Light is Everything!

Posts tagged “Photography Gear

Happy New Year!

20141229-NYBlog2-006

2015 is here! I thought we would be burning around in flying cars by now! Guess not. But what we do have are really tremendous cameras. I think the old film guys would be doing backflips in their graves if they could shoot with the stuff we have now. So many photo blogs and sites compare the features of this camera and that camera – but you know what? All the technologies in these new cameras are really fantastic. Auto Focus is awesome, even on less than stellar performing cameras. None of the old guys had it. Just try turning your AF off on your camera and shoot for a day. You’ll appreciate even slow AF after that! 😀

As I look over my husky collection of personal images (like 66,000 or something crazy), Lightroom allows me to sort them by metadata. Such as which camera took what number of images. My old & sold D300s definitely took the most as that was the camera I really learned photography with. But the most used camera I own isn’t my Nikon D800 or the Df – both of which I certainly do love. Rather, it is the FujiFilm X100s. The bulk of my professional work is still shot with DSRL. But my family/personal camera is the omnipresent X100s. It’s a camera that I naturally just pick up. The Nikon Df also has this spirit about it too. I love the manual controls and dials on these retro-styled cameras. But there is just something about the Fuji. It’s sum is somehow greater than its parts.

Ergonomically, it’s a winner. Small profile. Virtually silent. And then there’s the features: Macro capability, Killer sharp optics, stellar high ISO performance, leaf shutter flash sync speeds, AMAZINGLY ASTOUNDING COLOR. And this is the big one for me. The X-Trans sensor is a colour ninja. All the photo gurus go on and on about this but it is so true. This sensor renders a scene exactly as your eye sees it. Nuances of colour exist that even my D800 and Df just cannot replicate despite being bigger and 3 times more expensive. I snapped this shot just to see how the X-Trans would negotiate the wild mixture of light in this photo: Tungsten lamps in the living & kitchen illuminating the family, daylight balanced wall sconces and Christmas LEDs in the family room in the background. This is a JPEG image shot in auto WB mode! It’s amazing! And the skin tones are incredible. And look at the various shades of blue! I’m constantly blown away by this camera.

20141226-NYBlog-008

I used the X100s exclusively over the Christmas season for capturing family memories. I shoot it in JPEG. I wouldn’t dream of doing that with the Nikons. The pre-processing of the camera makes this possible. Using the X-Trans for professional work would be a dream, especially for weddings. Being able to produce pre-processed JPEG images – that are FANTASTIC – would save hours and hours of editing time. And the black and whites are the best in the business. Bar none. No contest. The FujiFilm Black and White is incredible. I’d love to compare them to say the Leica M Monochrom. So Leica, if you’re reading, send me a setup to try! 😎 I shot this one of my Nephew in very low light, using MF focus peaking to get it sharp. It was f/2 1/60 at ISO 6400. At 1:1, you can count his eyelashes. And the “noise” looks like film grain at 400 ASA. It’s astounding. Like my nephew who is the most striking little gaffer ever. His eyes are jet black!

20141225-NYBlog-004 Also, because of that tiny little profile and silent shutter, you can nab moments. Nobody even knows you are taking photos!

20141226-NYBlog-005

Sony made and is making a big splash right now with its full frame Mirrorless A7 cameras. Rightly so. They’ve beat both Canon and Nikon to the punch in changing the history of photography for the better. DSLR technology is just analogue film tech ported over to digital. Mirrorless is true digital photography. No old analogue tech work arounds. It’s the real deal. I’ve looked seriously at switching to Sony, particularly with the release of the A7II. Awesome kit with killer in camera stabilization. Way less weight to lug around all day. What’s not to love? Not much. . . . Except that it uses the same sensors that Nikon does. (Or, rather, Nikon uses Sony’s sensors). This isn’t a draw back. The sensors rock the set. But as I look at the X-Trans images, I prefer the look and feel of them. The tonality and colour can’t be matched, not even by Sony’s incredible full frame sensors (Sorry Canon, you’re beaten like a rented mule on this one). I’m not ruling out Sony stuff, that’s for sure. It’s an exciting time for photography! Loads of awesome image making options. But let’s just say that I’m anxiously waiting for the X-Pro2 release. So Fuji, if you’re reading, send me a setup to try! 😎

20141229-NYBlog2-004

My last point about Fuji that I want to touch on is their approach to their customers. No other camera manufacturer respects their customers more than Fuji. When you buy a camera, undoubtedly there will be some glitches and bugs to get worked out. Firmware releases generally fix those up. But that’s all they do. Seldom, if ever, is more functionality introduced to a camera – and especially not if an upgraded model has already been released. You have to buy said upgrade to get the new features. Not so with FujiFilm. They so respect their customers that they release firmware updates that make the existing products better. Even products that have already been replaced with updated models! That’s awesome! It instills confidence in the purchase for the customer. I know that my investment in Fuji is not a one time deal. They will bless me with greater functionality in the future. This is how a company can create a jubilant base of hardcore fans and supporters. It’s a two way relationship with Fuji. And they keep on giving. They show respect to the customer and for that, I give a very deep and long bow (not to mention further business in the future).

