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Selecting the Best Tripod

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

There are many different tripods on the market and selecting the best tripod to fit your needs can be daunting. The following is a list of criteria to consider:

  • Price
  • Weight
  • Height
  • Construction
  • Load capacity
  • Ease of use
  • Special features

The main purpose of a tripod is to provide stability and prevent camera movement. Keep that in mind as we look at each criteria. Click to continue »

Review: Manfrotto 460MG Magnesium Camera Head

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Manfrotto 460MG Magnesium Camera HeadSummary: I can’t recommend this head unless you have lightweight equipment. I really like the compact style but it droops too much with a long lens.

Review: I have used the Manfrotto 460MG Magnesium Camera Head with a variety of lenses and the head doesn’t tighten enough to prevent droop with a long lens. I really wanted to like this head because it is light and compact. I intended to use it for landscape and architectural work. On a positive note, it does use the same quick release plate as my other Manfrotto heads and works well with a wide angle lens. This head can also be twisted into some unusual positions.

Manufacturer’s Description: An innovative 3D Head unlike any other! Cast from lightweight magnesium, the head can be positioned in virtually any position to get the exact framing of the image. The lock-system using spring-loaded conical joints allows greater flexibility than any other 3D head whether mounted on a tripod centre column or lateral arm. The rubber grip knobs provide finger tip control and won’t poke you in the eye like conventional handles do. The 460Mg is the ideal head in combination with the Carbon Number One line for 35mm SLRs and medium format cameras. This replaces the Bogen Manfrotto 3437.

I am still searching for the best head to use for landscape and architectural work. If you have any suggestions, feel free to leave a comment.

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Review: P-Series Filter Kit by Cokin

Friday, January 6th, 2012

Cokin H250A P-Series ND Grad Filter Kit

Summary: I finally had the opportunity to use rectangular graduated neutral density filters and I’m glad I did. The Cokin H250 P-Series ND Grad Kit is an inexpensive kit that will help get a good exposure of the sky and land at the same time. The main advantages of using this kind of filter as opposed to circular filters is that the rectangular filters can be used with different size lenses and that the graduated filters can be moved up and down in the filter holder so that the edge of the gradation lines up with the horizon line.

Review: The H250A Filter Kit by Cokin contains a filter holder and three filters. The filters are Cokin’s most popular neutral density graduated filters. The darkest part of the filter can change the exposure by 1, 2, or 3 stops. The filters can also be “stacked” in the holder. Lens flare can occur when filters are stacked but in my test shots the main lens flare was reduced except for a few artifacts. I did not notice any color shift.

  • Includes 121L, 121S and 121M Graduated Neutral Density Filters
  • Kit includes a Cokin P series filter holder but does not include an adapter ring

Many other Cokin filters can be purchased that will fit into the holder.

Vignetting could be a problem with wide angle lenses. I didn’t see any issues with the 18mm-55mm kit lens on a camera with an APS-C sensor. The Cokin U961 Z Pro Grad Kit FH-121L-123L-125L Kit will be a better choice if you have a full-frame camera and a want to use the filters on a super wide angle lens.

An adapter ring is not included in the H250A Filter Kit. The first two items in the chart below are choices of adapter ring kits. I am recommending kits that contain various size adapters so that the Cokin holder can be mounted on different size lenses.

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Product prices and availability are are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on amazon.com at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

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Read my Ezine article How to Use the Cokin Filter System to Take Properly Exposed Landscape Photos.

Best Canon Lenses for Portraits

Sunday, November 27th, 2011
My Take: This is a good article about Canon lenses that are on sale during the holiday season. For some of them, the price is so low that you will have to put the lens in your cart to see the price because Amazon says the price on the item is lower than the manufacturer’s “minimum advertised price.” Don’t worry, Amazon makes it easy to take the item out of your cart. The one that looks like a bargain to me is the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras. Being able to get an L series lens for under $600 is definately amazing. The only down side for this lens is that it doesn’t have IS, image stabalization. Since I usually use a tripod, the lack of IS isn’t a deal breaker for me.

The Holiday Season is right around the corner, and that means fantastic sales! It also means fighting for parking space and waiting in lines only to find out that the things you wanted to get for your friends and loved ones aren’t in stock.

