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Archive for the ‘Cameras and Equipment’ Category

Oct
15

Five Creative Lenses That Will Make Your Photos Pop

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

The drive to be creative is what focuses many people in photography. One variable you can alter to help you create photographs that really stand out is the lens. There are several different options for choosing creative lenses, depending on your taste.

In this article, you’ll see five very different kinds of lenses, and what they are capable of bringing to your photography. It’s always a good idea to have a lens that capable of something totally different, which will allow your photos to stand out from the crowd.

Five Creative Lenses That Will Make Your Photos Pop

The fisheye lens is used in this photo has captured a wide scene. There is some distortion on the edge of the image, but with the lines all leading in, this works well.

1 – The fish-eye lens

This lens is always great fun to work with, it’s a versatile lens that can be used for both portraits and landscapes. A fish-eye lens has several great applications so let’s take a look at those:

  • Wide-angle lens – This can act as a super wide-angle lens, and if you decide not to carry a wide angle lens the fish-eye makes a decent alternative. The main constraint is the distortion, this means keeping the horizon line straight.
  • The Earth’s not flat! – You can prove the Earth is not flat with a fish-eye lens. Simply position the horizon line near the top or bottom of the frame, and let distortion do the rest.
  • Embrace the distortion – Using a fish-eye means working with the way lines get distorted. This has great application for portrait photos, as those lines lead up to your model.

The fish-eye is a great lens to play with, which is why it’s such a popular lens. It’s great for getting a lot of the scene in your frame, but is, therefore, challenging to use. Those who embrace the challenge of this lens will be reward with some amazing results, so go out and try one.

Five Creative Lenses That Will Make Your Photos Pop

The fish-eye lens can be great for super wide landscape photos.

2 – The Lensbaby for something quirky

Lensbaby is a company that makes a range of lenses that are small, comparatively cheap, and not too heavy. The lenses they make have diversified over the years. The Lensbaby Composer was their original concept. The Composer lens allows the user to change the area in the frame that has the sharpest focus. It does this by allowing you to change the plane of focus using a swivel head.

  • Abstract bokeh – Shifting the angle of the composer lens will give you stretch bokeh. The best way to get this effect is to photograph some fairy lights, that are deliberately out of focus.
  • Portrait photos – Lensbaby lenses are excellent at drawing your eye to the model, by minimizing the background. Once again with the Composer, you can focus your sweet spot on the persons face, and surround them with bokeh!
  • Landscape photos – While not its strength, a Lensbaby can be used for interesting landscape photos. This works best when there is an out of focus area in the frame, which the Lensbaby Composer can further blur out into stretch bokeh. The effect is not dissimilar to a tilt-shift lens, and the subject of the photo should be sharp.

The Lensbaby Composer creates interesting bokeh around the subject.

3 – The 50mm f/1.2 is a creative lens

The nifty fifty is one of the first lenses that many photographers buy, with the less expensive f/1.8 version being a popular choice. There are a plethora of other prime lenses that can be used creatively like the 50mm f/1.2, though f/1.2 is at the extreme end of the large aperture scale. The comparison to make is a fish-eye lens to a wide angle, and here, an f/1.2 to an f/1.8 lens.

The 50mm f/1.2 is an excellent choice for those wanting to explore bokeh in their photographs. The depth of field is incredibly narrow, and getting sharp focus on your subject can be tricky. In the evening, positioning lights behind the subject, in the out of focus area will produce bokeh.

Want to get even more creative? Try creating different shaped bokeh, by placing a circular disk with a cut-out area in front of your lens.

Five Creative Lenses That Will Make Your Photos Pop

At f/1.2 the bokeh is very smooth in this image, and the plane of focus is very narrow.

4 – Up close it’s a different world! Use a macro lens.

The world can look very different with just a little bit of magnification, and macro lenses are a good place to start. This form of photography is a niche all of its own, and there are many pieces to it. Those who wish to really excel at macro photography will need to invest in the correct lighting gear and a good tripod. There is plenty you can achieve with a macro lens to start you on the path of macro photography.

  • Flower photography – A good macro lens is often the starting point for flower photography. Now, of course, you can take photos without doing macro photography, but getting in closer allows for more dramatic results.
  • Water droplets – Combined with the correct off-camera flash there is a lot of photography you can do with water droplets.
  • Detail photos – Macro lenses are very good for focusing on one area, and bringing out the detail. Close up photos of money is one example of how this can be applied.
Five Creative Lenses That Will Make Your Photos Pop

Food photography can be a good subject for your macro lens.

5 – Use a tilt-shift lens for more interesting landscapes

The tilt-shift lens has two main purposes, these are to correct the perspective of a photo, and to create a miniature world look. These lenses were originally designed with architectural photographers in mind, so that tall buildings didn’t bow inwards in the frame. The more creative use of these lenses is to create a miniature world. The lens can selectively focus the middle area of the frame, with the top and bottom blurred out. The lens is on the expensive end, and as the effect can be produced by

A tilt-shift lens can selectively focus the middle area of the frame, with the top and bottom blurred out. The lens is on the expensive end, and as the effect can be produced by post-processing you will need to consider whether or not you want to invest in this kind of creative lens.

Five Creative Lenses That Will Make Your Photos Pop

The tilt-shift effect miniaturizes objects in the frame. This effect can be achieved both in camera and by post-processing.

Which creative lens will you choose?

There are many lenses available, so which of these creative lenses would you choose if you were to buy one? Have you already have a lens like this, how has your experience with it been?

Is there a project you’d like to work on, where you’d need a lens like one of those listed above? Do you use another creative lens, not mentioned here? As always we look forward to your comments and feedback.

Five Creative Lenses That Will Make Your Photos Pop

The macro lens is great for exploring nature, be it flowers or insects.

Five Creative Lenses That Will Make Your Photos Pop

The Lensbaby can be used to create abstract bokeh.

Five Creative Lenses That Will Make Your Photos Pop

The 50mm f/1.2 lens can create shaped bokeh, this is done by covering the lens with a disc, and cutting the shape in the center of that disc.

The post Five Creative Lenses That Will Make Your Photos Pop by Simon Bond appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Oct
10

Review of the Fujinon XF23mm F2 WR Lens

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

In this review, I’ll take a look at the Fujinon XF23mm F2 WR Lens. If you shoot Fuji and have considered this one – read on to see why I rate it top marks!

Review of the Fujinon XF23mm F2 WR Lens

The Fujinon 23mm f2 lens

First look

With the Fuji XF 23mm F2 WR lens now being offered as a kit with the X-Pro2, and the new X-E3, it’s probably a good time to look at this little wonder if you shoot Fuji. This weather-sealed prime lens is 35mm equivalent field of view in full frame terms and makes a perfect street and general photography lens.

The fast f/2.0 aperture is a stop slower than it’s f/1.4 predecessor, but it’s leaps and bounds faster in the focus department. It also has a much quieter motor, which is important for video and it’s weather resistant.