20141229-NYBlog2-003

So here’s to a happy new year of image making in 2015! May all your pixels be bright! 😉

Advertisements

New Stuff!

Screen Shot 2013-01-14 at 9.54.45 AM

I got some new stuff that I’m stoked about! I’ll begin first with my new website (again). I’ve gone through a couple of different portfolio websites over the past couple years. I first had a Flash site which was great, but in our mobile device world, it sucked. It couldn’t be viewed on iPods/iPads etc. Seeing how most people consume the digital world via smart phones, compatibility was a must. So, I got an HTML5 site and it worked OK but was tedious for adding images as you had to do your own coding and generating of images and thumbnails, blah blah blah. It was cumbersome. So I bought another HTML5 theme which was far worse than the one I was using. Not being a coder in the least, I decided to give up on that theme that looked great but was a total pain the u know. So, after many gong show days of searching, I decided to go with WordPress. I’ve been using it since the beginning for this blog and I’ve loved it. But it lacked simplicity for galleries. Photocrati to the rescue! Now, I’ve got the ease of use I’ve been looking for in a very clean, minimalist style that also displays perfectly no matter which device is used to view the site. Boo ya! 😎 Check it out: http://schultzphotographic.ca

eBobTripod 2

And, I got some new gear. I’ve been struggling for a long time with my old tripod that has been a real trooper. I had an old aluminum Manfrotto cheapy and it worked good but wasn’t hearty enough for my last camera, let alone the D800. Especially for macro, it really sucked. The ball head wasn’t strong enough to support the hefty 105mm macro and would slip. A real pain. So, I splurged and got a new carbon fibre 055CXPRO3 tripod and an MH055M0-RC4 head. It’s quite nice. 😀 The ball head weighs more than the tripod! At first, the carbon fibre seems like it’s cheap and flimsy, but I know from shooting carbon arrows, they are super strong and light – perfect for hauling around on landscapes. One other gimmick feature of the tripod is that it has the Q90 quick column thing that allows the tripod to go flat to the ground by moving the centre column parallel to the ground. It’s slick, but I can also see this being used for overhead macro work too, like flowers and such. The tripod has a built in hook so you can add weight and sturdy it up too.

eBobTripod 3

And I also got a Manfrotto monopod. Just a cheapo mainly to be used as a light weight, compact, go anywhere light stick for flash stuff. Slap a flash directly on it and have your assistant pretend she is Gandolf. What could be better!? “You shall not pass!”

eBobTripod 1

And, I finally joined the cool kids club and bought a black rapid camera strap (RS-7). After struggling through life using Nikon’s straps, I decided enough was enough. I always have the camera strung over one shoulder, never in the around the neck tourist mode, so it was always slipping. I always have to mess with lights on a shoot and was forever putting the camera on the ground to do so. Now, I just drop it to the side. It’s great! And it came with a sticker. Bonus! Who doesn’t like stickers?! 😀

Plus, you get to feel like Doc Holiday when you draw the camera up. “I’m your huckleberry.”Screen Shot 2013-01-13 at 7.40.00 AM


Gear For Sale!

Hi Everbody! I’ve got a sweet gem of a lens for sale for you right here. It’s Nikon’s  AF-S 16-85mm DX Zoom Nikkor f/3.5-5.6G ED VR. I’ve had the lens for two years and it’s been tremendous! It’s very sharp and contrasty. It’s very versatile, definitely a “do it all lens.” It’s excellent for an every day walk around lens or for vacation. I’ve taken some really fantastic shots with it but now it needs to find a new home. The reason I’m selling it is I bought another lens for an FX camera body and no longer need this one. This lens is ideal for any of Nikon’s DX cameras. It retails for $729.99 new at Don’s Photo. I’m asking $650.00. It’s still in perfect working condition & I have the original box! 😎 Take a look at these product shots of it and the three sample images I took using this awesome lens.


Email me
if you’re interested or PM me on Facebook. Thanks!


