple.

How to Know if You Should Upgrade Your Equipment or if You Just Have Gear Lust

If you are replacing old gear, the purchase can likely be justified. Especially if you can offload your old equipment or use it as a much-needed backup. But I have one last question for you before you click the “Buy Now” button.

Profit: Can your old equipment be repaired?

I felt gear lust strong and clear when my 28-300mm L lens started having problems. A new one, not all scratched up, would be so nice. Then I asked Canon about fixing it. They said it would cost me $300. Once I compared that to the $2700 cost of buying a new lens, my decision was clear.

This choice can be made more difficult if the manufacturer has upgraded your camera or lens to a Mark II or III version. If your old equipment is simply aged beyond your capabilities, or it can’t be repaired, it’s time to buy new gear. But if it can be repaired and you can get a few more years of use out of it, then save your profits for expanding your business rather than giving in to gear lust.

Profit: At what photo business stage are you?

You’ve made your way through the chart and are going to buy that new piece of equipment. Congratulations on being clearheaded!

There is one last thing to consider: What stage are you at in your business development?

Beginner

How to Know if You Should Upgrade Your Equipment or if You Just Have Gear Lust

If you’re just beginning, I would consider some lower cost options for equipment. This might mean getting a mid-level camera body instead of the $8000 pro-version that gear lust is drawing you toward. Spending $6500 more than you need to on a camera body won’t make you that much more profit. Investing it in advertising has a better chance of bringing in more clients and hence more profits.

If you have a specific project to shoot for a client and you’re not sure if you’ll use that equipment afterward, renting can be a viable option to keep your profits up.

You’re getting some paid gigs

If the money is coming in steady enough, but it’s not your main source of income yet, then it’s likely a good time to upgrade to better gear. Especially if you have made a case for how you can increase profits or ease workflow (e.g. replacing a 6-year old computer will vastly improve your editing speed and leave more time for finding and shooting new gigs).

Be honest with yourself here. If paid work is sporadic and you can do other types of jobs to make cash, hold off on spending profits until the volume is up and more regular.

Also, I highly suggest upgrading your lenses before your bodies, all things being equal. While getting a new body that has GPS or one extra frame per second in high-speed mode might seem tempting, a faster and sharper lens will improve your end product in a more profitable way.

You make regular income with photography

If the dough is rolling in regularly and you can see the next three years being this way, pull the trigger and buy that new gear. You’re in this for the long-haul and can write off the new equipment as a business expense over its useful life.

Hint: If a new purchase would put your balance sheet far into the red for the year, you’re not making enough regular income.

How to Know if You Should Upgrade Your Equipment or if You Just Have Gear Lust

Conclusion

Gear lust happens to us all and it can be a struggle. I’ve suffered from it more than once and made bad choices more than once – thus the reason for this flowchart.

I hope it helps you find your way to photo-taking bliss. Remember, that’s why we own all this stuff: to take amazing photos. Don’t let the gear lust pull you away from that goal.

The post How to Know if You Should Upgrade Your Equipment or if You Just Have Gear Lust by Peter West Carey appeared first on Digital Photography School.