Quiet motor great for video

As the Fuji X-T2 body has 4k video, and with a firmware update to add 4K video to the X-Pro2 due, this is an essential feature for current users looking to do video. Personally, I’m shooting a lot more video of late, both for my YouTube channel and in the creation of shorts in general, so this feature made the lens enticing for me. The original Fuji X camera is, of course, the X100, which has a built-in 23mm f2 lens. The new 23mm lens is a better design though, making it a great option instead of getting an X100F.

Review of the Fujinon XF23mm F2 WR Lens

For this article, I’m including some “tourist in my own town” style shots as I’ve not had this lens long enough to travel with it – yet!

Review of the Fujinon XF23mm F2 WR Lens

The f/2.0 Trinity

The 23mm is the widest currently in this range, which includes the XF35mm F2 and the XF50mm F2. In the community, they’ve been nicknamed the Fujicrons, as a kind of homage to the Summicron range of f/2 lenses from Leica. This weather sealed range offers great quality lenses in small, light packages, with quiet motors suited to video work as well as stills.

They focus faster than the higher range primes in the Fuji range, such as the 23mm f/1.4, 35mm f/1.4, and the 56mm f/1.2. (It’s not fair to directly compare the 50mm and 56mm as they’re not quite the same, though they are close enough for this purpose). The F2 lenses are also really well priced; You can get two of them for the price of one of the faster primes.

Review of the Fujinon XF23mm F2 WR Lens

Specs of the XF23mm F2

The XF23mm F2 WR lens has 10 elements in six groups which includes two aspherical elements. The original f/1.4 lens has only one. These elements increase the sharpness, a big plus for this small lens. The housing is metal, making this a robust lens in keeping with most of the Fuji range.

The aperture ring runs in 1/3 EV steps and uses nine blades internally which leads to a smoother bokeh. The minimum focusing distance is 22cm (about 9″). The lens comes in at a sprightly 180 grams (0.4 lbs) too. Good news if you’re looking to shoot video on a gimbal or flying on budget airlines with low weight baggage limits! Fi, ally the filter size is 43mm.

Review of the Fujinon XF23mm F2 WR Lens

Comparisons

The first lens people want this lens compared with is the Fuji 23mm f/1.4, because that’s usually the choice they’re trying to make. The XF23mm f/2.0 is a stop slower than then the 23mm f/1.4 but is faster to focus. The additional element makes it sharp, but the original 23mm is quite a sharp lens anyway. Weightwise the f/2.0 is 180g (0.4 lbs) versus the 300g (0.67 lbs) of the f/1.4.

For close focusing the f/2.0 has a minimum focus distance of 22cm (9″) compared to the 28cm (11″) of the f/1.4. In terms of cost, the f/2.0 is half the price of the f/1.4 at $449 versus $899. The real question to ask yourself is, does the additional stop of light justify spending twice the money? Only you can decide that.

Review of the Fujinon XF23mm F2 WR Lens

The f/2 lens has a slightly wilder field of view than the f/1.4 below.

Review of the Fujinon XF23mm F2 WR Lens

For street work, a lot of people choose the XF27mm f/2.8 pancake lens. This makes your Fuji very pocketable. The lens doesn’t protrude much and is really unobtrusive. It’s the smallest lens Fuji makes. Yes, it is cute. The XF23 is much longer (52mm versus 23mm), but isn’t too obtrusive. Again it’s a faster lens and wider. Both are the same price, so it’s a question of speed and depth in this choice. The 23mm is the superior lens, but if you must have a pancake, the 27mm is the only choice really.

Using the XF23mm F2 Lens

Review of the Fujinon XF23mm F2 WR Lens

I’ve found 23mm to be a great focal length to have with you. In fact, it’s probably the most versatile prime lens you could travel with. There’s no issue with general streets scenes, or even general landscapes. It’s great for shots including people in the scene. While it’s not a typical portrait focal length, it looks great for 3/4 length shots in landscape mode (a vertical composition) or portrait mode at a push.

Review of the Fujinon XF23mm F2 WR Lens

Even with just f/2, you still have the opportunity to shoot handheld evening shots while traveling.

Photos from the lens have nice contrast and are generally sharp, even wide open. The lens focuses quickly, even in low light and I can’t say I’ve particularly noticed many misfires. Couple it with the XF56mm f/1.2 or even the XF50mm f/2.0, and you would have a great two-lens kit that covers most shooting situations.

Review of the Fujinon XF23mm F2 WR Lens

A typical low light situation where fast primes can help.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Fast Focus
  • Quiet operation
  • One of Fuji’s less expensive lenses

Cons

  • Not the fastest aperture at this focal length

Verdict

If you absolutely need a faster aperture, don’t get the Fujinon XF23mm F2 WR lens. Otherwise it’s utterly fantastic at what it does. I voted with my cash and got this over the 23mm f/1.4 and it hasn’t disappointed.

 

The post Review of the Fujinon XF23mm F2 WR Lens by Sean McCormack appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Oct
8

Review of the new Agua Versa Backpack 90 by Miggo

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

Photography is an expensive hobby, and yet still we love doing it whether be it professionally or as a passion. Owning costly camera bodies and lenses is one part of our job, and making sure that they are stored safely in a camera bag is an equally important responsibility. As a street and travel photographer, I am always on the go carrying a camera body, a zoom lens, and a flash. I make sure that I am not carrying all this gear in a heavy backpack.

The Agua Versa Backpack 90 by Miggo is one of a kind. It’s a versatile storm-proof backpack that can be used as a camera bag as well as a normal day-to-day use bag. When it comes to choosing the right camera bag, I am very particular about its quality, comfort, and weight. Now let’s find out if this classy looking backpack comes out as a clear winner or not.

Agua Versa Backpack 90 2

What you can store in the Agua Versa Backpack 90

  • DSLR with attached lens (such as Canon 5D Mark III or IV with 24-70mm f/2.8),
    or medium size DSLRs / large size mirrorless cameras
  • Extra lens (such as 70-200mm f/2.8)
  • Flash unit
  • Up to 14.5” laptop (but I am able to store my 15.6-inch laptop)
  • iPad / tablet
  • Memory cards
  • Cables
  • Extra battery
  • Extra personal belongings

Appearance

Cover Photo

Trust me when I say that this backpack could make you fall in love with it at first sight, and I am saying this from my personal experience. It’s not just me but my fellow photographers have been asking me about this bag as I have been carrying around for weeks now.

The matte black kind of finish that this bag has is the reason that you may get attracted to it. That is the storm-proof material (tarpaulin) that has been used to create the bag. The combination of black and blue colors makes this bag look elegant as well as stylish at the same time. By looking at the bag you can tell how light and convenient this bag would be to carry on your back.

Inside the Bag

The Agua Versa Backpack 90 has three pockets in total. One on the front side which can be used to store accessories such as lens filters, memory card holder, a mobile phone, etc.

The second pocket is on the right-hand side of the bag which is the main compartment where you can store your laptop (I was easily able to store my 15.6-inch laptop), iPad, pen drive, Gorillapod, etc. You also get a removable padded insert in which I was able to carry my Canon 5D Mark III with the Canon 24-70 f/2.8 lens mounted, a Canon 70-200 f/2.8 lens and the Godox TT685C flash. The best part is that you can carry this padded insert as a standalone camera case during shoots. Once the insert is removed, you can use the backpack as a day-to-day bag as well or store your clothes while you are traveling.

