Pushing the Limits: $239 lens vs $2159 lens

Bald Eagle, Home Lake. Canon SL3, EF-S 55-250mm lens.

Is a $239 lens as good as a $2159 lens? Much of the time, yes (see the first link at the end of this article). Sometimes no. It depends on the photo situation. I get lots of equipment questions and some of them have to do with photography on a tight budget. I’ve been comparing a refurbished Canon SL3 camera and a refurbished Canon EF-S 55-250mm lens to a Canon 7D Mark II camera with a Canon L series 100-400mm lens.

Continue reading

iPhone vs Canon Rebel SL3

iPhone (inset) and Canon SL3. 100% magnification (“actual pixels”) samples from the center of both images. Click to see a larger version.

Last night (Monday) I was photographing a band concert for our weekly, small town newspaper. The problem is the photo deadline is 5 pm Monday for the Thursday paper and the concert began at 7:30 pm, 2 1/2 hours after the deadline. Depending on where the newspaper staff is in producing the issue, sometimes they can squeeze in another photo or two that come in after the deadline. The sooner I can get them photos, the better, so I sent the paper two photos taken with my iPhone, one of the elementary school band and one of the high school band. But I used a Canon SL3 for most of the concert. I downloaded the SL3 memory card and sent the paper two more photos just in case they were running really late. Why? The Canon SL3 creates dramatically better photos in less than optimum lighting conditions.

Continue reading

Lens Apertures, f-stops, and Depth of Field

50mm lens, aperture blades at f/8.

Almost every lens has a more or less round “aperture”, the opening that lets light through to the sensor or film. Most modern lenses have aperture blades that open and close to change the size of the opening. You can see the aperture blades in this photo. Larger apertures obviously let in more light in a given period of time and smaller apertures let in less light in the same period of time. The size of the aperture opening is one factor that determines the exposure. Just as important, the size of the aperture helps determine the depth of field in each image.

Continue reading

Buying a Red Headlamp for Night Photography: The Essential Feature

Photographers with red headlamps. Field Trip, Sprague Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

A red headlamp is an essential tool for night photography. Before you rush out and buy one, make sure it has the most essential feature (other than the red LED). Some inexpensive headlamps have this feature and some very expensive ones don’t, so cost is not the issue.

Continue reading

Putting Together a “Studio in a Backpack”

Portable Studio in a Backpack

Portable “studio in a backpack” set up and ready to go.

If I am visiting family and friends and traveling by car, I often bring my “studio in a backpack”. I never know when I might be asked to do some portraits and having some studio gear along helps create better images (especially when natural light is not a very good option). If you want to do portraits on the road (or even at home), these items are very useful. You can order these items from Amazon via the link at the end of this article.

Continue reading

The Chinese Lens Rip Off Series – Overpriced, Low Quality Camera Phone Lenses

The ads started showing up on FaceBook all the time. They talk about wonderful lenses that will turn your smart phone into a camera that is better than a DSLR costing thousands of dollars. They brag about German engineering, a NASA optical formula, or the testing that proves their lenses are better than expensive lenses from Nikon, Zeiss, Leica, or Canon. The names of the companies change on a regular basis, but the scam is the same. Sad to say, a lot of people actually fall for this nonsense.

Continue reading

Satellite Communicators: The GPS Messaging Devices That Can Save Your Life

The Garmin inReach Explorer+ with built in text messaging.

You need help. You can barely move. You are far enough from the trail that no one can hear your voice. You have no cell phone signal. What do you do?

Every now and then you hear tragic stories about people who lose their lives simply because they didn’t have a cell phone signal and couldn’t call for help in an unexpected emergency. A $260 – $340 satellite communicator would have saved their lives.

Continue reading

The Best Film and Flatbed Scanners

Plustek Film Scanner, Epson Flatbed Scanner

If you have precious slides, negatives, or prints that you want to scan, you have come to the right place. Choose wisely from the scanners that are available or you could get burned. A scanner that might be just fine for one person will be totally unsuitable for the next person. When it comes to scanners you need to know what you are getting and, just as importantly, what you aren’t getting. That is what this article is all about.