Gear Review: Photoflex Octodome NXT XS

Ok Photo Geeks, here’s one for ya!  My long overdue video review of the Photoflex Octodome NXT XS soft box. This thing is the bomb! It’s a really well made, super sweet portrait soft box that gives awesome octagon/round catchlights in the eyes. Gotta love that! Check out the vid and the samples below where it was used on photo shoots.

PS: I also added a new page at the top of the blog for gear reviews. The page has links to all the gear reviews and recommendations I’ve done on the blog, including books, lenses, lighting gear, organizing gear and D.I.Y. gear projects. 😎

Samples of the Octodome in action!


Merry Christmas to me!

I was spoiled rotten for Christmas this year – and I love it! 😎 I got an MB-D10 battery grip for my D300s. I’m totally stoked! First of all, it lets you bring an extra battery with you as part of the camera, meaning you’ll never run out of power ever. Not in a zillion years. Second, it gives the camera a beefier grip, making it look like a full frame camera. Making me look . . . professional even! 😉 People will look at my suped up D300s and think, “Wow! He’s a professional! Just look at that big beefy camera!” Even pros will see it and think, “Oooh! He’s got a D4!”  Can’t beat that. Ergonomically, it makes the camera way more fun to use. It allows me to take portrait orientated photos without having to contort my upper body like Harry Houdini clambering out of a 2×2 box. And in landscape mode, it’s far easier to handle and makes it easier to execute Joe McNally’s “da grip” technique. Pure awesome for low light, slow shutter speeds!

 

da grip

Portrait Orientation

The other way cool thing is that it comes with an additional carriage for 8 AA batteries. Pumping them in gives you slightly more frames per second, and versatility. Like, if you’re in pheasant rump Saskatchewan and you realized you forgot to charge your camera batteries, you can run your camera off the double AAs you keep in your glove box! Sweet sassy. Make sure you keep Ni-Mh batteries on hand vs. normal alkalines though. They might get hot & nasty.

It’s a tremendous little device, but it’s also a colossal ripoff. Cheap plastic and it doesn’t even come with a spare battery! It’ll run around $350 Canadian bones. Hundred bucks cheaper in the US . . . but you can’t get them. Massive shortages in Japan and they are back ordered. Turns out there was some kind of electrical device law changes in Japan and these don’t fit the bill. They’ll make a 2cent change and up the price another $45 I’m sure. But what you gonna do? I asked Santa for one and that fat bastard jolly old elf came through! 😎 All in all, it’s amazing and makes me 17% happier as a photographer!

Separation Anxiety


How to Buy Lenses

So you’re into photography. So is everyone else and their dog now that digital SLR cameras have dropped in price so much. You get sick of your point and shoot camera, you go out and a buy a Canon Rebel or Nikon D3100 starter camera and it comes with a kit lens, something typically from 18-55mm. For the most part, that lens is not too shabby. It’s inexpensive, but sharp. It does pretty much everything you want it to do for that first year or so. But, when the photo bugs start biting you and you want to learn more about photography and taking pictures, you often want to start buying more lenses to do different stuff. But what do you buy and why? If you show up at a camera store without a plan, you’re like sheep to the slaughter. You best have some idea of what you want prior to going in there or else the sweet talker salesman is gonna get your VISA card loaded up before you know it! 😯

Winning Lens Characteristics 

What makes a lens good or bad? Well, there are some generalities. We need to be clear that not every lens that Nikon or Canon or whoever makes is a “good lens” some of them are pretty darn crappy. So here’s a few things to look for:

Good lenses produce sharp and contrasty images. Out of focus parts of the picture should look like cream cheese, not chunks of cheddar. When the sun hits the lens it shouldn’t flare with drops of color. Straight lines, like in a brick wall, should stay straight. Good lenses also are designed well mechanically. The focus & zoom rings should be smooth, not clunky. Big zooms shouldn’t zoom and creep by themselves, they should stay where you leave them. It should be sealed from the weather/dust. Autofocus should be fast like a cheetah not slow like a turtle. It should have image stabilization (VR or IS). And finally, good lenses open up wide with big f/stops like 1.4 or 2.8 and are constant (if in a zoom lens). Lenses that go from f/3.5-5.6 generally aren’t that great. They should be able to focus close and focus internally, meaning the front of the lens doesn’t turn while focusing (which is a real pain when using filters).