Agua Versa Backpack 90 5

Agua Versa Backpack 90 7

The third pocket which is placed on the left-hand side is a secondary storage space where you can securely store the card reader, important cables, some accessories, and anything that fits inside the pockets.

Agua Versa Backpack 90 4

3 Different Carrying Options

The Agua Versa Backpack 90 allows you to carry the bag in three different ways. The first being the basic backpack position, which is the most comfortable in situations when you are walking a long distance carrying heavy gear. The second way is the X position, in which you can customize the straps in a cross pattern which could be helpful if you are trekking or hiking. The last way is the sling position which basically converts your backpack to a sling bag. By using it as a sling bag, you can easily and quickly draw the camera out of the bag and avoid missing any important moment.

 

Agua Versa Backpack 90 1b

My personal favorite is the sling position as I do not have to constantly take the bag off my shoulders to take out the camera. Simply swing the bag forward, open the side zip and draw the camera swiftly.

Agua Versa Backpack 90 3

Comfort

One of my favorite things about this backpack is the quality of padding that it has on the back as well as on the straps. I have been using this Miggo bag for weeks now, sometimes for hours at a stretch, and not once did I have any kind of shoulder or back pain despite carrying a camera body, two lenses, a flash and other accessories. Be it the backpack or the sling position, the bag sits comfortably on my shoulders and the lower back padding is just perfect.

Dual-Port Charging Connector

Agua Versa Backpack 90 6

How this backpack by Miggo stands out from the rest is the external USB connector that it features on the lower right-hand side. The USB connector unit has two ports which allow you to use a power bank stored in an internal dedicated pouch inside the bag. This means that using one port you can charge your smartphone or any other USB connected device and by using the second port you can charge that power bank too without taking it out of the bag.

Final Verdict

At a price of $169, the Agua Versa Backpack 90, come sling bag, is a good value for your money if you are a frequent traveler or if you shoot in extreme conditions.

Cover Photo

You may be thinking that I am only highlighting the positives of this bag, but there are few negatives as well. This bag lacks a side pocket which can hold a tripod/monopod or a water bottle. The straps are way too long, they roll up and there is a band which holds them up but on some occasions, it comes off.

You can get your hands on the Agua Versa Backpack 90 and a couple of more bags in the Agua series of Miggo brand on Indiegogo.

The post Review of the new Agua Versa Backpack 90 by Miggo by Kunal Malhotra appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Oct
3

The Minimalist Landscape Photographer: What do you really need?

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

Landscape photography is arguably the first form of photography, literally. At some point around 1826, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce made an exposure on a bitumen covered pewter plate from his upstairs work room. The resulting image would be the first known photograph which displayed his view from the window at his estate in Le Gras, in the Burgundy region of France.

Since then, the gear and techniques used in landscape photography have grown exponentially. So much in fact, that some photographers possibly feel the only way to make strong landscape photographs is by investing hundreds if not thousands of dollars into specialized camera equipment. But, nothing could be further from the truth!

The Minimalist Landscape Photographer: What do you really need?

In reality, landscape photography can be made as complicated or as simple as you would like it to be. Granted, there are a few pieces of gear that will enable you to shoot with more versatility, but at its core, outstanding landscape photography can be accomplished with only a few pieces of basic photography gear. In this article, we’ll share a few suggestions for “minimalist” landscape photography gear. You might be surprised to learn that you probably already have everything you need to get started right now.

The Landscape Photographer’s Mindset

I learned a long time ago that capturing a strong landscape photograph has more to do with having a concrete understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish more so than the tools you have at your disposal. In those days, I had only one camera and one lens. Not even a tripod. The lens was a Canon 28-135mm and I only used it because it was the one that came with my camera. Oh, and my camera at the time, it was my first digital camera…ever.

The Minimalist Landscape Photographer: What do you really need?

One of my first landscape photos with my new digital camera. Circa 2010.

Since then, I’ve evolved and so has my gear, my attitude, and my photography. Still, the realization remains that it was never the gear that defined what I was doing even back then. Rather, it was my desire to learn and practice; the idea that I didn’t have the “correct” outfit to shoot landscapes never entered my mind.

I was just happy to have a camera, the open air, and a place to make photographs. I knew that I needed to photograph the landscapes I saw and from there, everything else was just a matter of making do with what I had at the time. So with that mindset now hopefully at the forefront, here are a few items I consider to be must-have gear for the minimalist landscape photographer. It’s an extremely short list. Consisting of only three things.

#1 – A Camera

Yes, it goes without saying that if you’re going to make landscape photos or any other photo for that matter, you need some kind of camera. Today, there are dozens (at least) of digital camera models to choose from ranging from the relatively cheap to the astronomically priced. My advice to you, if you want a serviceable camera body suitable for landscape work, is to dismiss any idea that you need the latest and great camera in order to make solid landscape photos.

That first digital camera I mentioned earlier was a Canon 7D, which I still use to this day. It’s a great camera, hefty, rugged, and I’ve taken it everywhere. That being said, if I had it to do all over again, I would have gone with a much less expensive camera body. Why? While having blazing fast autofocus capability is nice, it’s not wholly necessary if you’re shooting mainly stationary objects. If you plan on shooting a wide range of subject matter like weddings, sports, etc., other considerations might come into play.

The Minimalist Landscape Photographer: What do you really need?

But as a general guideline for landscape shooting, find yourself the highest megapixel camera you can afford (preferably weather sealed) and forget everything else. Save your money for something that I know understand is a much more important piece of the landscape photography pie. And that is…

#2 – Lens

The lens is the eye of the camera. Photographs are just physical manifestations of light and that light must travel through your lens before it ever reaches the camera. I’ve shot landscapes with lenses that range from very good to the budget variety. As well as having used lenses that ranged in focal length from 10mm all the way to 600mm (yeah really).

Some of those were 30-year-old fully manual lenses that cost $10 at a pawn shop and others that priced in the $3,500 range. What did they all have in common? They let light into my camera to make a photograph.

The Minimalist Landscape Photographer: What do you really need?

While it’s true that certain focal lengths render various effects in landscape photography, there is no set rule that you have to use a wide angle or any other focal length lens to shoot landscapes. Virtually any lens you have has the capability to shoot a good landscape photo. Wide angle lenses, say 14mm to 35mm, do capture more of the environment and add a sense of openness to your photos but they are not a requirement.

The Minimalist Landscape Photographer: What do you really need?

Shot at 24mm

If you’re looking for a lens to use for landscape photography without breaking the bank or having to buy multiple lenses, simply search for the fastest (smallest f-number) lens you can find that falls in the medium wide angle range. I say medium wide angle because even though landscapes can be captured using virtually any focal length, it’s the wider lenses that tend to be more versatile in more situations. Something in the 14mm to 50mm range will suffice. There are plenty of options today to find excellent quality fast prime (fixed focal length) lenses for under $100.

