Photo Gear

How to buy a camera

Everything you need to know about buying a camera

Vlad Savov has really done a great job of laying out the pieces of this puzzle you need to think about and in what order.

Ultimately, the number one lesson in photography is that there are always tradeoffs. If you want the best possible image quality, you’ll need specialized and bulky equipment. Should portability be your highest priority, you’ll simply have to accept that some photos and creative ideas will be beyond your reach.

In other words, there is no one camera that’s perfect. This is why I use three: iPhone 4S, Canon S100 (and S95) and Canon 5D (at some point upgraded to the next Canon 5X). Each has its place.

[via Kottke.org]

iPhone volume/shutter button

Use Your iPhone’s Headset to Take Pictures From Afar

iOS 5 brought us the ability to use the “up” volume button on an iPhone to take a picture but I just read in lifehacker that you can use the iPhone’s earbud remote volume control to do the same thing. This will allow the propping up of the iPhone and hands-free tripping of the shutter button, essentially a cable release.

I don’t use those earbuds (can’t fit in my ears) but I think I might start carrying them now.

Mottling the light from a flash with a “dingle”

Speedlight Mastery Trailer from Damien Lovegrove on Vimeo.

This is an excellent instruction video on how to make off camera flash more like mottled sunlight using some foliage taped to a light stand (he calls the foliage a “dingle”).

He using a Canon DSLR, a 70-200mm lens, a camera mounted IR controller to fire the off camera flash which is mounted above him.

Many of us (me included) find flash and artificially lit photography intimidating. The more we see stuff like this the more we’ll jump in and get it a go.

[via PetaPixel]

Canon PowerShot S100

Looks like Canon is about to come out with a new compact point and shoot which will replace the S95 which replaced the S90: Canon S100: The New Pocket Powerhouse Point-and-Shoot.

Here’s Canon’s “official” page on it: PowerShot S100.

Here’s DP Review’s Canon Powershot S100 Preview.

As yet we’ve only been able to handle an early pre-production S100 briefly, but initial impressions are positive enough. It’s as fast and responsive as we’d expect from a Canon Powershot, and the handgrip, despite its minimal size, goes some way to addressing one of the criticisms of its predecessor. The rearranged control layout means you can now initiate movie recording in any exposure mode, without sacrificing any particularly important external control over other functions.

Of course everything will depend on the image quality obtained from the new lens and sensor, and as yet we simply can’t comment on that in any sensible way. Canon is making some pretty confident claims in this regard, calling the S100 the best Powershot yet with 1/4 of the S95′s image noise at ISO 1600 (in its JPEG output, of course). So we’re very much looking forward to getting our hands on a finalized camera to see how this works out in practice – naturally we’ll bring you sample images as soon as we possibly can.

The most important updates for me are:

- Canon CMOS sensor (S90 and S95 use CCD)
- Slightly higher resolution (12 MP vs 10 for S90 and 95)
- Better ISO range: 80-6400
- New image processor (Digic V)
- 24-120mm, F2.0-5.9, (S90 and S95 have 28mm on the wide end)

Looks like they’ve moved the ring function button from top deck to the back which is great. I hit it by mistake on the S95 from time to time when turning the camera on and off. Nice improvement.

There are more new features as well but given the way I used my S90 and now use my S95 the best new feature for me is the 24mm end of the zoom lens. This will make landscape and other types of photography much more interesting from this camera. And, the fact that Canon has kept the aperture at f/2 even at 24mm is a wonderful thing. Of course, 24mm may introduce distortion where 28mm did not. Time will tell.

I’ve enjoyed these small cameras tremendously for travel and even though I’m using my iPhone quite a bit there’s nothing like a “real” camera with exposure controls and a decent sensor and lens for making better images.

This camera is no Fuji X100 but given the new sensor it will be interesting to see if it gives potential X100 buyers pause. Not that there’s not room for both of these cameras, there is, and I could easily see having both myself.

