Wednesday, 21 November 2012

New addition to the (camera gear) family

I picked up a lens last week that I've been thinking about for a very long time. 

I wasn't one hundred percent happy with the 28 - 135 that I've been using for the last six years or so. As I mentioned in the previous post, I rarely take pictures beyond the 70 mm setting.

My "new" lens is the formidable Canon EF 24 - 105 f4 IS L lens.  It will complement my 70 - 200 nicely (although as I also mentioned previously, I last used that particular optic last year).

The lens itself is in almost mint condition and was well cared for by its previous owner.

I've now semi retired the 28 - 135 and the new lens has taken it's place as my "carry around" lens for when I need a bit more than the 50mm f1.4 can give me.

Here's my current line-up minus cables, battery packs and other assorted paraphernalia.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

DIY telephoto

Supertelephoto on your smart-phone

I was recently thinking about upgrading some of my lenses. This made me think about what I photograph the most. 

Looking through the images that I've been making for the last year or two led me to one conclusion: I don't really need anything long. My most used lens seems to be the excellent 17 - 40 F4L zoom from Canon. After that, it's the 28 - 135 IS zoom which rarely gets used beyond about 70mm.

My last lens acquisition was the Canon EF 50mm f1.4. I absolutely love this piece of glass. It's small, fast and very sharp. It's now my de facto "carry around" lens. Ideal for everything from portraits* to copy work.

In my cupboard I have a 300 mm f4L and the 70 - 200mm f4L. I cannot remember the last time I used the 300mm. The 70 - 200 last came into service at the Streetparade in Zürich in 2011*

Also on my "least used" list is my 24mm f2.8 and my Russian Zenitar 16mm Fisheye which last saw service in 2010*.

I think that the reason I don't use these last two lenses is that A: I only rarely need a fisheye effect and B: The 24 mm focal length is covered by my 17 - 40.

There have been the (very) rare occasions when I've been out and wanted to photograph something in the distance. When this situation occurs I normally have either my Canon G9 or my Samsung Galaxy phone nearby. The Canon is OK as long as I don't use the digital zoom (which I've permanently disabled)

So what can you do if you are out and about with only a pair of binoculars and your (camera enabled) smart-phone and you need to take a telephoto image?

I was looking at the accessories on sale for mobile phones last week and noticed a telephoto attachment available. I wondered what would happen if I tried to shoot through binoculars?

I dug out of my closet, an old pair of 10 x 25 binoculars and made my way to the kitchen. The view from said kitchen is ideal for testing lenses as there is lots to point your optics at.

Using just the standard setting on my Samsung Galaxy III I pointed it at a farmhouse where I knew that there was a Ronald MacDonald statue.

Hardly visible on this shot 
but the  clown is more or less 
in the centre of the image

Then I used the digital zoom to take another picture.

He's just coming into view 

I then reverted back to standard mode for the lens and held the lens against the eye piece of the binoculars and got this shot.

As you can see there is a lot of vignetting but this was due solely to the fact that it's damn near impossible to hold a camera together with a pair of heavy binoculars and press the shutter at the same time. I'd recommend a tripod or some sort of stabilising device.

The handymen amongst you may be able to come up with some sort of bracket that aligns perfectly.

Here's another example of the binocular effect that I took in Basel.

Normal field of view

Shot through binoculars

Of course if money is no object and you really need a telephoto, I can recommend this little beauty.

Canon 800mm f5.6 Fr 17.600

Not expensive / powerful enough? Well how about this? It is a 5200mm f14 lens in Canon fit. It has a lenscap the size of a dustbin lid and was sold on Ebay for $55000. It weighs in at 220lbs (99kg)

You can read more about it here

* As seen here

Thanks for reading

Monday, 5 November 2012

Unplanned photo class

I went out for a walk on Sunday to try and catch some Autumn colours but things didn't go quite as planned.

Accompanying me and my wife and son were a friend and her twin daughters. 

I was travelling light and only had an EOS 5d MKII coupled with a 28 - 135 lens.

I took a few pics and was reviewing them on the monitor when one of that twins (I think it was Lera) asked if she could take a picture. "Sure" I replied and handed the camera over. Bringing the camera up to eye level she snapped three images in quick succession of her sister, Jeniya. One thing that I noticed was that she didn't hold the camera at arms length to look for an image on the rear monitor.

 Lera takes aim at Jeniya

 The resulting image

Lera then handed the camera over to her sister, who before I could say a word proceeded to take some pictures of her sister. This continued with the girls snapping away at each other and striking various poses.

 Now it's Jeniya's turn

Jeniya's portrait of Lera

They stopped after a few minutes and reviewed the images. The questions came thick and fast:

Reviewing the images

"Why is she not sharp?", "How can I make the background look soft?", "How can I delete that one?" "Why is it too dark / too light?".

I tried to answer as best I could in a non technical way and was surprised at how readily the twins absorbed the information. After each clarification, one of them would start taking a few pictures and eventually they would master that little bit of technique. The most difficult proved to be the focus lock, although that only took about five minutes (and maybe ten attempts) for them to master. After about forty five minutes, I had given up on taking pictures for myself and let the girls have free rein. With the basic techniques mastered, they snapped happily away for the next hour or so.

I didn't want to come away empty handed so I decided to snap a pic of the two girls jumping. They both readily agreed, threw off their coats and began jumping at my command!

My pic safely onboard, I handed the camera back and let them get on with it.

Here are some of the girls' images.

Jeniya by Lera:

 Lera shoots Jeniya

Two hundred and twenty six images later I was sat back on my PC for the download process. The girls had done well. Of 

the 226 images, 27 were rejected due to being unsharp. These were mainly from early in the day when the girls were getting to grips with the (admittedly heavy) camera.

I learnt three things that day: 

  1. Switch off the continuous shooting mode. The girls don't need two or three nearly identical images.
  2. Shoot RAW and JPG. Editing a couple of hundred images from RAW is time consuming and many of the images didn't need anything else done to them.
  3. Take a spare camera for myself next time!

Luckily I had my Samsung with
me to record the day!

I think that photography now has two new converts!

Thanks for reading.