#3 – Tripod

These days, nobody wants to carry around a tripod. And it’s true, there are ways to work around needing a tripod for some types of photography. This isn’t the case when it comes to landscape work. So often the lighting in a scene requires a shutter speed of such length that hand-holding the camera isn’t a possibility.

While there will always be that person who says, “I can hold the camera still for ten seconds!” the fact of the matter is if you want ultimate sharpness in your landscape photos you will need a tripod. End of story.

The Minimalist Landscape Photographer: What do you really need?

That being said, this doesn’t mean you will have to sell your car in order to obtain a usable tripod. My first tripod cost me $35 from Wal-Mart. Was it the latest in lightweight carbon fiber with a graphite ball head and a cup holder? Of course not. Did it provide a solid platform for my camera? Absolutely.

When you’re searching for a tripod, one of the things that you need to look out for is the weight rating. Be sure to get a tripod that can support your camera and lens combo with about another third of that weight added on as a cushion. Just like with the camera, the emphasis on tripod importance is somewhat paradoxical in that it serves an integral function in your work but at the same time being nothing more than something to hold your camera still.

The Minimalist Landscape Photographer: What do you really need?

Find a tripod that gives you the height versus the portability you need and can support the weight of your camera rig. Everything else is just icing.

Final Thoughts on Landscape Photography and Minimalism

These days, I find myself fortunate to have much more refined and varied equipment than I had 15 or even 10 years ago. Generally, though, 90% of my landscape work is shot using only two lenses which range from 14mm to 24mm. There are times when I venture out to the 50mm range and beyond but not often.

So really, if I had to, I could do virtually all my work with one camera and one 24mm lens if the need should arise. Being a minimalist landscapist is often brought about by necessity and coupled with the need to make photographs. Remember, you really only need three things:

  1. Camera – Get the highest resolution camera you can afford. Weather sealing is a plus.
  2. Lens – It’s possible to get great results with only one lens. If you can, find a lens that is a medium wide angle with a fast speed (low f-number).The key is to learn to use whatever lens that might be to its fullest potential.
  3. Tripod – Even a minimalist needs a tripod. They can be found extremely cheap if you have realistic expectations. Be sure to use a tripod that can support your heaviest camera and lens combo plus one-third.

Conclusion

Yes, that’s truly all you need to make landscape photographs. The gear you use can extend into the realm of high-end GND filters, multi-thousand dollar cameras, space-age tripods, and lenses that would make NASA proud. But when you peel back all the layers, only three things are needed: a camera, a lens, and a tripod.

Once you have those, everything else is up to you. Becoming a successful landscape shooter has more to do with how you see light, the scene, and how adept you can become to tailoring the image based on the gear you have on hand. Being a minimalist landscapist does not necessarily translate into being a second rate one.

The post The Minimalist Landscape Photographer: What do you really need? by Adam Welch appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Oct
1

Review of the new Spekular Modular LED Light System

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

I was fortunate enough to get hold of the new Spekular Modular LED kit from the people at Spiffy Gear a little bit earlier than most. So I’ve been using it for a couple of months now on everything from a personal portrait project to a product shoot of a whole load of shoes, and lots of other things in between.

In the box with the Spekular Modular LED kit

The kit comes in a handy carry case that keeps all of the gear together. You get four of the Spekular LED bars (I’m just going to call them bars, you might want to call them something else) and clips to join them together, along with a mounting connector that has a metal 1/4″-20 thread. This allows you to screw it onto a light stand, or as I’ve been doing, onto a tripod base-plate and using it on top of a tripod, which allows me to move the light where I need it. You get a multi-voltage power supply and a bit of documentation in the box, too.

Review of the new Spekular Modular LED Light System

The kit ships with a regular power supply and plugs in and is controlled very easily on one of the light bar units, with the power running from what would be 0% to 100% in step-less increments. There is also an external battery kit that you can pick up if you’re looking to use Spekular away from a power outlet.

Setting it up

Review of the new Spekular Modular LED Light System

The mounting bracket that is included simply slips along the back of any of the light bar units. You can adjust exactly where you’d like it to be connected to the unit, and then you simply connect it to a light stand or via a tripod plate or any other stand/magic arm with a 1/4″-20 connector.

Review of the new Spekular Modular LED Light System

Let us move swiftly on! Take a look at how the unit works and what it can do, according to the Spiffy Gear video below, and then we’ll get on with how well it worked for me in real-world situations!

Using Spekular in the real world

I’ve read a little of what others are saying around the web, a few people mentioned that they don’t like the specular highlights the kit gives, to which I’d say, “So set it up differently!

You can set the unit up as something that resembles a traditional rectangular LED panel, or you can set two kits up as a crazy epic star-like looking thing! As with any art/photography, the resultant look you’re after is subjective, and that’s fine! You can get seriously creative with this Spekular Modular LED kit, and that flexibility really impressed me.

Review of the new Spekular Modular LED Light System

Spekular for portraits

The first shoot I took the Spekular kit along to was one of my own. It’s a portrait series that I’m working on, based on men’s mental health. The Spekular kit was on a Kupo Click light stand slightly above and forward of my camera position.

It was only a test, but I was very happy with the results! (Yes, that’s a self-portrait below, I’m taking the photograph using Sony’s Play Memories with my A7R II).

Review of the new Spekular Modular LED Light System

Spekular for product shoots

The other main use I’ve had with the Spekular kit was on a spur of the moment product shoot for a friend. I needed to photograph 20 pairs of shoes for a website. This is something I’ve not done much of, but I was very interested to try out the kit and see if it could provide the results that were needed for this job.

The thing I found about using the Spekular kit was that it provided a really great quality of even light when positioned correctly. I used a Kupo C-Stand and positioned Spekular, set up in a square format, over the top and slightly forward of the product. This really cut down on shadows!

Review of the new Spekular Modular LED Light System

Yes, these shoes have wings!

Review of the new Spekular Modular LED Light System

Great, even light for products.

Review of the new Spekular Modular LED Light System

The shoes were photographed for a web-store, my friend was very happy – yay.

Each light bar puts out 14.5W of light which is kinda similar to a 150W halogen light. The lights have a 94+ CRI (CR-What? Read What CRI is here)

So, what’s the verdict?

Still not convinced? Here’s another video showing the Spekular LED light in use.

What did I like about the Spekular Modular LED light system? In two words, almost everything. The build quality is great, the unit stays level when attached from one side, it doesn’t twist like plastic units tend to do. I’d love to start using the kit with a battery pack to make it a little more portable.

One of the things I need to work on, but fixed very easily with Rosco Cinefoil ($34 for 25′ of the stuff) was the light spread. Naturally LED lights don’t tend to be super focused, so you need to find a way to shape them if that is the look you’re after. I found it very simple to do using flags or Cinefoil kind of shaped like barn-doors.

In my opinion, the Spekular kit is very good value compared to other options on the market considering what you get, how well it appears to be built (keep in mind I’ve only had the kit since July 5th), and how well it works.