[via Steve Splonskowski]

Mountain Laurel on Guilder Pond

Mountain Laurel on Guilder Pond

Mt. Everett, Massachusetts. I took my wife Anne on a walk around Guilder Pond on the shoulder of Mt. Everett before the mountain laurel went by. I took my Canon 5D and a few lenses because the walk was short. Glad I did, the flowers were in perfect bloom and the light was great.

The tension between ease of use, low weight, and speed on a hike and wanting to get better images is meaningful. I usually hike with a Canon S90 and it suits me.

I don’t like to take much time to shoot when on a serious hike and when on a serious shoot I like to take all the time I want to get a single image. So, maybe best to keep the two kinds of tools separate. I’m not looking for a single camera that will do it all, but I’d consider something like the Fuji X100 if I thought it wouldn’t get in the way of fast hiking.

It remains an interesting conundrum and one that I’m enjoying considering as I continue to hike with my S90 and occasionally bring the 5D on short photo walks when no one will mind me taking my time in shooting.

Fuji FinePix X100 camera

A few years ago I had a revelation: carrying a big DSLR kit on a hike doesn’t work for me. It’s a lot of extra weight, dealing with setting up shots is rude to other hikers with me who just want to hike and not stop every few minutes, and the kinds of images I take on hikes are more snapshot documentation of the experience than fine art photography.

Once I made this distinction I was free to do two things:

1. Not worry so much about weight and bulk in my DSLR because it’s not a camera rig I’m going to be walking long distances with.

2. Buy and carry a point and shoot camera on hikes and be happy with it. I’ve since been using a Canon PowerShot S90 and have been very happy with it. My hiking partner Dave uses a Canon PowerShot G11 and he too is happy with it. The images we get aren’t spectacular but they’re quite good for cameras like these.

My friend Dale has been looking for a camera to take on hikes that’s smaller and lighter than a DSLR but has a bigger sensor than than the G11/G12 or S90/S95. For a while he was interested in the Panasonic GF2, a micro four thirds camera that has interchangeable lenses and a bigger sensor than a typical point and shoot but no viewfinder. For the last few months he’s been interested in a relatively new camera that’s become quite popular: the Fuji FinePix X100.

X100 camera

This camera is a bit larger than a Canon G11, has a fixed single focal length lens (very sharp and fast at f/2) and is built to mimic a Leica rangefinder camera. It has an excellent viewfinder but the most important thing about it for Dale and many others is that it has an outstanding image sensor which allows it to shoot at higher ISO than point and shoot cameras and the sensor’s pixels are larger than a point and shoot camera’s so image quality is superior.

This camera isn’t for everyone and even those who bought early and love it have lists of things they wish Fuji would improve on it but the images it takes are outstanding and for many, the way the camera’s exposure controls work is a huge hit. Read the reviews at Amazon and B&H (below) for a few of the issues people are finding with it (even though they love it).

This camera isn’t inexpensive at about $1200 and because its popular it’s tough to buy even if you want to spend the money. For those curious about it I’ve put together some resources below that might help.

If Dale bites on it he’ll no doubt post about it as well as post images. Stay tuned on that. I’m in no rush for a camera like this although it does make me think about what I might take on a sightseeing trip to Europe where I don’t want the bulk of a DSLR but do want better images than my S90 can produce. This just might be the ideal travel camera and taking the X100 and the S90 as a backup is still less bulk than even a small DSLR. Interesting…

Fujifilm FinePix X100 at Fuji
FinePix X100 at Fuji
Fuji FinePix X100 manual (PDF)
Fuji FinePix X100 Brochure (PDF)

Buy or Rent an X100
Fujifilm Finepix X100 Digital Camera at B&H Photo (read reviews)
Fujifilm X100 at Amazon (read reviews)
Fuji X100 at Lensrentals