This is where on-line shopping comes into play.

Not only do you not have to deal with the undue stress that comes with shopping at the malls, but you can be guaranteed that what you want to buy I in stock. On-line companies have even gone one step further by offering steep discounts on high-demand items.

So what do you get for your favorite photographer? Well, there are a bunch of lenses that Canon has out on the market this year, and they make the perfect gift for the person who loves taking pictures, but may not have the special attachments to take those detailed, wide angle, long distance, or even underwater shots. Canon Lenses are by far the most adaptable and widely used by professional photographers and home users alike.

Let’s take a look at a few of the great lenses Canon is offering during the Holiday Season.

Canon EF 85mm f1.2L II USM Lens for Canon DSLR Cameras

Most users and reviewers sum this lens up as being “outstanding.” The Canon Ef 85mm has an extremely sharp focus, which makes it ideal for portrait shots. The Ef 85mm also gives you control in low lighting, as well as giving you fantastic depth-of-field ranges. It’s a little on the heavy side, but the Canon Ef 85mm is easily portable, durable, and well worth the money.

Pros: Extremely durable; Fast accurate auto-focus; incredible depth of field

Cons: Bulky; A little on the high-end

Canon EF 180mm f3.5L Macro USM AutoFocus Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras

This is by far one of the best telephoto lenses for beginners and professionals alike. The Canon EF 180mm AF Telephoto Lens is rugged and durable (perfect for photojournalists, nature photographers, and outdoor events), but comes packed with features. The EF 180mm has a long macro lens, which is fantastic for getting your subject matter in full detail at long ranges. The Canon EF 180mm will work at long ranges for both long zoom and close-up shots, and will also allow you to de-focus the background to let your subject matter stand out.

Pros: Ultra-sharp imagery; Superior design

Cons: Heavy; Comes with 72c adapter for macro flashes

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras

The EF 70-200mm USM Lens comes from Canon’s Luxury Lens Series.Known for being extremely durable, the Canon EF 70-200mm USM is also very lightweight and portable, with metal mountings.

This Canon L-Series Lens is perfect for taking incredible shots of moving objects – birds, cars, players at a sporting event, kids running through the house. The Canon EF70-200mm’s built-in Ultra Sonic motor allows you to take clear and sharp pictures of moving object, while allowing you to toggle between auto and manual focus, so you don’t have to worry about missing any of the action while fiddling with settings.

Pros: Fast auto-focus; 4-Stop IS; Incredibly sharp images; Superior design and quality; Lightweight

Cons: A little on the pricey side – until you see the quality of your pictures

Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8 Tilt Shift Lens for Canon SLR Cameras 

With the Canon TS-E 90mm Lens, you have complete control over the tilt, shift, and rotate adjustments. This means that you can place your subject matter at the angle your want, form the position you are in to take a picture.

The Tilt option of the Canon TS-E 90mm allows you to adjust which objects are in and out of focus while taking a portrait shot. The Shift option gives you control over perspective distortion So if you want things to be enhanced or corrected, you can take care of that by using this lens, rather than dealing with photography software after you’ve already taken your picture. The Rotate function gives you complete control over the sharpness of the focus then taking specific portraits.

Pros: Ultra-sharp images; Superior design and lens quality; Consistent picture quality

Cons: According to reviews and users, there aren’t any.

Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM Lens for Canon SLR Cameras

This is without a doubt the best Canon portrait lens on the market today, combining blindingly fast focus speed and pinpoint accuracy. The Canon EF 135mm has response functionality, such that you can get focused on your subject matter in microseconds.

Portraits come out ultra-sharp, and you can use the Canon EF 135mm to blur anything within a 3-foot radius of your subject matter. This means your portrait shots will come out crystal clear, and no one will be distracted by anything other than your subject matter.

The EF 135mm from Canon is light and portable, making it easy for taking wherever you go. The Canon EF 135mm is a fantastic multi-purpose lens, but in the field of portrait shots, the EF 135mm gets nothing but rave reviews from professional and consumer photographers alike.

Pros: Super-fast focus; Ultra-sharp images; Full field-of-view focus control

Cons: None!