Spiffy suggests that Spekular is “the Swiss army knife of LED lighting,” and I’d tend to agree! Well done!

Five Stars, Spiffy Gear, Five stars!

The post Review of the new Spekular Modular LED Light System by Sime appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Sep
26

Review of the DJI Spark Drone

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

DJI doesn’t particularly need an introduction. Their Phantom series brought drone video to the average Joe, while the Mavic Pro brought it closer to the tech and vloggers communities. Now, the DJI Spark aims to bring it to everybody. This tiny wonder goes places no toy drone could hope to go and really packs the tech of its older siblings into a tiny package.

Review of the DJI Spark Drone

Specs of the DJI Spark

The DJI Spark is not much more than palm-sized, and I don’t have particularly big hands. Weighing in at 300 grams (little more than half a pound), you’d think it wouldn’t be up to much, but as I live close to the sea, most of my flights have been in high winds. The DJI Spark has coped admirably, especially considering its petite frame.

Review of the DJI Spark Drone

Aerial views are a breeze in the wind with the DJI Spark.

Toy drones for practice

Let me give you a little of my drone background. I’ve wanted a drone for ages, but with my history of new gear accidents, added to seeing some of my friends destroy really expensive drones, I avoided getting a good one. Instead, I bought loads of toy drones and learned to fly them. While my agenda was always to get a proper drone, flying toy drones is a lot of fun. Best of all, the price means you’re not afraid of crashing them. I found this a great way to get comfortable with flying.

Review of the DJI Spark Drone

A seascape frame from a DJI Spark video.

Let’s look at the rest of the DJI Spark’s specs. It has a 12MP JPEG only stills mode, with video capabilities limited to 1080p 30fps video. This camera sits on a 2-axis gimbal, which, while not in the league of the 3-axis capabilities of bigger drones, works quite well in practice.

The field of view is 25mm equivalent and looks great. The battery is an intelligent type and has its own firmware independent of the drone itself. Charge time is quick, and as well as the dedicated charger, there’s a micro USB port on the drone that can be used to charge the battery. That’s handy when you’re out and have a power bank at the ready.

DJI Spark Options

The DJI Spark comes as a standalone device, flown via the DJI Go 4 app for $499 and as the Fly More kit combo with a controller, spare battery, prop guards, 3 battery charger and a bag for $699. Don’t waste your money on the basic version. Get the kit. Why?

Well, flight time is quoted at 16 minutes, but it’s less in practice. You’ll need the extra battery after your first flight because you’ll want to fly more! But the main reason is the controller. With just the phone, you’re limited to using an ad hoc phone Wi-Fi network to control the Spark. This is a meager 30m radius. You’ll run out of fun really quickly.

Review of the DJI Spark Drone

In Flight

Now for the crucial question. How does it fly? After flying toy drones for a while, I’m well used to how the controls work. My left hand has throttle and spin, with the right doing forward/back and left/right. It becomes natural quickly. Because the DJI Spark uses GPS for positioning, as soon as you stop flying, the drone stops moving. It’s locked solidly in place.

Review of the DJI Spark Drone

I began using the Beginner mode from the phone only and moved to the controller once I was comfortable. Beginner mode reduces both the distance and speed the Spark can travel. It’s perfect for learning the ropes.

There’s one thing I will stress. Compared to toy drones, the Spark almost flies itself. It makes me regret not getting a proper drone sooner. However, those toy drones did give me more confidence in flying. If you’ve been holding out and just want a drone with a quality camera for basic photography, this is the one for you.

Issues

Are there any issues with the DJI Spark? Yes. I’m happy enough to use JPEG and there are exposure controls available, but there is one thing that I’m not happy about, sharpening issues. In-camera sharpening on the files is horrible. I’m sure they would print fine, but looking at the files at 100%, it’s just horrible. There’s no way to turn it down either. Obviously, DNG would be better, but that’s a selling point of the Mavic Pro.

Review of the DJI Spark Drone

Review of the DJI Spark Drone

100% view showing the weird sharpening and artifacts with the JPEG.

The flight time for the Spark is quite low in comparison to its older siblings. It’s quite long compared to toy drones though and comparing battery sizes, it’s not a wonder. For the size of the drone, the flight time is acceptable.

The App

The DJI Go 4 app is easy to use and contains all the information you need while flying. High wind warnings, along with information on the home point and general flying information show on the screen as you fly. Height, distance and velocity show on the bottom of the screen. There’s a compass in the bottom left. Always check the direction the drone is facing before take off so you can align the drone if it goes out of visual range.

Review of the DJI Spark Drone

Gesture Control

The big selling point in DJI’s advertising is Gesture Control. To use this, you power it on (single tap, then long hold on the power button), then tap twice. If the sensors pick you up, the props will start to rotate and the Spark will take off.

A series of gestures control the device and placing your hand under it will make it land on your palm. Does it work? Yes, it does. Is it a gimmick? Yep, it’s fun, but only up to a point. Flying with the controller is the only way to go. You get bored with the Jedi palm control rather quickly, though most people find it really impressive.

Sport Mode

In the center of the controller is a button marked sport. This removes the handbrake and turns the Spark into a fun monster. It isn’t immediately obvious that you don’t need the app to fly the Spark. Turn on the controller, then turn on the Spark. Once connected you can fly the Spark directly from the controller with Sport mode on.

I found that it wouldn’t fly for me without Sport mode on. Aim the two joysticks in and down to start the propellors, then throttle to take off. Enjoy! It’s fast and furious, but watch out with braking as it needs room to stop or reverse even.

Verdict

The DJI Spark is a great starter drone with a usable camera. It’s fun to use and easy to fly. If you need 4K and DNG, don’t even look at it, go for the Mavic Pro. If these aren’t an issue, you’ll love the Spark, but save yourself some pain and get the kit version.

Pros

  • Small size.
  • Stable even in high winds.
  • Good mix of control options.
  • Beginner mode useful for learning to fly, as is the in-app Flight Academy.
  • Fun. It’s just loads of fun, especially in controller only Sport mode.
  • Controller flying is great.

Cons

  • JPEG only, with terrible sharpening.
  • 1080p with only 30fps. Obviously, a tactic to upsell to one of the big brothers.
  • Low flight time; acceptable, but still a con.
  • Needs controller for best use, but the kit is a great value.

The post Review of the DJI Spark Drone by Sean McCormack appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Sep
24

My Top Recommended Equipment for Night Photography

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

Being a Norwegian it’s hard not to be somewhat fascinated with night photography. Our winters are long and dark and when the skies are clear that means great opportunities for night photography. However, it wasn’t until I moved to Spain that I got even more obsessed with photographing the stars and I’ll admit that it’s slightly more comfortable doing so wearing shorts than three layers of clothes.

My Preferred Equipment for Night Photography - milky way shot

A lot can be said about the essential camera equipment for night photography, but in this article, I’d rather look at the equipment that I rely on in order to capture the images that I prefer. Photographers who execute more niche techniques such as star trails and deep space photography would probably add an item or two to this list.

That being said, I strongly recommend using the equipment mentioned in this article. I believe it will be hard for you to capture great images of the night sky without (most) of them.