Continue reading

Review and Introduction: the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer 2i

Andromeda Galaxy in the Constellation Andromeda, photographed with a DSLR camera and 70-300mm lens mounted on a Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer.

I just purchased the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer 2i. I read several comparison articles before making my choice. I put it through its paces and decided to write a review with a basic introduction as to how to use it. Not only does it work, it works very well. This photo of the Andromeda Galaxy was taken on my first night out with clear skies.

Continue reading

“How To” Series: Astrophotography with the iOptron SkyTracker

Camera and telephoto lens mounted on an iOptron Sky Tracker and iOptron ball head.

Camera and 70-200 telephoto lens mounted on an iOptron SkyTracker and iOptron ball head.

You would love to take beautiful, long exposures of the night sky, but even with a 24mm wide angle lens the stars start to streak with exposures longer than 20 seconds. And with a 300mm lens the stars start to steak after just 2 seconds. Not that long ago it would cost you well over $1,000 to buy the equipment that would follow the stars and allow you to take longer exposures.

Continue reading

The Best Incident Light Meters

Digital Incident Light Meter, Sekonic L-358

Incident Light Meter, Sekonic L-358

There’s no question that in some complex metering situations, an incident light meter can be quicker, faster, simpler, and more accurate than the meter in your camera. Many incident light meters can also measure light from an electronic flash, a huge bonus when you are using a flash in the manual mode.

Continue reading

A High Quality, Compact RØDE VideoMic for Your DSLR and Smartphone

RØDE VideoMicro in use at Acadia National Park.

Let’s face it. While many recent DLSRs, ILCs and smartphones can give you excellent visual quality in the videos, the sound quality of the built in microphone leaves a lot to be desired. For a modest amount of money you can bring the sound quality up to par with the visual quality. That is why video mic sales have exploded.

Continue reading

The Best Panorama Gear: Living in Panorama Heaven

180° Panorama: Yosemite Valley at Night. Eagle Peak, Yosemite Point, and North Dome. Yosemite National Park. Right click to see a larger version.

Really Right Stuff makes an excellent, simple to use panorama set up that won’t take up a lot of room in your camera bag. After using bigger, more awkward panorama gear, switching to Really Right Stuff’s set up was like being in panorama heaven. It is compatible with the Arca-Swiss-System.

Continue reading

Tripod Head Recommendations: Some of the Best of the Best

Two ball heads and two 3-way heads.

A good tripod head will save you lots of frustration. For still photography I recommend two types of tripod heads. If you do a little of everything you will want a quality ball head for the quick and easy aiming of the camera. If you only do landscape or architectural photography and you want precise separate controls in each axis of motion, you will want a 3-way head.

Continue reading

The Best Closeup Photography Equipment

Forget-Me-Nots, Thorne-Swift Nature Preserve, Michigan

Forget-Me-Nots, Thorne-Swift Nature Preserve, Michigan

There are several ways to do closeup photography. Closeup filters, extension tubes, and macro lenses are the most commonly used options. The best gear for you depends on your preferences, how you want to work, the subjects you are after, how much stuff you want to carry, and how much you want to spend. I cover your best options.

Continue reading

Get Sharper Images By Using The Best Lens Calibration Tools

Lens Calibration Tools

Lens Calibration Tools

A lot of photographers have discovered their almost sharp lens was actually a very sharp lens once they tweaked the micro-adjustment settings. You will get sharper images if you adjust the settings for your specific camera and lens combinations. You do this using the micro-adjustment settings in the camera menu along with a lens calibration tool which you can buy or make yourself.

Continue reading

GoPro: Amazing, Small, Inexpensive, HD Video Cameras

GoPro HERO10 Black

Looking for a small, mountable, “ideal for sports and action”, inexpensive, high definition video and still camera with a waterproof housing and image quality that Lucasfilm (the Star Wars people) calls “amazing”? This camera will go anywhere and mount just about anywhere. Prices range from $279 to $399 (which is a lot less than your typical DSLR with HiDef video).

Continue reading