This is just a handful of the Canon lenses on the market for the Holiday Season. There are ten in total, but this is a good overview of a few of the best. The great thing is, that even with the Black Friday rush, many dealers are offering these lenses (and the rest in the Canon line) at up to 40% Off the in-store and catalog prices.

Article source: http://ezinearticles.com/6705051

Video: Finding the No Parallax Point of a Lens

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

Finding the no parallax point of your lens mounted on a panoramic head can be a task. This video does a great job of explaining how to do it.


Follow this link to read my review of the Panoraurus panoramic head.

This link leads to my post, “How to Shoot 360×180 Degree Panoramas with a Panosaurus Panoramic Tripod Head.”

Photography Tip: Levels

Friday, November 11th, 2011

You may have noticed the bubble levels on your tripod and tripod head. Use them! Each serves a different important function. The following is a list of level and tripod related tips:

  • The level on your tripod itself is used to ensure that your tripod doesn’t fall over. If you are using your tripod on uneven ground and the legs are different lengths, the level can be used to center the center column of the tripod over the legs which centers the weight of your camera over the legs so that the tripod will be less likely to tip over. If the tripod is level, the center column will be perpendicular to the ground.
  • Another important tip for your tripod is to always have one leg toward the lowest ground. Let’s say that you have positioned your tripod on a hill with the camera pointed up the hill. One tripod leg should be toward you rather than two legs. The single leg toward you will be more stable and the tripod less likely to tip over. The tendancy is to always have two legs toward yourself so that it is easier to approach the camera. This is the time to not do that.
  • Add weight to your tripod. I know, you bought a carbon fiber tripod so that it would be light and easy to carry but, while shooting, you may need some extra weight to keep it from moving. Tripods often have a hook on or near the center column of the tripod. I have a backpack camera case that I hang under my tripod.
  • The bubble level on your tripod head is used to ensure that your camera itself is level.
  • If you shoot a lot of landscapes, you will want to invest in one more kind of level. It fits in the hotshoe of your camera and can be more accurate than the round levels attached to your tripod head. I use a hot shoe level to make sure that the horizon is level. There are times when I am taking long exposures at night and I can’t even see the horizon. I use the level to make sure the camera is level and I know the horizon will also be level in the photograph. I only need to illuminate the level to see it, not the subject. Works great and I highly recommend that you get one.
  • For panoramas, you can use the hotshoe level to ensure that your lens is parallel to the gound. That is what I do when I am using my Rokinon Fisheye Lens to take a 360×180 degree panorama. I mount the camera on a Panosaurus panoramic head and make sure the tripod is level, the head is level, and finally that the camera is level and the lens is parallel to the ground. If everything isn’t level, software such as Hugin will have difficulties stitching the shots together. Click here to read my article about using a Panosaurus panoramic head to shoot a 360×180 degree panorama.

How to Shoot 360×180 Degree Panoramas with a Panosaurus Panoramic Tripod Head

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Required Equipment: Panosaurus

17th Street Causeway BridgeShooting 360×180 degree panoramas usually requires a special tripod head. Trying to shoot this kind of panorama hand held would not be an easy task. Each picture has to overlap by 25-30% not to mention the likelihood of seeing parallax errors in the final image. Parallax errors occur when the camera rotates around a point other than the no parallax point of the lens. The bottom line is that the shots can’t line up properly if there are parallax errors. I have gotten great results with an inexpensive Panosaurus panoramic tripod head. Click here to read my review of the Panosaurus.

Software

To stitch the images together I rely on two programs. Hugin is free software and does a great job with a 360×180 panoramas shot with a fisheye lens such as the Rokinon 8mm Fisheye Lens. If you use an 18mm lens, then Serif PanoramaPlus X4 is a better choice. Each program has its strengths; what one can’t stitch together the other can. Click here to read my review of PanoramaPlus. Your camera may have come with software that can stitch together panoramas but don’t expect it to work with a 360×180 degree panorama. Click to continue »

2011 Gift Guide

Monday, October 17th, 2011

My Top Picks

Apple iPad 2 MC775LL/A Tablet (64GB, Wifi + AT&T 3G, Black)

If you plan to use the iPad to display your photos, get this model which has 64GB. The 3G network isn’t manditory but I have found myself wishing that I had gotten the 3G version when there isn’t a Wi-Fi network in the vacinity. iPad apps such as NIK Software’s Snapseed and Adobe’s Photoshop Express make this gift a no brainer — display and edit your photos. Who can resist that combination?