The Camera…

The camera is your most important tool as a photographer – there’s no way around that. While upgrading your camera is expensive there are certain elements that you should consider if you desire to do better night photography.

Since you’re dealing with low-light at night you depend on using a high ISO in order to capture both the beautiful stars and the details in the landscape/scenery surrounding you. Unfortunately, entry-level cameras have a tendency to not rate well at higher ISO values. Already at a lower value such as ISO 800, they begin introducing a How to Avoid and Reduce Noise in Your Imagessignificant amount of noise. There are a few workarounds for this such as the median technique, but I won’t be getting into that in this article.

Wide Angle Lens

Besides the camera itself, you’ll also need a lens in order to capture an image. There are many different types of lenses available on the market but to get the best possible images during the night, make sure that you choose a lens with a large maximum aperture. This means that you can use an open aperture such as f/2.8 (which lets in more light).

My Preferred Equipment for Night Photography

A subtle display of Northern Lights in Lofoten.

While it might be a personal preference, I find that wide-angle lenses give the best results for night photography. Somewhere between 14-24mm is typically the best.

A Tripod

The last of the three most expensive tools is a tripod. Since you’ll be working with shutter speeds of 15-30 seconds, or even several minutes if you’re making a star trail, you depend on keeping your camera still for that long. This is hard to do without a tripod.

Unless you’re planning on photographing in harsher conditions, you don’t need to buy the most sturdy and solid tripod. However, I still recommend that you choose one that is somewhat solid and will last for a while. Low-end tripods have a tendency to break more easily and in the long run, it will cost you more than one of a higher quality.

Remote Shutter

If you plan to photograph star trails or do exposures longer than 30 seconds (i.e. use Bulb Mode), a remote shutter release is required. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on this and a simple one will do the job. However, I prefer to use one that has a small LCD screen that shows the time of your exposure and allows you to lock up the remote button.

When working with exposures shorter than 30 seconds a remote shutter release isn’t essential. In those cases, you can simply use a 2-second timer or delayed shutter release.

Natural Night Filter

The last of the tools I keep in my bag when doing night photography is a filter that I’ve grown to become a fan of during the last few months – especially when photographing in areas with light pollution.

The Natural Night Filter (I use NiSi’s but other brands such as LEE also have similar products) is made to reduce the amount of light pollution and give you a crisp image. Yes, this is relatively easy to fix in post-production but I find that the more light pollution there is the better the filter works.

Other non-camera related tools

Besides the tools mentioned above, there are a few more items I won’t leave home without when doing night photography. While all of them aren’t used in combination with a camera and don’t have a direct impact on the image itself, they are essential to get the shot:

  1. Extra layers of clothes (at least when photographing in the Arctic!).
  2. Powerful headlamp.
  3. Extra batteries for your camera (if it’s cold keep one on the inner pocket of your jacket).
  4. PhotoPills app – a great tool for planning your night sessions

My Preferred Equipment for Night Photography

What are your preferred tools for night photography? Let me know in a comment!

The post My Top Recommended Equipment for Night Photography by Christian Hoiberg appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Sep
19

Review: Nikon D7500 with 18-140mm Kit Lens

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

The 7000 series of cameras from Nikon have been very popular since they were first introduced in 2010. It is a mid-range camera in their lineup but sits at the top end of the amateur level cameras. As with many of these cameras the new one in this series, the Nikon D7500 can also be purchased with a kit lens, this one came with the 18-140mm lens.

Review: Nikon D7500 with 18-140mm Kit Lens

The Nikon D7500 with the 18-140mm kit lens. Image courtesy Nikon Australia.

The new D7500 is in the DX format or crop sensor camera. It has a 20.9 megapixel CMOS sensor and is said to be “equipped with a high-performance EXPEED 5 image-processing engine.” Nikon also claims that it is a good camera for video and that it supports 4K UHD. For more technical information please go to the Nikon website.

Nikon D7500 out of the box

When you first get the camera out you’ll notice it’s surprisingly light. I use a D800, so most cameras are light compared to that. However, the D7500 is a good size and feels nice in the hands. There is some weight to it, but it’s comfortable. When you have the camera, with the kit lens attached, hanging around your neck the weight doesn’t hurt you.

They have made the grip deeper so it is easier to hold onto, and also more comfortable to hold. With some models, it feels like you are digging your nails into the camera, but that hasn’t happened with this one.

Review: Nikon D7500 with 18-140mm Kit Lens

Holding the Nikon D7500. Image courtesy Nikon Australia.

Easy to use

When it comes down to it, what you really want from a camera is one that is easy to understand and use. There is no doubt that you will find both of those with the Nikon D7500. In previous models you had to go into the menu to change some settings, a lot of them are now buttons on the camera. ISO is changed with one up near the shutter button. You can change aperture with the scroll wheel at the front and the shutter with the one at the back. It is easy for your fingers to find everything you need.

ISO

It has a high range and will go up to 51200 and the slowest speed is 100. It has enough of a range that would suit most people who want to take photos in both low light and on sunny days.

With images taken at 12800 during a night show at Sovereign Hill you can see noise in the images, which is to be expected, but the amount isn’t that bad that the images are not useable. When compared with what older cameras did at ISO 3200, this camera takes a good image at the higher ISOs with much less noise as on other models. It fits in with many of Nikon’s cameras for using in low light.

leannecole-nikon-d7500-review-66

The Winter Wonderland at Sovereign Hill was dark and to get images the ISO was put up to 12800.

Autofocus

Nikon has worked on the autofocus features with the D7500 and it is fast. You can track subjects and get fast focusing to get sharp images of whatever you are trying to capture. It doesn’t take long to get any subject in focus. It means you can work quickly, especially if you like doing street photography or something else where fast autofocus is needed.

Touch screen

Like most new cameras it does come with a touch screen which makes accessing sections in the menu easier and faster. You can just click on what you need. You can also use your fingers to scroll through the images you have taken. It turns the menu into a series of buttons, so you can move around it much faster and find what you need to make any necessary adjustments.

Review: Nikon D7500 with 18-140mm Kit Lens

Another night image that was hand held and taken with ISO 128000.

LCD screen

The screen at the back is tiltable (it’s not full articulating) so you can change it when you want to use Live View. This is especially good for places where you have strange camera angle, for example, when you are photographing something that is close to the ground. You can put the camera in Live View mode, and then tilt the screen so you can see what you are shooting without having to get down on the ground as well.

Live View is really good, though you always need to be careful with how quickly it can drain the battery. Without a doubt, you will use the battery faster if you use this mode all the time. If you use the viewfinder instead the battery will last a lot longer and you will get plenty of photos.

Review: Nikon D7500 with 18-140mm Kit Lens

This image was taken at Abbotsford Convent.

DoF preview button

It has been pointed out that the current model, the D7500, does not have a depth of field preview button (shows you what your image will look like with your selected aperture). Though it seems that many cameras are now removing this feature. It is not something that I either use or have looked for in a camera, but if it is an important aspect in your photography then it may be a problem for you.