X100 Reviews
Fujifilm FinePix X100 In-Depth Review at DPReview
Camera Test: Fujifilm FinePix X100 at Popular Photography
Fujifilm FinePix X100 Review at Photography Blog
Fujifilm FinePix X100 Review at Luminous Landscape
Mike Mander’s review of the Fujifilm FinePix X100

X100 on flickr and 500px
I take discussions of gear on flickr with a grain of salt so be aware going in that all kinds of people are using this camera on flickr. If you dig you can find some interesting images made with this camera taken by outstanding photographers.
Finepix X100 flickr group
Fuji X100 flickr group
Fuji X100 Enthusiasts flickr group
flickr photographer Nokton, X100 set
flickr photographer Ryo, X100 tags
flickr photographer Staca, X100 tags
All flickr images taged “fujifilmfinepixx100″
Search for “X100″ on 500px (some outstanding images in there)

iPad vs MacBook Air for a serious photo trip

On the road with a camera, an iPad, and a Hyperdrive

Ben Long at Macworld does a nice job of framing the various issues of traveling (in Turkey) on a photo assignment with what sounds like a Canon 5D MK II (large RAW files), an iPad, and other tools for working with his images on the road.

Ben goes to great lengths to use an iPad by adding a folding keyboard and a HyperDrive (storage device for photos) but commenter “ekornblum” calls him on the portability factor with this insightful comment:

OK, let’s stop the madness.

The iPad 2 weighs 607 grams. The HyperDrive (including drive module & battery) weighs 298 g. The keyboard weighs 159 g. Combined that’s 1064 g, or 1.064 kg.

A MacBook Air 11 inch weighs… 1.06 kg.

It weighs less and is much more functional (faster processors, more ram, full fledged apps, higher res screen), and is smaller than all 3 of the above items combined.

Yeah, you only get 128 GB storage, but you could just add a regular external bus powered drive that’s about 200 g (smaller & lighter than the HyperDrive), so the weight difference is minimal.

Or a MacBook Air 13 inch weighs 1.32 kg and provides 256 GB, with even higher screen res. Once again, that’s only 256 grams more weight than the iPad, HyperDrive, & keyboard.

I gotta call silly on this one…

There are times when it will make sense to carry a computer running Mac OS to have better access to files and software and a real keyboard and it seems to me that this is one of them. Even an 11″ MacBook Air would be an improvement here but as the commenter says, there’s room for a 13″ model and one still has a lighter solution.

I think I might trust a service like DropBox or in the future, iCloud for storage rather than the HyperDrive which runs the risk of being stolen or breaking down on a trip. Or, why not just have a lot of CF cards and maybe some pre-paid mailers to send them home.

This is an interesting “problem” and no doubt there are many ways to handle it. Of course, first you need to book a trip.

Lens Cap Trap

LensCapTrap

A simple velcro kit for sticking a lens cap onto a camera strap so you don’t lose it. Very nicely done, not too expensive (you could make it yourself but why?) and its worth a try if you misplace lens caps.

I might give this a try although I tend to leave a lens hood on the lens on my camera and leave it uncapped while walking around or during an entire shoot, leaving the lens’ cap in my camera bag.

[via PetaPixel]

Lens comparison test – full vs cropped frame

5Dmk2/7D lens comparison test from Mike Collins on Vimeo.

This is a short test with the tripod in the same spot switching between prime lenses to show how the crop affects the 7D. The subject, ace stand in Chris Clement, was roughly five feet from the camera. This isn’t meant to be an aesthetic test to show the difference in image quality between the two cameras. It’s a down and dirty field guide for myself and the other shooters we work with so we can quickly figure what lens we want to use on each camera.

We go from 20mm all the way to 100mm with a Lensbaby composer thrown in at the very end.

This is quite useful and for all who fog over when they hear someone attempt to explain what a smaller sensor does to the image a lens projects onto the back of the camera, this excellent video should help.

[via PetaPixel]