Eye-Fi Pro X2 8 GB Class 6 SDHC Wireless Flash Memory Card

The Eye-Fi Pro can wirelessly send your photos to your computer, iPad, iPhone, Picassa, Facebook, Flickr, or YouTube. When combined with an iPad or iPhone, you have got a great combination that works with or without a Wi-Fi network. The Eye-Fi can now create its own network for the iPad or iPhone to join! The new iPad software for the Eye-Fi is much easier to use and can now change the configuration of the Eye-Fi card. This is a welcome addition to the software. Some digital cameras can even communicate with the Eye-Fi card. Other versions of the Eye-Fi card to consider are the Eye-Fi Connect X2 or Eye-Fi Mobil X2.

Epson Stylus R2000 Wide-Format Wireless Inkjet Printer

Pigment inks that last a 100 years, individual ink cartridges, accepts paper up to 13″ wide, and wireless 802.11n support round out the features of this robust printer. The ink is Espon’s Ultrachrome Hi-Gloss pigment ink. The Epson Stylus R2000 can even print on glossy, matte,  fine art paper and canvas. Being able to also print on ink jet printable CD/DVDs is a bonus. It can also load cut-sheet or roll paper in sizes up to 13″ wide.

Photomatix Pro

Photomatix Pro gives you incredible control over the look of an HDR image. You can produce images that range from natural to extreme and everything in between. It comes with many presets that help you to instantly create dramatic results. This software is my first choice when creating HDR images.

Framed Artwork

Of course, you should have guessed that my gift guide would not be complete without mentioning my own photographs. You can order many different sizes to fit your budget. The prints can be framed or mounted on foam core. There are even gallery wraps available.

You can also have your own photographs framed or mounted by going direct to MPix. This is the company I use for printing and framing the artwork ordered through my gallery.

Review: Sigma 150-500mm F/5-6.3 APO DG OS

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Sigma 150-500mm LensSummary: The Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 AF APO DG OS HSM Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras is a huge, heavy lens. Be prepared to use a monopod or tripod with this lens.

Review: The lens weighs 4.2 pounds and is 3.7 inches in diameter by 10 inches long when at its shortest length. This is the longest lens I have owned so please bear with me if I write about some things that anyone would already know if they owned an ultra-telephoto lens.

The build quality is solid. The only thing that feels cheap is the lens hood which is made out of a relatively thin plastic that feels like I could crack it if I squeezed it too hard. It comes in a well padded case and two straps — one for the lens itself and another for the case. It is good that they included a strap for the lens because I’m not so sure that I would want my camera to support the burden of this lens hanging around my neck. Click to continue »

Review: Rokinon 8mm Fisheye Lens

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

Summary: I love this lens. I can easily see it becoming my preferred lens for HDR and panoramic shots. This is an inexpensive (under $300) lens that really delivers.

Review: I received the Rokinon FE8M-C 8mm F/3.5 Fisheye Lens for Canon a few days ago and already
love it. The lens is fully manual but don’t let that scare you. Images are sharp, it is easy to focus, and it has f/3.5 to f/22. The lens even has a built-in lens hood. The only down side is that you can’t detach the lens hood and it isn’t possible to put filters on the lens. It is a good thing that the lens is so forgiving regarding focus because I found it impossible for me to see what is in focus through the viewfinder or Live View.

The ROKINON 8mm lens is designed for digital SLR cameras with APS-C image sensors. For these types of cameras, it provides full-frame coverage – which means that pictures will cover the entire frame. It is also compatible with cameras that have a full-frame sensor. For cameras with full-frame sensors, the lens will produce pictures with a semi-circular image and close images will appear proportionately large for a dramatic effect.

I’m not so sure that I would use this lens on a camera with a full-frame sensor. The articles I have read indicate that it would be necessary to remove the lens hood or it will show up in the photo. It would be very easy to scratch the lens while cutting off the lens hood. Once the lens hood is cut off, the provided lens cover is useless because it snaps onto the lens hood.

Click to continue »