Long exposure photography

You can use any DSLR camera for long exposures, and this one is no different. The images come out very sharp and you get the great effects that you would normally expect. One part that was surprising to me was using Live View with an ND filter on the camera, I could still see the scene. Many Nikon cameras do not do that. When the filter is on you can’t see anything, and you need to remove it to refocus and recompose. This is a great added advantage and makes taking long exposure images that much easier.

Review: Nikon D7500 with 18-140mm Kit Lens

Long exposure taken at Banyule Flats using the D7500 and the 18-140mm kit lens.

Snapbridge

The camera has wifi, Bluetooth and Snapbridge. You can now connect your camera to your phone and get photos to instantly publish on social media. In other cameras the Snapbridge hasn’t worked well with Android phones, but with the D7500 I had no trouble getting my phone to find it and download images. It worked really well, and so far the best experience I’ve had with this app.

The 18-140mm kit lens

This is an interesting lens to include in a kit and many people would be really interested in it. The usual 18-55mm has been replaced with this one. It is a good choice for most people who are starting out with photography.

It has an aperture of f/3.5 at 18mm and when you zoom to 140mm the aperture range starts at f/5.6. It is much the same as other lenses of this type. For most photography, you are not going to want to go wider than those. It is a kit lens and you aren’t going to get something really amazing. If you want higher quality you need to buy the body separately and then get a lens separately.

Review: Nikon D7500 with 18-140mm Kit Lens

The kit lens takes pretty good images of flowers up close. Not quite as close a macro lens, but fairly good.

Most lenses for cropped sensors are of a similar quality. The images from this lens appear sharp and the quality is good. While testing this camera and lens the combination was used for night photography, long exposures, walking around, and some macro. It performed well in all circumstances.

The lens does have Nikon’s Vibration Reduction or VR, which a lot of users now want. Though you can choose to turn it off, which you should do if you are using the camera on a tripod. You also don’t have to use this function.

I tend to turn VR off on my lenses so I don’t leave it turned on when using my tripod. I haven’t found it a problem, but if find that your images have some movement, or you have trouble holding the camera very still then you may find it easier to keep it turned on.

Review: Nikon D7500 with 18-140mm Kit Lens

This image was taken as walking around the city.

Who would buy this camera and lens?

The Nikon D7500 is the top level amateur or non-professional camera that Nikon makes. It is for serious amateurs who want to get the best out of their photography, but can’t quite justify the extra expense of a full frame camera.

It would suit someone looking for a second camera after learning how to take photos with one of the entry level Nikon cameras, like one of the D3000 series models. It is a good step up and there are many features that the D7500 is capable of that the others aren’t.

There is no reason why someone who is new to photography shouldn’t purchase it either. It would be an ideal camera to learn and experiment with as you grow into the camera. The kit lens will also give you a lot of room to advance as well.

Review: Nikon D7500 with 18-140mm Kit Lens

Another long exposure that was taken with the D7500 and the 18-140mm lens

Price

Amazon has the Nikon D7500 body listed at $1246.95, and if you want to buy the kit with the 18-140mm you can get it for $1546.95.

Conclusion

Overall, the Nikon D7500 would suit someone who is fairly serious about their photography and wants to get the most out of their camera. Someone who wants to take a lot of photos and also wants a model that is capable of doing many different types of photography. It is a camera that will do everything you want it to and you won’t be disappointed.

The post Review: Nikon D7500 with 18-140mm Kit Lens by Leanne Cole appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Sep
17

Review and Field Test of G-Technology G-Drive ev ATC Portable Hard Drives

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

As photographers, keeping our data safe is of the utmost importance. Being able to trust your hard drives to work and survive all types of conditions and hardships is something to consider. As a wildlife photographer, I often find myself out in the elements, and when traveling, my gear has to put up with the rugged nature of travel, while still being ready to work when called upon. Recently I have been putting the G-Technology G-Drive ev ATC hard drives through their paces and I think these might just be one of the best rugged and solid ways to keep data safe on the move.

Review G Technology G Drive ev ATC Portable Hard Drive

G-Drive ev ATC hard drive features

The ATC is part of the G-technology ev series, a set of drives offering a simple workflow from the field to the studio. The ATC builds upon the standard RaW and ev drives by adding a polycarbonate protective shell to the main drive offering protection from bumps, dust, sand and even full submergence in water to keep your drive and data safe.

The case itself is solid – the simple blue and black design that is stylish and bright enough to easily find in dark conditions. The polycarbonate shell feels very solid in the hand and fits the drive like a glove. It seals closed with a latch system that might seem flimsy, but offers a solid click and seal to ensure the drive is closed off from the elements.

G-Drive ev ATC hard drives - The G drive inside the ATC case

G-Drive ev ATC hard drives Locking mechanism for waterproof closure

The G-Drive ev ATC comes in two varieties, offering Thunderbolt or USB-3 connections for your chosen device. The cords are built into the case itself so you don’t need to worry about forgetting them, a really well thought out design. Of course, the case adds an extra amount of bulk to the setup that might be a problem for those photographers wanting to keep things as small as possible, but personally, I think the extra size is a worthy trade off for the added protection.

Testing the drives during travel

Testing the drives out, they have accompanied me on a few international trips, coming as my primary and backup drives for work in the Falklands, Canada, and Finland. On each trip I have worked with two drives, keeping one as a primary and the other as secondary backup. The fast data transfer speeds were great, 1GB of data transferred in less than a minute over USB-3 meaning backups were swift and simple.

On returning flights keeping data separate is important (in case of a lost bag) and I had no worries about packing one of these with the G-Drive ev ATC hard drives into my checked baggage, knowing the solid construction would keep it protected from any rough handling from the dreaded baggage handlers! On all of my trips, the hold drive never skipped a beat, being ready to upload as soon as I got home to my office.

G-Drive ev ATC hard drives Using the internal drive with the EV docking station

The drive easily pops out and can be inserted into the G-Dock for easy file transfer back home.

In the office the workflow is simple. Popping the drives out of the housing I can easily slot them into the Ev docking station (called G-Dock) that gives me Thunderbolt speeds to upload images directly to my main drives for editing, backup and archiving. The ease of being able to just slot in one drive saves faffing around with multiple SD and CF cards again, keeping my workflow streamlined.

Extreme testing

To further test the drives I wanted to put them through the mill so I decided to rough them up with some real world testing. Grabbing one of the drives in the ATC case I took it out onto location and basically treated it like I didn’t care it was full of precious data. Dropping it onto the ground, into muddy puddles and even throwing it into my local river before rescuing it again down stream.

G-Drive ev ATC hard drives Tested in the dirt and mud without a hitch

Each test was passed with flying colors and even after fully submerging the drive underwater with my hand for a minute, it was in perfect working order. Of course, one problem with the drive is that you do need to check that everything is latched down. Human error, not fully closing the latch or getting something stuck into the gasket could compromise the waterproofing and seal, so it’s best to always be careful. I mean I doubt too many of us regularly throw our drives in a river intentionally…

G-Drive ev ATC hard drives Underwater isnt a problem for the ATC

As a drive, they are built solidly, but one area that I feel would be a great improvement is the use of SSDs rather than normal disk drives. Including an SSD would just add another level to the rugged nature of the drives making them even more durable for life on the road, while also giving faster transfer speeds. This would be especially useful for those editing and working with video files on the move as well.