Size Matters

One more consideration to be aware of before you go any further is to note the difference between Crop Sensor Cameras and Full Frame Cameras. Without going into a whole bunch of detail, some lenses are designed to work specifically with crop sensor camera bodies. In Canon this is called EF-S lenses and in Nikon this is called DX lenses. There will be badges on the lenses to tell you which is which. It’s good to consider this because when buying lenses, it’s good to be forward thinking – as in it’s good to buy full frame (Canon EF, Nikon FX) lenses even for use on crop sensor camera bodies in case one day you want to shoot a full frame camera. In my mind, it makes more sense to invest in good lenses once, rather than to buy cheaper lenses first, then have to sell them all and upgrade them later. However, if you intend to stay in the beginner/enthusiast realm, buying EF-S/DX lenses is just fine. It just pays to be aware of the future possibilities.


Picking Your Lenses

OK, with those considerations in mind you can start assembling your lens arsenal. Most pros in any field of photography have 2-4 lenses that they use for just about everything. You don’t want a metric tonne of lenses, because you have to carry them around. But you also want to be ready for as much as possible. There are 2 groups of lenses: Zooms and Primes. Zooms are more flexible and give more options, but Primes are sharper and often have super big apertures for low light photography and awesome portraits. The three lens categories for both zooms and primes are: Wide Angle (14-24mm) Mid-Range (24-70mm) and Telephoto (70-600mm). And there is also a fourth category of “special” lenses that have unique purposes such as fish-eye lenses, macro lenses, perspective control, etc. Here are some suggested setups:

Kicked up Beginner 

If you want something more than the 18-55 kit lens your camera came with, I’d suggest a big zoom that goes from wide to telephoto. 18-200mm or 28-300mm are very popular, so are the 24-105 and 16-85. All of your bases are covered in one lens. The downside is, these are usually variable aperture lenses that aren’t very fast and don’t give any possibilities for shallow depth of field shots (for those cool “lots of stuff in the photo is out of focus” shots). So I would pair the big zoom with a 50mm f/1.8 lens. They are always sharp, allow for low light shooting and they are inexpensive. Additionally, this kit is a perfect vacation or travel setup as it’s light weight and packs into a small convenient bag.

Photo Spectrum

What follows next here is what I call a photo-spectrum. One (or more) of these general categories will be where your interests fall. Recommendations are listed appropriate to each area along the spectrum.

Landscape: Big wide angles to take in the scenery reign supreme on the landscape. 16-35mm zoom is the land lover’s first choice, but also possibly some fast wide angles like the 20mm f/2.8 or 24 f/1.4. Keep in mind the need to use filters (neutral density and polarizers). Landscapers will also want a longer telephoto zoom for extracting mini landscapes from the larger scene. 70-300 or 70-200mm are good options.

Nature: Long reaching zooms get you closer to the critters 100-400, 200-400 or the 300, 400, 500, 600mm primes. And, add some wide angels for landscapes, particularly the 16-35 over the 14-24 because you will want to use filters.

Action: Sports! You want to be near the action, but you can’t be. So the name of the game is long zooms like the 70-200, 200-400 and long f/2.8 or f/4 primes from 200 to 300 t0 400 to 500mm!

Photojournalism: You’re in zoom country. 14-24mm/16-35mm, 24-70mm and the 70-200 will have all your bases covered and at all at f/2.8.

Weddings: You’re the hybrid of portraits & photojournalism. You need the versatility of wide angle zooms 14-24/16-35 & the 70-200 and a bunch of f/1.4 primes for killer portraits.

Portraits: The portrait junkie loves primes. 35 f/1.4, 50 f/1.4, 85 f/1.4 usually become the workhorse lenses. But also the cadillac 70-200 f/2.8 zoom for amazing subject isolation, bokeh and compression.

Macro: This is the domain of bugs and creepy crawlies, but also products and still life. Sharp macro lenses in the neighbourhood of 105, 150 or even 200 are the ticket for getting close and making images that are larger than life!

So there you go!

That basically covers it all. I’m not giving exact individual lens recommendations because lenses change. New stuff comes out and new advances are made in technology and performance. However, these general categories will remain forever. Before you buy anything, read lots of product reviews by professionals who have actually used the products (see the list below for some of the internet’s best). Also, watch YouTube for videos that enthusiasts may have put up regarding your lens of interest. Finally, goto the camera store with your lens plan known in advance so you can check out the products before you buy them. Take your camera body and do some sample shots to see how you like it. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be far better prepared to make good long-lasting lens choices that will follow you throughout your entire photography interest.

Cheers! 😀

Awesome Links of Lens Reviews:

Mansurov’s Lens Reviews

Photozone

The Digital-Picture

SLRGear

LensTip