As a photographer, G-Drive ev ATC hard drives suit my needs very well. The large 1TB hard drive easily has enough storage for a long photo shoot on location and with the protective shell offering great durability to my drives I am sure they will be part of my workflow for many years to come.

The post Review and Field Test of G-Technology G-Drive ev ATC Portable Hard Drives by Tom Mason appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Sep
11

5 Top Value Lenses for Getting Started in Wildlife Photography

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

Getting started in wildlife photography is one of the more expensive genres of the photo industry. The lenses and cameras that are often in the bags of pros are more often than not in the higher tier price brackets. However, to get started you don’t need to spend a fortune to gear up with some great lenses for wildlife photography.

Lenses are the thing to invest in when starting out in wildlife or as any photographer for that matter. The glass you purchase can stay with you for many years, while often cameras are updated far more regularly. Meaning, if you spend your money wisely you won’t have to outlay again.

wildlife photography lenses

Now of course as you gain more experience and want to invest it into your work, you might outgrow some gear or wish for more pro features. But when you’re getting started, the lenses I’ve listed below are a great base to build on and invest in, that will not only provide excellent quality results but also hold their value within your gear bag. These lenses will cover a range of shooting situations so you can capture the natural world in all manner of ways to really follow your creative vision.

1 – The Telephoto Zoom 70-200mm

Firstly, we are going to start with the telephoto zoom. For most wildlife photographers this is one of the most used lenses in their arsenal, offering flexibility to compose portraits of wildlife to more landscape style images to put your subjects in the environment.

5 Top Value Lenses for Getting Started in Wildlife Photography

The 70-200mm zoom is an excellent investment.

As an investment, the 70-200mm is a key lens to get hold of as it offers so much in the way of performance and flexibility. Most people will feel that 200mm is a little shot for wildlife, but with practice and development of your stalking skills, especially when paired with an APS-C camera it’s a great place to start.

The f/2.8 is the most coveted version due to its fast aperture for gorgeous bokeh (out of focus areas) as well as its autofocus speed. The f/2.8 version is a higher cost lens retailing new at around $2000 but secondhand (especially a slightly older version) can be had at excellent prices. If they are still a little out of the price range, think about the f/4 version. Smaller and lighter they are also a lot cheaper, still offering top performance for getting into wildlife photography.

5 Top Value Lenses for Getting Started in Wildlife Photography

The 70-200mm is perfect for working with largest animals.

2 – The Prime Option 300mm F/4

If you want something a little longer think about looking into a 300mm f/4 prime lens. These fixed focal length lenses don’t zoom, so you have to move your feet to get the composition correct. However, due to their nature as primes they have excellent optical performance, offering wonderful sharpness as well as a reasonably fast aperture for creating pleasing portraits with your of focus areas as well as working in less than perfect light.

5 Top Value Lenses for Getting Started in Wildlife Photography

300mm f/4 lens.

The 300mm f/4 is a lens that has been on the market for a long time now and both Nikon and Canon lenses can be easily found for an excellent price secondhand even from dealers with included warranties. The 300mm f/4 was the telephoto that I used when I became more serious with my photography and it helped me on the path to shooting professionally. So I can vouch for its excellent qualities.

wildlife photography lenses

3 – Ultra Telephoto Zoom 100-400mm

If prime lenses aren’t your thing then the 100-400mm (or the Nikon 80-400mm) might be a better fit for your style of shooting. The excellent range makes it a very versatile lens for wildlife photography, giving you the ability to switch from close portraits to environmental shots in an instant.

5 Top Value Lenses for Getting Started in Wildlife Photography

80-400mm Nikon lens.

Buying new gives you the best options for getting a top spec lens, with the latest iterations having excellent sharpness, autofocus and image stabilization, whilst older models are slightly weaker in all aspects. If you are looking to invest in one of these I’d recommend trying to get hold of the latest model as it will last you a long time and really provide you with a top lens for getting some great wildlife images.

I would certainly recommend these as name brand lenses over third party manufacturers, as they are far better optically engineered. Often when starting out with wildlife photography, some people go for the longest superzoom they can find like the 150-600mm or 50-500mm. But these suffer from optical quality and often lead to frustrating results.

5 Top Value Lenses for Getting Started in Wildlife Photography

The 80-400mm is a great compact wildlife photography lens for travel.

4 – Wide Angle 10-20mm

When shooting wildlife photography, going wide a great way to create far more interesting images than super telephoto shots. Of course, as that isn’t always an option, spending a vast amount of money on a super wide especially if you are not focused on shooting landscapes as well can be overkill.

5 Top Value Lenses for Getting Started in Wildlife Photography

Canon 10-18mm lens.

Luckily both Nikon and Canon have excellent low-cost APS-C wide angle lenses that really offer great performance and functionality at decent prices. The new Nikon 10-20mm and the Canon 10-18mm are perfect candidates for wide angle wildlife shooting. Their ultra-wide view can pull the viewer into an entire landscape, while the close focuses of a mere 0.2m allow you to get up close and personal with your subjects (often wirelessly triggering) for impact filed images.

5 Top Value Lenses for Getting Started in Wildlife Photography

The 10-20mm is perfect for wide landscape shots or wildlife in the landscape.

wildlife photography lenses

Shot using the 10-20mm wide-angle lens.

These lenses cost around $300-500 so are brilliant options to give a wide scope to your shooting potential.

5 – Macro Lens 100/105mm

If you are interested in getting in close and looking at details as a wildlife photographer you’ll want to look into a macro lens for close up shooting. These specialist optics offer 1:1 life size reproduction ratios that are awesome for shooting insects and plants.

5 Top Value Lenses for Getting Started in Wildlife Photography

105mm macro lens being used in the garden.

The 100mm focal length is where you really want to invest as it offers the best in terms of performance, as well as a good working distance to help reduce the chance of your disturbing your subjects and getting in the way of your own lighting. The 100mm macro is a slightly more expensive lens but having been on the market for a while there are often many secondhand copies available offering discounts on the new price of around 30-40%.

It’s a truly great investment as these lenses are among the sharpest on the market with optical perfection that makes them a staple in many pros bags. The lenses are also great for a variety of non-macro tasks as well, with them often being used by portrait photographers for their flattering compression that makes beautiful backgrounds.

Conclusion

That’s a round up of a few of the top lenses to invest in if you are getting started in wildlife photography. They maybe slightly higher in price than some of the third party alternatives or lesser models, but these lenses will hold their own for many years, meaning the extra savings and investment will pay off with certainty in the long term.

wildlife photography lenses

If you do wildlife photography what lenses did you start off with? Which do you recommend? Please share in the comments section below.

The post 5 Top Value Lenses for Getting Started in Wildlife Photography by Tom Mason appeared first on Digital Photography School.